Monday 24 October 2011

St Paul's and the moment to decide

"Mony, mony, get money still –
Let virtue follow if it will.”

That was what William Blake said he heard when he listened to the sound of London.

When you listen to the City of London now, with its subsidised banks and their lights blazing all night – the very centre of the global financial engine – you wonder whether there are any other noises at all. Certainly any spiritual noises.

The mosque in Whitechapel, just outside the City, has nearly 25,000 worshippers on its books; many of them attend four times a day. Compare that to the echoing dusty, baroque churches of the City – a symbol of the spiritual bankruptcy that goes hand in hand with the power of finance.

I am not at outsider in this. I am a baptised and practising member of the Church of England, so when the cathedral authorities at St Paul’s invited the protests to stay, it did seem for a moment as if the church had woken from its long moral doze.

It seemed to be sole recognition that the church was aware of the critical importance of these issues, not just for spirituality, but for the future of civilisation – which would be in doubt in the event of a full financial crash.

It was a recognition of a historic moment of decision – that the church understood that the financial world is vacuuming up the wealth, not just from London but from around the world. A belated acknowledgement that our financial institutions are actively impoverishing the globe.

Now they have closed the cathedral.  The Blitz closed it, and now apparently its that modern catch-all 'health and safety'.  None of the other surrounding businesses have closed, but the cathedral has - which strikes me as just a little pathetic.  The moment of decision has arrived and they close the cathedral.

So while the cathedral authorities are right that St Paul’s is bigger than the protesters, that is only the case if the church rises to the occasion. It is not the case if they continue, ostrich-like, to ignore what has been happening in the tyranny of finance over life.

I understand the inconvenience.  I understand that, from an administrative point of view, it is awkward having tents within sight of their tea rooms - just as they did in medieval times at the gatherings at St Paul's Cross - but once to every man and nation/comes the moment to decide.  This is theirs.

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