If he was a vicar in Brighton, I would most certainly nominate Father Tim Jones in the Brighton Politics Awards 2009, although there is no category for “Courageous Prophet”. I could, indeed would, create such a category and he would win it!
Tim Jones, parish priest at St Laurence and St Hilda in York, used his Sunday sermon to say that sometimes shoplifting was the only option for poorer families, and he said that it was certainly better than “prostitution, mugging or burglary”.
It is worth looking at greater length what Father Tim said. “My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift. I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the cost are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need”.
“Let my words not be misrepresented as a simple call for people to shoplift. The observation that shoplifting is the best option that some people are left with is a grim indictment of who we are. Rather, this is a call for a society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt.”
I personally do not agree with shoplifting, nor for that matter any form of theft. However, I feel more strongly about rich people avoiding paying taxes, and wealthy bankers getting ill-deserved bonuses. I feel most strongly that we as a society have allowed a situation to remain where the poorest in our communities cannot make ends meet and where unemployment passes from one generation to another. Labour has done a great many good things since 1997, but continuing financial inequality and exclusion remains (along with Iraq and Afghanistan) its greatest failing.
I suppport Father Tim’s call for society to no longer treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt.