What, I ask you, would Jesus do? In part, I ask this question because I really need to get a WWJD bracelet for a friend, and I’ll forget if I don’t bring it up every so often. More importantly, I ask this because, once again, the Christian Church has managed to put her beautiful foot in the middle of a growing controversy, and is now struggling to get free.
I say growing controversy. What I mean, of course, is the Occupy LSX (that’s London Stock eXchange) protests currently camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This may not be quite up to major controversy yet, but in some circles it’s causing a stir, and I quite like discussing the Occupy movement, so I’ll count it as one, and you can disagree later.
For those who have been living in some sort of hole (America, Australia, or anywhere that isn’t Britain, really) the Occupy LSX protestors were driven back from the stock exchange itself on the first day of their protests, but managed to find a nice bit of grass to put their tents up on in the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral. St Paul’s tolerated their presence temporarily, with the Reverend Dr. Giles Fraser (who’s a bit liberal and weird, even for the Anglican church) even preaching a sermon that some might describe as supporting the Occupy protests. However, the higher authorities in the church decided to close the church due to health and safety, and the trouble began. Suddenly, the church was discussing throwing the protestors out (as were the City authorities), and old Giles decided to resign due to untenability. A few days down the line, and at least one other person has also resigned, if I understand the situation correctly, and the protestors have been asked to leave.
So what would Jesus do? It’s a question that has been raised many times, mainly by supporters of Occupy LSX, and the usual answers tend to hint towards ideas of siding with the protestors. And this is an extremely plausible answer. Going right back to Reverend Dr. Giles Fraser’s sermon on the story of giving to Caeser what is Caeser’s, we can see immediately that Jesus was not interested in money. Indeed, Jesus thought that money, while not bad, was certainly very unhelpful. “You cannot serve two masters”, he helpfully tells us, and the most common interpretation is that he is talking about money, although, depending on the sermon, the answer could also be cars, work, drugs, and of course sex. This is the Christian church we’re talking about.
Equally, there’s no doubt that Jesus was a revolutionary. He threw the moneylenders out of the temple in a very dramatic manner, and was certainly considered dangerous enough by the authorities to be killed. However, more interestingly, he was also a man of peace, who rode into Jerusalem as King of Kings on, of all things, a colt or young donkey. He certainly did not lead the revolution that the Jews of the time expected, and it’s suprising that his influence fizzle out as soon as he died, considering his sum contribution to the world was a bit of theological wrangling about what happened after people died. But he came as a messenger of peace, and of course, parallels can be drawn between the peaceful protests (supposedly) that Occupy is producing.
But is this the full story? Would Jesus approve of the protests? I don’t know. While he clearly demanded that the world’s priorities change to suit God’s priorities, would he really have wanted so much of a lynch mob? We can all accept that Jesus came to save the poor and the needy, but surely his main aim was to minister to all of the persecuted? It was, although don’t call me Shirley. Admittedly, calling the bankers, stockbrokers and other assorted members of the new world order that is the financial industry ‘persecuted’ might be pushing things, but I think we can settle for vilified. Certainly, one cannot entirely fault them for merely following the gifts that God gave them such as their ability with mathematics and numbers. Indeed, we could argue all day if they were ‘only following orders’, a phrase which has echoed through history, with many terrible ideas attached to it.
More importantly, are they to blame for the main thing the protestors are so angry about, which is the consumerist society? I would certainly say not. That is a culture that we must all blame ourselves for, and I am fairly sure that Jesus would give short shrift to those who would blame the whole issue on others. The parable about the brothers with specks and logs in each other’s eyes comes to mind. You might struggle to blame the bankers for the commercialisation of, say, Christmas. We’ve all lusted after that cool RC car, or the amazing doll that really wets its nappy.
So I don’t know. Jesus is Jesus, and, while I strive to be more like him every day, I’m still but a fallen sinner. I suspect he would disagree with the handling of the whole situation, and I’m sure he would be shocked that the church are actually about to serve an eviction notice. However, I doubt he’d be one of the protestors, either, or if he was, the movement would have a lot more focus on helping others, rather than blaming the rich. More likely, I imagine him acting with the church, and washing people’s feet, helping them, providing them with facilities that they might struggle to find elsewhere. Indeed, much like the Reverend Dr. Giles Fraser, I can imagine Jesus being the one to invite the protestors onto neutral ground, and offering them a spot of fish sandwich.
The Anglican church today believes strongly in the power of the spirit, and this means that we are all going to have views based on our intepretations of the scriptures and the world around us. However, it seems to me that the church is failing to respond to a brilliant mission opportunity, and I can honestly say, I am disapoint.
On a slight tangent, has Bishop Sentamu said anything about this whole situation? He’s usually fairly quick to react to things like this. I haven’t really heard much since he went and camped in the church for lent. Is he still around?