Pay per View | Poverty is an Expensive Business | Grace

ImagesIn a landmark government ruling today, a British utility company has won the right to compel their customers to have water meters installed. It’s probably a good thing, as their use tends to encourage less use, and the UK – with the south east in particular is facing a huge drought this summer.

What interests me is the inexorable move towards a metered society. Pay-per-view television. AOL wanting pay-per-email for businesses. Per-mile road tax. Advances in technology are allowing companies and states to be able to track our use of their wares more stringently, and thus get us to pay for our exact use.

A problem? Perhaps not. But the worrying trend we have seen, led by mobile companies and now taken up by many utilities, is to put a premium on pay-as-you-go services, and allow those with the capital to pre-pay effectively cheaper access. This is classic capitalism: if you’ve got money, you can more easily make more. Poverty is an expensive business.

As I outline in the book, one of the key challenges the church faces is to work out how best to offer an alternative to the all-pervading market economic. To be an organisation that has its gift-practice sorted will be to be a hugely prophetic and inviting place.

In a heavily metered world, grace, free, immeasurable, fully pre-paid, will surely become even more the most exquisite and beautiful thing people have ever encountered (until the collection plate is passed round.)

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7 responses to “Pay per View | Poverty is an Expensive Business | Grace”

  1. lets just hope that the church doesn’t get into such a financial state that they a pay-per-cup or pay-for-wafer forthe eucharist…
    Hopefully the developments you have outlined may need to some much needed reimagining about who people belong to, and sustain christian communities outside of the practise of the ‘collection plate’…

  2. I found the “Gift” chapter of the book very challenging. For most of the churches I have been involved in it means a massive shift in understanding. The example you gave of letting young people use the buildings for jamming is a shocking thought to some who have been cultured in the “building as a sacred, holy place” mind set.
    I know you ditched the inherited structures and started again, but can you offer any reflections on how you might communicate the vision of a gift economy to a largely conservative community.

  3. I’ll cogitate. Away in Ireland for a few days from this afternoon, so will try to post something shortly.
    On the blook… sorry, trouble with paperback order. Would hardback replacement be OK?

  4. Shame… yes a hardback will be ok… e.mail me with how to pay.

  5. Graham, I’d probably start with the collection plate. Some reflections on the familiar idea of the gift of money could lead on to some wider ideas about gifts beyond cash: time, resources etc.
    Also, I think that gift is such a powerful, innate concept that people often just need some basic lessons in how to recognise it. The example I use of the dinner party versus the restaurant is something people seem to find easy to latch on to – that gifts build relationships, and market transactions do not need to. Some work on Jesus’ gift practice in the gospels can then lead onto some more radical ideas about how the church ought to reflect on its own gift practices – on both a personal and corporate level.
    In terms of the sacred space, I think this is more about dirt than gift. I still think the passages about Jesus ‘cleansing the Temple’, which I interpret as Jesus clearing the obstacles to allow the dirty access to the Temple, are the key here. And perhaps in the run-up to Easter a series of reflections on this might be appropriate.


    How about deliberately over-paying those companies that meter us?
    So… the blook???
    I can borrow a credit card, since i’m not allowed one… going bankrupt was one of the more releasing moves of my life, but it makes it hard to consume!!!!

  7. For an extreme example of the ‘pay per…’ scenario take a look at ‘Shadow Cities’ by journalist Robert Neuwirth. Amongst other things he explains how much the inhabitants of Nairobi’s Kibera slum end up paying for water because of the scandalous local corruption.