Welfare, Church and the Pursuit of Justice in the Land of the Long White Cloud

in International Journal of Public Theology
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Abstract

The relationship between Christianity and social development in New Zealand has been an historically complex one. Many of the early settlers to these islands came to escape a life of poverty in their mother country. Yet wherever there is wealth, there is poverty social problems, and they cast a long shadow over the promised land for the early colonizers and the indigenous Maori. The emergence of the welfare state in the 1930s paved the way for significant social transformation. It was understood by some to express 'applied Christianity'. With the comparatively recent demise of the Welfare State in New Zealand at the hands of neo-liberalism it is reasonable to consider whether this can equally be understood to indicate the demise of the Christianity's social import. Yet an appreciation of the church's predominantly informal social involvement throughout the history of these islands provides both a helpful interpretative key to the past and the future. Aotearoa New Zealand history may be one signifier that the priority for the pursuit of justice is to be found primarily at the margins amidst the informality of the ordinary, and far less at the centre of formality, systems and political institutions, and that the role of intentional Christian community in this might be as significant to the identity of the church as it is to the state.

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