“Economic justice is the number one moral issue in the Bible.” Giles Fraser, Dean of St Pauls
Since 15th October, a very British expression of Christianity has been taking place outside St Paul’s Cathedral, in what Giles Fraser, who resigned on 27th October 2011 as Dean of the Cathedral, describes as a
“fault line between God and Mammon”
That is, between the territory owned by St Pauls Cathedral, a Christian Church, and that owned by the City of London, a medieval corporation in which businesses have more voting rights than individuals, the UK’s last rotten borough, which is described by Nicholas Shaxon in Treasure Islands as the
centre of a great, secretive financial web cast across the globe, each of whose sections – the individual havens – trapped passing money and business from nearby jurisdictions and fed them up to the City: just as a spider catches insects. So, a complex cross-border merger involving a US multinational might, say, route a lot of the transaction through Caribbean havens, whose British firms will then send much of the heavy lifting work, and profits, up to the City.
In the third ring of the seventh circle of Dante’s Hell, within the river of blood and the forest of suicides, there is a barren plain of sand ignited by flakes of fire that torment violent offenders against God – and of those, vilest of all Dante considered those who harm industry and the economy, offspring of nature and therefore grandchild of God: usurers. Thomas Aquinas judged usury to be contrary to nature because “it is in accordance with nature that money should increase from natural goods and not from money itself.”
Yet we believe that this nation has a hope, and that hope can be found in Jesus Christ. On this basis we seek to awaken the Church. We need to be passionate about our faith and became a light and a witness to the nation.
Whilst engaging with the church we want to work to infuse a biblical worldview into every aspect of society. We want to be a strong Christian voice in the public sphere, arguing passionately for the truth of the Gospel and defending the historic freedoms that we have enjoyed in this nation for so long.We believe that by doing so, society as a whole will benefit. We seek to highlight injustice, change public opinion on issues of key importance and affect policy at the highest levels.
Just after midnight, outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the following events took place. (Unless otherwise specified, all quotes from James Ball and Ben Quinn’s report in the Guardian.)
Hearing reports of massed police at St James’ and London Wall. Tonight is.likely the night. #occupylsx
— Naomi Colvin (@auerfeld) February 27, 2012
- Within minutes, surrounding streets were blocked off against both traffic and protesters responding to messages to resist or witness the camp’s clearance, while groups of blue-overalled police with riot helmets hanging by their sides began forming around the square.
- Police warned those within the cordoned areas of the camp to move or face arrest. Some started methodically packing: deflating air mattresses and gathering the possessions from the tents some had lived in for up to four months. Others simply dragged their possessions, tents and all, to the stairs of the cathedral, which the Occupy protesters thought would be safe in the ensuing cleanup.
- Nearby, a group of Christian activists were considering what to do. A plan by Christians to create a ‘prayer ring’ around the camp had been caught out by the lateness and suddenness of the police action.
- Symon Hill of Ekklesia: “The word has gone out on Twitter and anyone who could come down here has come. Others have not got through and they have been praying, as we have, outside the police cordons or at home.”
- Unnoticed by the protesters was a small number of officers in riot gear moving up one side of the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as fresh bailiffs resumed dragging protesters to the ground from their makeshift fortress, the police line made its move: slowly advancing, sweeping protesters – a small number of whom were praying – from the steps they had hitherto regarded as safe ground.
- Symon Hill: “I was one of several people who were removed while praying. I’m not sure how many. There was Anglican, Quaker and Buddhist involvement, and probably more. Some were hurt more than me. One Quaker was carried down by several officers as he loudly prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I was dragged away from the steps by two policeman, but I returned shortly afterwards. I was recognised, and thought I would be arrested, but I was again removed to the bottom of the steps, which the police now surrounded.” (Ekklesia)
- Siobhan Grimes, an Anglican living in London, was one of those removed from the steps. She said: “Christianity is not about using violence against people seeking economic justice. It is not about protecting the most privileged. It’s about responding to the needs of the world around us with confidence, humility and courage. I chose to pray at the eviction because I think that’s what Jesus would have done.” (Christianity Uncut)
A couple of weeks ago, Baroness Warsi wrote in the Telegraph:
This is about recognising the deep and intrinsic role of faith here in Britain and overseas. For a number of years I have been saying that we need to have a better understanding of faith in our country. Why? Because I profoundly believe that faith has a vital and important role to play in modern society. But mistakenly, faith has been neglected, undermined – and yes, even attacked – by governments in recent years. …. I will be arguing that to create a more just society, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds.
Christians in the UK face problems in living out their faith and these problems have been mostly caused and exacerbated by social, cultural and legal changes over the past decade.
It also references “Religious illiteracy” as a problem and says
There is a high level of religious illiteracy which has led to many situations where religious belief is misunderstood and subsequently restricted. This comes from a social and cultural minimisation of Christianity in public life.
— Equal and Diverse (@ukequality) February 28, 2012
And then there’s Christian Concern again. Their concerns do not include poverty or usury. When they say they are interested in employment, they do not mean the millions out of work; their concerns about education do not extend to concerns about funding cuts; their concerns about family are exclusively about keeping marriage a privilege and not a right; and their concerns about “equality” are exclusively concerned with protecting a perceived right of Christians to persecute LGBT people, not in any respect with poverty, debt, or anything to do with financial inequality.
So this is a peculiar situation. Early this morning, Christians were forcibly dragged away from the steps of a church by riot police as they knelt to pray. Yesterday, Christians in Parliament argued that religious belief in the UK is marginalised, misunderstood and not protected. Two weeks ago, Baroness Warsi said she profoundly believed that faith had a vital and important role to play in modern society.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, the spokesperson for Christian Concern for our Nation and for the Christian Legal Centre, said on 6th February:
“Is it not the job of the established Church to hold government to account and not to let her stray from biblical precepts which are good not just for individuals but for communities and nations?”
- If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. Exodus 22:25-27
- If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. Leviticus 25:35-37
- You shall not charge interest to your brother — interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess. Deuteronomy 23:19,20
- In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 22:12
- Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Luke 18:18-25
- No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24
Yet so far, Andrea Minichiello Williams has had nothing to say about Occupy London. None of these self-proclaimed defenders of Christianity in the public sphere have had anything to say about Christians being dragged violently away from prayer by the police.
Odd, that. Isn’t it?