Christianity Fails Test

Jesus Wept — St Paul Retreats into Incomprehensibility

(But the Demo goes  on)

By Tom Aitken in London

 The demonstration against economic injustice outside St Paul’s Cathedral becomes more enigmatic by the hour.

As the Independent newspaper says, ‘the locking of the cathedral doors is bleakly symbolic. The cathedral has washed its hands and turned away protestors demanding an end to the rule of naked greed over our lives.’

In my second, daytime, visit to the site I found the encampment looking well-organised and impressively free of litter. A rubbish collection point is being conscientiously used.

If you want to know what the demonstrators want, you can sit in a tent and be told.

They want to save the economy from bankers who have made bad decisions, show disapproval of how the country is run, and raise consciousness about economic justice and injustice.

Moving around, you overhear discussions between public and campers, conducted with goodwill and patience from both sides.

Approval of the protesters’ cause has come from some unlikely quarters.

The Spectator devotes two fierce pages to the idea that ‘Capitalism is running into a fundamental problem… a declining proportion of the population feels able to gain any meaningful stake in it… there is not much to suggest that the government understands the problem.

The Financial Times agrees that the protests reflect legitimate frustrations over rising inequality, which ‘must be heeded’.

The conservative MP for the constituency in which St Paul’s stands evidently does not read such papers. His knee-jerk reaction incorporates one mistake and one absurd comparison.

‘St Paul’s,’ he proclaims, ‘is a Unesco World Heritage site and they have turned it into a Third World shantytown… they should be moved on.’

Well.. St Paul’s is not a Unesco World Heritage site––and the most offensive thing about shantytowns is not that they look messy but that people have to live in them permanently.

Nor is the ‘moving on’ he demands quite so simple as he wants to believe.

Only part of the ground the demo occupies is Cathedral property. The rest is public open space.

The demonstrators report that a senior commander of the City of London Police has said that if the cathedral withdrew its permission for the tents to stay, they could be forcibly removed. Their own legal advisor says that, since by staying they would be committing a civil, not a criminal offence, a court order would be required.

The demonstrators also claim to have been advised that the health and safety issues to do with fire and health risks, mentioned, in curiously unspecific terms, by the cathedral, do not exist.

Before the cathedral was closed, demonstrators were prepared to cooperate fully with the conduct of its services in the building. A notice, now sadly irrelevant, reads:

Church notice

‘Please help to keep up the good reputation that we have gained by respecting this area around the Church. Please, NO megaphone use during the services in the church, also for 5 minutes after whenever the bell chimes, whilst they say the Lord’s Prayer… Please, no general assemblies on the stairs, no blocking of any doors of the Church.’

One of their own tents is set aside for prayer and meditation.

Incomprehensibly, there are no notices setting forth the cathedral’s view of what is happening. Its administrators are coasting obliviously towards a public relations disaster.

The Independent newspaper has headlined a piece on the subject ‘A cathedral turns its back on the people’. The locking of the cathedral doors, Peter Popham argues, ‘is bleakly symbolic. The cathedral has washed its hands and turned away protestors demanding an end to the rule of naked greed over our lives.’

Bureaucrats say ‘God is dead’

Popham concludes: ‘St Paul’s has indicated that, whatever the church’s spiritual message, for those who run the place its fabric is more important. That’s a bureaucratic way of saying, yes, God is dead.’

Elsewhere, the paper reports an unseemly incident in a church near St Paul’s, during a service moved from the closed cathedral.

A retired vicar interrupted the preacher when he asserted that ‘the demonstration… is imperilling the inclusive vision which is the centre of the cathedral’s status as a holy place’. The church, said this indignant older man, was ‘losing kudos’ by turning its back on the demonstrators. It should be ‘willing to bear a little pain and inconvenience’. He would be writing a strong letter to the Dean.

My possibly ill-informed eye cannot see that entrances to and exits from the cathedral are blocked other than by the cathedral’s locking of doors.

The main steps are not blocked. There are people sitting there most of the time at the moment, but they are sightseers, not demonstrators.

