Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What would Jesus do (re: anti-capitalist protesters outside St Paul's)?

On the way back from Devon this morning we concluded that the anti-capitalists outside St Paul's were merely bullying the church. Why not pitch up outside a mosque, we asked.

Lo and behold, someone else thought the same.

They cannot pitch up where they wanted to and found refuge outside St Paul's. Now they have overstayed their welcome (as Libby Purves said in a Times column which I am not able to link to because some capitalist has installed a paywall), but nobody had the decency to move. Too much 'face' at stake.

No, no, must not 'lose face'.

Let's go back to first cause. Capitalism. If these anti-capitalists are really anti the capitalists then surely the church is the wrong target.

The complaints against these "protesters":
  • They all indulge in the fruit of capitalism: Starbucks coffee, coca-cola, iPhone, iPads, the expensive/cheap tents they use, etc. How could you be against capitalism on the one hand and support it with your buying habits? Something has to go.
  • Where do they find the time to protest? My husband and I, we do not have time for protests. They have the time to protest only because they do not need to work, ie they are either (1) on benefits, paid for by taxpayers within the capitalist system, or (2) offspring of very rich capitalists who can afford not to work. Either way their present activity is supported by the spoils of capitalism.
  • Some are "professional" protesters who have just moved from Dale Farm
  • Many are said to have not "camped" there at all during the cold nights, but retreated to warm homes and hotel rooms (but this is in dispute, although a spokesperson for the protesters said she did send people home for a shower and a rest).
One word comes to my mind: hypocrisy.

I am, like many others, not happy with the way the leaders and employees of banks have conducted themselves. I am, like many others, appalled at how the taxpayer has had to bail out these banks.

But I am, also like many others, not in favour of a group of people with very ambiguous aims ruining the livelihood of the families of those who work in and around the cathedral (ie the person who cleans the restaurant and brings you the tea, the single mother who mans the cashier counter, etc.). Yes, the very same people who paid taxes to fund the expensive university education of some of these protesters.

I like to say that my life is guided by the principle of asking "What would Jesus do?", as emblazoned on the banner of these protesters.

We know that Jesus overturned tables and chased the money changers out of the temple, the House of Worship. He was angry that these traders had turned the temple into a den of thieves. Apparently these traders were making profit out of people who came to the temple to worship.

Inside the temple.

But what did Jesus do outside the temple?

He supped with tax-collectors, merchants, farmers, Pharisees, prostitutes, etc. and worked alongside fishermen. Jesus engaged with people who were both in the centre of political and commercial life as well as those on the margins.

What else did Jesus do?

He healed the sick, comforted those who grieved, debated with the intellectuals, turned water into wine, taught us to give support to the widows and fatherless.

So let us not get mired in a mono-dimensional debate, comfortably ensconced in the muddy belief that because Jesus threw out the traders in the temple that he must be against all capitalists.

A basic principle of hermeneutics is that we must let scripture interpret scripture. We must look at the whole Bible for a truly biblical perspective. Never read anything out of its historical and cultural context.

For otherwise we would all migrate to Jerusalem (because the New Testament repeats "starting from Jerusalem"), we would all become alcoholics (look! Jesus turned a lot of water into a lot of wine), and then of course we would also encourage 12-year-olds to leave their parents in order to spend time with their religious leaders because that was exactly what Jesus did!

What would Jesus do? What would Jesus say?

I think that amongst other things Jesus would wish to know what have these protesters done in the last 24 hours, in the last week, in the last fortnight, in the last month, to make the life of one person in need, one hungry person, one sick person, one under-achieving student, better in any way.

How many of us have gone to visit someone in prison, read a book to someone in hospital, shared a hot meal with someone who has no one to share a meal with, given money to some deserving poor, coached a neighbour's child on trigonometry, washed someone else's dirty and smelly feet?

Many of us do this every day through our taxes.

Some of us do this through our ir/regular charity giving.

Too few of us do this every day for real.

What would Jesus do? I think, like Marx, Jesus would advocate "praxis".

(Readers who post links to my posts on FB, please use the "Comments" box to let me know where I could find them. As I believe in the freedom of speech, I would also appreciate a "right to reply".)

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