The vote on Any Questions on Friday night, broadcast from Newcastle, suggested that at least half the chattering classes are in favour of the protests in so many cities now against the disastrous financial status quo – including the one next to St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
I certainly am, despite the pompous dismissal of them by both the Labour and Lib Dem representatives on the Any Questions panel (sorry, Jeremy, but you were).
That doesn’t mean that I am somehow against the Church of England or the cathedral authorities, who – sticking to the terrible advice they have been given – have now given the go-ahead for eviction.
So we felt that the best way we could demonstrate this was by visiting the camp and also going to choral eucharist in the cathedral. I don’t suppose anyone on either side understood the significance of my family, and my two small boys, being present in the cathedral, but there we are. It felt good at the time.
Seen side by side, there is no doubt that St Paul’s wins the battle for beauty. The tent city outside, though it is scrupulously well-organised, clean and litter-free, is not beautiful. Nor did I get much encouragement from the deadly discussion on political correctness from the camp’s ‘assembly’ on the steps.
But I did get to hear the excellent sermon, suggesting – in a distinctively Anglican way – that the real question is not what Jesus would have done, but what is he doing now? I don’t know the answer that that, of course, but suspect that he will be providing challenges from unexpected directions and people that will jolt us out of our complacency.
That is why I believe the camp represents an important challenge. Not just the one at St Paul’s, but the one in Denver which was pepper-sprayed by police over the weekend, not to mention the protests in Syria which this movement is part of – confronting the tyranny of finance over life. The Arab Spring was always about economics at least as much as it was about democracy.
Also on the steps of St Paul’s, I ran into one of the great names of the new economics, who I won’t quote by name because I haven’t asked him. But he set me thinking about what Gandhi would have done, and suggested it would have been to encourage camps everywhere outside churches.
This is not to confront the churches. The churches are not the enemy. But it would be to challenge them to show the leadership they should be showing, understanding the urgency and overwhelming nature of the issue. It is a challenge to the churches, like Luther’s 95 Theses, to take their rightful place in the lead of the campaign against usury.
Will they rise to the occasion? On present evidence, probably not. But this is just the beginning.