There are side entrances, one of which was actually used for a wedding a few days after all others had been locked. Another is visibly available for access. There are tents to left and right of it, but the approach is absolutely clear.

Demonstrators are respectful

The demonstrators are conscientious about observing restrictions. Areas where tents may be pitched are all clearly demarcated. Now that they are full, newcomers must take their tents to nearby Finsbury Square.

To end: A letter to the Independent invites the cathedral authorities to remember the injunction in the Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’

 

Church as a corporation, or business, that’s not so bad… Except when it’s run on prewar lines – production over quality, over sustainability, over relationships. It was an American who turned Japan into a prosperous nation – his ideas had been rejected by his own people and country. Quote: “Deming’s “new climate for organizational culture” consists of three elements: Joy in Work, Innovation, and Cooperation. Deming coined the “win-win” strategy, as opposed to the “I win: you lose” attitude engendered by competitive attitudes of the past.”
Churchianity is about building one’s own kingdom, with bigger and better church buildings – But Christianity is about building God’s kingdom, which equals righteousness, peace and joy… We need to be working joyfully together, using God inspired methods tailored for each person or peoples; making forever friends! How wonderful to be sharing that with the people around us!

Words are so important because they direct the way we think. Like the government is saying SAS troops are “mentoring” in Afghanistan I too, have started thinking “Church Corporation”. If the Jesus of the Bible existed he would be in a tent with the protesters, not behind closed doors protecting the weath of the church. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in the “News Corporation” ran a story about all the bishops, archbishops etc, coming out and camping with the protesters; that would be so fantatic.

Brilliant Cliff. You have revealed why the Church is not supporting the affected families who have been calling for a truly independent inquiry into the attacks on 9/11. The Church is, and has always been, on the side of the Establishment and the Corporations who now control the world.

What did you expect? It’s the church we are talking about here, the very first corporation!!

Christianity has never failed the test. Churches do. Jesus, the earthly son of a carpenter, was a working class hero who chucked the corrupt bankers and traders out of the public space of worship. This significant act was a radical move to reclaim a public space usurped by a corrupt religious class. His crucifiction by a colonial occupation force was abetted by this corrupt religious class – in bed with the corrupt banking/trading class. The actions of the cathedral authorities parallels that continuing struggle. Every Christian, who genuinely shares the cross that Christ bore, should not be surprised by the actions of these ‘Christian’ establishment. I certainly am not.

I agree that Christianity, in its all too broken humanity, has failed a critical test in this time and place. Rather than embracing the cause to speak publicly against unchecked capitalism and greed, a subject Jesus has a huge amount to say about, they have symbolically and literally closed their doors on the opportunity to be part of this vital dialogue.

If Jesus is anywhere in St Paul’s, he’s in the tents. Jesus is in the voice of the ‘99%’ who have lost their retirement savings (with no income potential to recover it), while the governments have given over billions to save the futurity of some banks or car manufacturers. Jesus is with those who have lost their homes to mortgagee sales, while the world continues to invest in the same economic structures that unashamedly favour the 1%.

Jesus essentially made himself a couch surfer during his public ministry. Not only did he rely on the hospitality of the stranger but he actively encouraged all of his disciples to do the same. St Paul’s is being unfaithful to her Lord, her people and her voice.

Fortunately there’s always a place in Christianity for confession and repentance!

“Jesus wept!” indeed, the shortest sentence in the Bible I believe. A fine piece of reporting by Kapiti Independent News, getting better and better all the time.

What we are seeing here is not Christianity, but Churchianity – which looks a lot like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Christianity is the heart and soul of Jesus who reached out to the poor, lived as a poor man, and bucked the establishment when it was needed.
The church of the west is a sick institution – in trying to “be better than the world” it has only succeeded in being worse in God’s eyes. It seeks to be better consumers, performers and perfectionists. These are all self focused activities. Gone are the givers, servers and honourers of others. We want to be rich, powerful and famous – and more so – we think being successful will impress the world that “Christianity” works.
See “God and the Western World Views” for my free articles on this problem, and ideas for solutions on “Getting Hold of God”.
Peace
Deb Burton