The adventure of tentin

compost capitalism

The occupations of Occupy London are, according to their website, “about social justice, real democracy and challenging the unsustainable financial system that punishes the many and privileges the few”. But the juxtaposition of the protesters’ camp and St Paul’s is challenging those of us on the inside of the Church of England wearing the vest of vested interests.


saint paul's [1]The juxtaposition highlights the challenge that has faced Christians down the centuries. Juxtaposed is the soft and the hard, the fixed and the flimsy, the playfulness of the tent and the seriousness of established tradition, the movement and the institution. These contrasts are not new. Paul, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated, was, as Giles Fraser pointed out, a tent maker and missioner of no fixed abode. Tonight a friend who is beginning to explore the Christian faith emailed me her puzzlement that “God and religion don’t seem to match”. What has been happening in London seems to be another replay of this mismatch. (Is it either the grace of God, or prophetic imagination and energy that makes more of a match?)


capitalism is a kind of slaveryMadeleine Bunting has written of the spatial aspect of the paradigm shift represented by the protest. For her, the protest is about “seeding questions in thousands of minds, shaking certainties and orthodoxies so that there is space for new alternatives.” It is about “taking key symbolic public space … to use it for conviviality, living, learning and participation.” To me that sounds exciting, and something which Christians should be engaging with. In fact, it represents the very heart and aspiration of Christian practice. Conviviality, living, learning and participation are fundamental to the intention of Christian liturgy.


The British Jewish community seems to have responded to the protest positively. In the statement they have published today, they “welcome the movement’s openness, pluralism and commitment to imagining a more just world.” Their statement includes a reminder that “the Jewish heritage includes a long tradition of reshaping society to help the least fortunate, from the teaching of prophets like Amos and Jeremiah, to Rabbi Hillel, to modern figures such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Naomi Klein.” The church shares the same Jewish heritage, but the juxtaposition and apparent conflict of tent and Cathedral suggests the ease with which an institution can forget its origin as a movement of liberation.

2 thoughts on “The adventure of tentin

  1. And I think I'd better shape up likewise! For some the mismatch seems so great that there doesn't seem to be any connection. Thank goodness you honour the space of silence Simon.

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