Tented Villages

Rather hoping that I don’t find the Cathedral grounds filled up by a tented village of people protesting about something when I go back to work.

I’m trying not to comment too directly upon the internal workings of another cathedral. However, the PR disaster that is St Paul’s does make me want to assert this…

It seems to me that it is mistaken to reject entirely the possibility that a Christian church might involve the police in enforcing the law. I can think of several situations when the rule of law has needed to be applied to church property. For example, I remember a situation when a property owned by a certain religious foundation was taken over by a business going by the name of Sadie’s Massage Parlour and was offering services that went beyond massage that was merely therapeutic. That was a situation where the law needed to be invoked and enforced.

It is also the case that I’ve told anti-gay protesters that they can protest against the church in the street but not on our own land. They were reasonably good-natured and respected that, but I’d have had no hesitation in calling the Police out had they not done so.

Or there was the case when I thought that the person who had walked into church had a bomb in his rucksack just before a BBC broadcast. (It turned out to be a bass clarinet). Personally, I’d have preferred that a burly policeman had dealt with that than me.

Or there was the time when we had death threats made against a preacher and had plain-clothes police in the front row. (As one of the people sitting next to the preacher, I was glad they were there).

I have occasionally had cause to ask the authorities to limit what they proposed to do. For example, I did have to make a request once that, if they were going to arrest someone (someone whom I did certainly believe needed very much to be arrested) then perhaps it would be more appropriate to do so from my office than actually in church. In the end, I’m pleased to say, neither possibility came to pass.
All I’m saying is that the act of involving the police in enforcing the law is not one that I think is always utterly morally reprehensible for Christians defending their people, land or worship. There are obvious questions about whether a course of action is proportionate, but that is another matter.

Absolute values rarely apply.


  1. This would be fine & well if one has reason to believe one’s cathedral to be under some kind of threat.

    I don’t see that being the case in St Paul’s – the evidence I’ve seen so far is that the various Occupations have been entirely peaceful apart from when the police start bullying them. The published “uh, think of the fire hazard” document reads like the most specious excuse they could invent to justify playing victim – let’s not forget it’s *their own* front door they’ve *chosen* to shut in the face of population, diocesan Mission directives notwithstanding. It’s about being Establishment versus free natives of the planet with a Christian-compatible social & justice message; I see St Paul’s have chosen their side.

    • I must admit that for all my liberal instincts and progressive values, I don’t see this issue as being nearly so clear cut as that.

  2. I wonder what Oscar Romero would have done?

    • Probably call the nation’s attention to the scandal of poverty. Unlike any of the players in this drama so far.

  3. william says

    Point to explore:
    When Jesus said – that the poor we would always have with us – what point do you consider he was making, and therefore would want to make to us today in the UK, about the scandal of poverty?

  4. Zebadee says

    Dear William It is not a question of what others would do about the scandel of poverty the question is what are YOU doing about it? Having worked at a drop in centre and at other places that attempt to deal with this problem in the UK I know that there are no easy answers but have come to a conclusion that it is an individual responce more than a corporate one.

  5. Agatha says

    William, perhaps Jesus was well ahead of himself and was referring to relative poverty. My grandfather’s family were so poor he trapped rabbits, his brother got ends of bread from the vicarage and another brother picked up the vegetables that had got dropped on the ground from market stalls. A century later and the “poor” organise protests via blackberry.

  6. Agatha,

    Isn’t that still progress of sorts, or should we be pining for the days of absolute poverty in the UK? Poverty, absolute or otherwise, is surely always worth challenging?

    Gap Yah types and their blackberry diversions will probably be with us always too, alas.

  7. Rosemary Hannah says

    More flat-footedly, Jesus’s remark was in a context – a perceptive woman in a moment of love and gratitude, seeing the cost of her brother’s having been liberated from death, poured an entire jar of expensive anointing perfume over his feet. Judas carped. Jesus defended the woman: the moment was right, the action prophetic. That does not mean Jesus wanted to keep the poor poor. He was saying that if Judas felt that strongly about their plight he would have plenty of time to take action over it. That moment, that particular moment, belonged to Jesus. We no longer have his physical feet, but we do still have his poor. We are not absolved from taking action in the world because we love him.

  8. Agatha says

    Ryan, of course its progress. But lets not forget there are people in the world that are still in absolute poverty. And I know which I would rather champion, those without food and water, not those who can only afford a 32″ TV.

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