On hijacking a cathedral

When interviewed on BBC Radio 2 last week Andy Flannagan, Director of the Christian Socialist Movement, was asked ‘what would Jesus do’ about the occupation of the precinct of St Paul’s Cathedral. The interviewer wanted to know whether he would side with the protesters or with those seeking to move them on. With great astuteness Mr Flannagan  answered that it never goes well when any political cause seeks to recruit Jesus to their ranks. History bears this out. Slave-owners, emancipators, the architects of apartheid and those who brought it down would all have claimed Jesus as a recruit to their cause.  I think Jesus expects us to make our own minds up about these things, rather than pressing him into service as a poster boy. Perhaps a little excursion to the woods might help with this one.

One morning rabbit was awoken by an almighty squeaking and scurrying outside her door. To her enormous surprise, a great crowd of thin and angry little mice had gathered on the ferny forest floor outside her burrow. ‘We are protesting’ they said, ‘those fat cats are making our lives a misery’ . They went on to explain that the fat cats were forever stealing their food, keeping them in a state of fear, and toying with their very lives. Rabbit tutted and furrowed her brow at this. ‘Well stay here for a little while and make your point then’ she said kindly. The mice were overjoyed, and began to organise themselves. Pretty soon rabbit’s front doorstep was a riot of colour and  a medley of conversation. Soon, though, things started to get awkward for rabbit. Little piles of mouse food and other things began to litter the mossy floor. It was awkward for her to get in and out, and  soon she might have to ask them to leave. The newspapers began to run headlines on ‘the oppression of  innocent mice by rodents who should know better’. Others talked of the selfishness and folly of rabbit. Still others began to delve into the history of the forest and look for other examples of rabbit’s misdeeds. And all the while nobody, but nobody,was talking about the fat cats. They didn’t mind, though – they owned the newspapers.

Of course this is a gross simplification of a complex story. There is no desire to belittle a situation which has cost more than one servant of the church his job. However, we must remember that a critique of capitalism has now turned into a debate about the church. Why was BBC Radio 2 talking about WWJD, rather than discussing what the captains of industry have or haven’t done? A moment of kindness on the church’s part has turned into hours of debate about the wrong question.

How do we turn it around again?