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How should the Church respond to the negative narratives within British society today, that are directed at and devalue those living in poverty?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

The catalyst for this empirical thesis was a combination of personal experiences whilst ministering as a parish priest and the publication of two small pieces of British research ('Bias to the Poor' & 'The Lies we tell ourselves') that highlighted negative narratives that were directed at those living in poverty. Reports, found within this thesis, from government, think tanks and charities raise this issue as a serious concern for individuals and society as a whole. As a Christian Priest I believe that the Church has a vocation and a duty to examine, analyse and then respond appropriately to social issues. This thesis uses the Pastoral Cycle of 'See, Judge and Act' framework to achieve this. First this thesis looks at the lived experience of people on the receiving end of negative narratives and patterns of injustice that emerge from both the initial data and personal experience. Alongside this it examines the issues surrounding poverty, what it means to be poor, and the effect of living in poverty on both individuals and society. Second this thesis turns to 'Judge' the national situation and ascertain whether these negatives narratives can be found to be prevalent in a larger national medium. This involves a qualitative analysis of the Daily Mail with an exploration of the power of narrative to influence people's perceptions and attitudes. The epistemic injustice inherent in these media stories unpacks some of the dangers within these negative narratives. There is an impact upon people's perception and attitudes towards others. There are issues of prejudice and discrimination to explore and questions to ask both about these concepts, but also concerning their origins. What is it that causes society to create modern day scapegoats of individuals and groups? The complex phenomenon of scapegoating is explored in opposition to the freedom offered by accepting the offer to imitate God instead. In response to this there follows a theological reflection that examines some of the counter-narratives that can be found throughout the Bible. In the final section, 'Act', the Church is challenged to defend those who are ostracised or ignored by mainstream society. The Church has a continual duty to respond to negative narratives with a healing narrative of hospitality and love. The prophetic calling upon the Church requires a response. It should and must respond.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2016

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