Blog 0914 MUP Cover FOREWORD

William Booth wrote a seminal book that transformed nineteenth-century attitudes towards the poor. The founder of the Salvation Army demolished the Victorian myth that financial hardship was a largely self-inflicted punishment which rightly fell upon the undeserving poor. He asked his nation: "When, in the streets of London, a cab horse trips and falls and lies stretched out in the midst of the traffic, there is no question of debating how he came to stumble before we get him on his legs again... if not for its own sake, then merely in order to prevent an obstruction to the traffic."In the same way, he argued, any healthy society must help its poorest members first and ask questions of them later.

William Booth's book inspired a more compassionate view towards the poor. It was a major contributor to the founding of the welfare state in Britain in the years which followed. Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams have written a similar book for our own times. The modern welfare state is several decades old, and it shows. All of the main political parties agree that some reform is needed. But somewhere, in the midst of the debating and deliberating, has emerged a fresh hostility and anger towards a sector of society who are dubbed theundeserving poor. We are standing at a crossroads in our attitudes and I am so glad that we have this excellent book to challenge and to guide us. Jesus talked a lot about people's attitudes towards the poor. He said that how we treat the least of his brothers and sisters is a greater indicator of our love towards him than the correctness of our doctrine and the volume of our singing.

He warned us in Matthew 25:45: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." That's why you need to read this book, and you need to read it slowly on your knees. The authors approach this subject with a mountain of wisdom and a depth of sensitivity. They issue a clear warning and provocation to our generation. My prayer is that you will listen as closely to them as the Victorians listened to the wisdom of William Booth.

Phil Moore - Senior leader of Everyday Church, London, and author of Gagging Jesus and the Straight to the Heart series of devotional commentaries.
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