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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Protest is an act of Worship.

The relationship between the Occupation movement outside St. Paul's Cathedral and the Cathedral authorities has been portrayed as increasingly frayed in recent days, with the radio this morning describing the Bishop of London as having implored the protestors to move on from their camp.

I suspect that, just as the portrayal of the protesters as lacking in conviction by not staying the night when scrutinised by infra-red cameras or as lazy when they're not up at the crack of dawn every day campaigning with every passing businessperson, so I think the stance of those of faith is far more nuanced than seeing the protest as a nuisance to be moved on, and I credit the church with being quite open in their subtle cues of support for the occupation and the resistance to social inequality.

To me, the camp looks like a pilgrim camp and the protesters are modern worshippers. I'm not for a moment appropriating them into the church, because I've no doubt that they're atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and religiously diverse as well as Christian. In many ways, though, that's not at all incompatible with the image of a Protestant Pilgrim. At the very core of the Christian faith is the notion that there's no intermediary needed between humanity and the divine and that the role of the church is to provide counsel in times of celebration and spiritual crisis.

It's hardly as though Christianity doesn't have a historical stance on usury, either, as with most faiths, it used to consider the charging of any interest on any loan as a horrific sin, and it was one of the few things which provoked a violent reaction from Christ, who drove the moneylenders from the temple. That the Church now isn't being more vocal in its support of protests which are, I would argue, an act of worship, expressing a simple sufferance and sacrifice at the foot of a temple - two, in fact, being outside the temple of God and the temple of money, is a missed opportunity for the Church to regain the moral territory it should be quite rightfully holding. I'd even argue that with the gentle approach to most matters of spirituality and the hands-off way that the Church of England generally handles things like the literal truth of the Bible, they stand to regain a lot of lost credibility at a time when people are looking for moral and spiritual guidance.

Preach what you practice, please. Support a fairer society and come out and admit that the protesters are daring to stand up for what you, as Christians, believe in. Their messages may be muddled up in a confused symbolism of Guy Fawkes masks and high-tech tweeting tents and they may not always get their message across clearly simply because they accept that there should be no intermediary between a person and their conscience, if you'd like to call it that, or perhaps, that everyone has an immediate and direct relationship with God on matters of faith. It's different words to articulate the same thing, but the only thing that's gained by standing against one another is inertia.

Does it matter whether you learn "do unto others" at Evensong or from a protester outside in the rain, so long as you learn to live peacefully and you know to do as little harm as you possibly can to the world around you and you recognise that you are just one tiny part of something much, much larger than you can ever manage to hold in your head? Evensong is a call for a fairer, kinder world; as is the Call to Prayer; as is Diwali; as is the G20 protests; as are the people in the banking industries trying to ameliorate the harm the system inflicts; as are movements for democratic change; as is everyone who just tries their hardest to do what they can to do right.

Preach what you practice. This is my plan from here on in. No criticism of those doing their best to do no harm.

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