I don’t think I’ve ever been in serious disagreement with John Stackhouse but his dismissive post about the protest at St Paul’s Cathedral has been taking up way too much of my thought life today. It also caused me to come up with a response that was far too long to post as a comment so I’ll post it here instead.
I don’t know if we’ve been shown this through the eyes of completely different media outlets, but I’m not seeing what you’re seeing! So here are four brief comments on your four points and a final thought (exhortation even) from me.
First, unlike the rest of London, the City of London doesn’t have a whole lot of open space. The occupiers were welcomed when they camped in front of St Paul’s and the cathedral wouldn’t have had to close if they had just re-jigged the tents a little sooner. It was a case of indecision trumping practicality and it caused a mess. But it also brought public attention to the important questions being asked.
Second, British people may not feel that their daily lives are influenced by the church; however, even in the 21st century, C of E bishops get a surprising amount of media coverage. Every major paper is talking about Rowan Williams’ article in the Financial Times. Here’s the Guardian coverage.
Third, I have no idea what the protesters expected, but what they got was a public debate about the church, wealth and poverty. Ken Costa, high profile financier, Chairman of Alpha International and many other things, has been asked to “lead a new initiative reconnecting the financial with the ethical.”
Here’s what the Bishop of London had to say: ‘The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul’s has now heard that call. Today’s decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe. I am delighted that Ken Costa has agreed to spearhead this new initiative which has the opportunity to make a profound difference.’
It’s a start.
Fourth, I don’t think you’ve grasped the depth of anger in the UK over the banking crisis. The government has injected almost £124 billion in cash and pledged another £332 billion in guarantees. And yet, bankers in these bailed out banks, which are still making a loss, are being paid millions of pounds in annual bonuses. We are furious that our money, and it IS our money, is going to people who have not earned it especially when it’s so hard to get a mortgage or money for a small business. THAT is why people are protesting and protesting in the banks’ back yard. (Yes, I did get a bit shouty there. It matters.)
So thank God the church leadership, despite being inconvenienced and challenged, have listened and decided to allow the camp to stay and the dialogue to continue.
Final thought (exhortation even):
I’m one of those “advocates for social change” and I’m too busy getting on with trying to sort out illiteracy amongst teenagers to pitch a tent in London. However, I’m not too busy to be listening out for a prophetic voice in our greedy selfish world.
Although they lack the specific vocabulary, I think what we’re hearing isn’t really a call to end capitalism; it’s a call to repentance within the financial world – to a change of heart about what they’re making money for.
We can stand around say “pack up your tents; nothing’s going to change” or we can echo their call and keep it echoing until someone hears it.
Come on bankers! Change your hearts and help us to change the world with all that dosh that you will inevitably keep on making.