Article for Church Newsletter 06.11.11
What would you do if you arrived on Sunday morning and found the car park outside the Community Centre where we meet full of pop-up style festival tents full of protestors staging a sit in? Just to make it more complicated, one of the country’s most powerful organisations, The City of London Corporation are seeking your assistance in getting them removed, and the world’s media are watching your every move!
The last few weeks have been a challenging period for the leaders of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London as they’ve had to face up to this very situation, which must seem at times like a damned if you do and damned if you don’t experience.
Who do you side with? As Christians you’d hope they would turn to the Bible, but in its pages there is tension. On one hand Scripture encourages us to respect authority and the institutions that govern us. In Romans Paul instructs us to submit to the governing authorities because they are God-given (as well as God-judged) and to pay our taxes. There is a place for the church to call for order and obeying the law. If the protestors are trespassing, then there is a clear argument for asking them to leave. There is a strand through the Bible that calls us to live peaceful and ordered lives.
On the other hand, however, there is the question of what they are protesting about, the dominance of the market, banks and greed in public affairs. Surely the Church has something to say about that too. As has been pointed out, Jesus wasn’t averse to acts of public protest and disobedience in the forecourts of temples, and was vocal in his support of the poor and powerless! His words in Matthew 6:24 seem very pertinent at this moment in time, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’ It’s not that he was condemning the use of money or financial systems, but lusting after money and the turning it into a dominant idol. Sometimes we’re to cast aside our comfortable ordered lives and adopt the chaotic life of the prophet, to protest and stir up trouble so that people can see themselves and the world in a new light.
Whatever side of the argument you fall upon, there is no doubt that the Occupy London protest has highlighted the importance and centrality of money, how we deal with it and the importance we give it. The debate that seems to be going on around the ‘Western’ world at the moment, sparked off by the Credit Crunch, the recession and troubled nations in the Euro Zone and the Occupy movement, is an important one, and one the Church surely must grasp and play its part in. Perhaps inviting people to our CAP Money Course is a good way to start.