Tag Archive for protest groups

The Global Revolution – How Does the Church Respond?

In a recent excerpt from his book entitled “Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere”, Paul Mason argues that the protests of 2011 and the times that followed through 2012 marked a ground-breaking shift in which the youth-driven horizontalist protests had developed a new mind-set which made the old certainties of the 20th Century as alien to the 21st Century as the 19th Century certainties became during the last.

He argues that:

There is a change in consciousness, the intuition that something big is possible; that a great change in the world’s priorities is within people’s grasp. The impervious nature of official politics – its inability to swerve even slightly towards the critique of capitalism intuitively felt by millions of people – has deepened the sense of alienation and mistrust.

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

Protest is not always a nice event, but can the Church engage with the new protest movements?

He highlights how the protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy, taking in the democracy protests in Russia and other protests from Canada to Chile, mark a profound turn whereby the anti-hierarchical and anti-authority movements are more than simply an expression of young angst – although that is in part its driving force – but a new, levelled form of worldview that eschews the political and economic processes of the present and past and advocates a much more “New Age” view of the brotherhood of man and the being on the cusp of that elusive “glorious revolution”.

Yet what should the Church say to this? Church Peace was founded with a desire to see the Church engage with the protesters, the dissenters, and not in a “do as we say” methodology but by showing love and compassion, seeking to understand the concerns held by so many and drawing alongside.

The battle for social justice, social inclusion, and economic equality are matters of immense concern to the protesters and are also natural fields in which the Church should make its voice and actions heard.

Yet there are also areas where the Church must firmly abide by the words of God, and the revolutionary, anti-authority world-views of many in these protests – which Paul Mason argues are somewhat definitive of the new movements – pose a challenge to the Church, which is often seen as being part of the authoritarian problem and an Old Boys Club of hierarchical institutionalised corruption. The Church needs to remain both true to God’s word and also deal with the perception many have formed about it.

The message of the Gospel is not a system-loving, ruler-pleasing oppressor. No, it is a subversive, revolutionary message which in the first century AD acted in much the same way that these anti-authoritarian movements do today: it “turned the world upside down”.

It is, therefore, imperative that the Church does not become so rooted in its hierarchies and authority structures, built up over centuries of traditions, that it misses the revolutionary tide – a revolutionary tide which it can address with a real message: that sacrifice for the common good, given voluntarily and without selfish demand, is the basis of the most fundamental and greatest expression of love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13. And it is Jesus who laid down His life for us.

The Gospel message has a rich and massive potential amongst those who now protest against the injustices of this modern, corrupt world. Yet the Church has become the enemy: one of those structures to be torn down. Perhaps that is no bad thing. If the monolithic towering Babels of man’s glory expressed in structures and the lifeless stones of the great cathedrals are torn down, perhaps those in the protest movements will see the Glorious Temple that God is building from the living stones of redeemed men and women – a Church that is not so much an institution but more a real fellowship of God’s people yearning to share and show His love.

This is not to say that the Church should become one with the protests. The Gospel message is one which far surpasses any present world methods or goals: we look to another world, one without end: the glorious Return of Christ and the ushering in of His everlasting Kingdom. The Church must not become limited by focussing on social justice to the exclusion of the Eternal.

In addition, the Church should not be consumed by the anti-authority sentiment swelling the revolts and protests: we must be mindful that it is God who has made the authority structures as He has seen fit, and though we each have a role to play in any reform of those structures we must not become railing revolutionaries whose bitter desire is to tear down those we enviously see as being put “over us”.

The world is indeed at the cusp of something profound. Does the Church step up to the plate?

What are your views? Do you see that the Church can play an important role in the new movements spreading throughout the world? What is the best way in which Christians, and the Church as a whole, can engage with the protest movements?

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The Poor and Lame – Should we Stand?

On the 31st August a major protest took place against Atos, an organisation which has been accused of deliberately targeting disabled people for the removal of benefits under instruction from the Government.

Christians were also part of this protest, as Christianity Uncut stood in solidarity with disabled people and able-d persons who were engaging in this protest, and in the words of Symon Hill, an associate director of the Ekklesia think-tank:

“Jesus said he had come to bring good news to the poor. Atos bring bad news to the poor. David Cameron is welcoming the Paralympics while snatching away the livelihood of thousands of disabled people. Ministers could save billions by cracking down on corporate tax-dodging and ditching Trident, instead of  attacking the poorest members of society. Many Christians recognise that there can be no neutrality in the face of injustice. Now is the time to act on that conviction.”

There were some scuffles at the protest and, though by-and-large peaceful, some people were injured. There were reports that as the police made an apparently aggressive move to force protesters from outside the doors of the Atos building some of those present, including disabled protesters, were crushed by the forced back-stepping by those near the building.

However, Symon Hill has informed me that there was a great atmosphere of solidarity and encouragement at the protests and that many of those involved greatly appreciated the presence of Christians prepared to stand for those less able in our society.

I am keen that those protesting are supported in their democratic right to engage in dissent whilst at the same time encouraging the police to take a softer line in their public order policing, and would encourage those Christians who would want to bring a peace-loving aspect to expressions of political dissatisfaction – whilst equally encouraging those of all faiths and none who feel passionately enough to take to the streets in a peaceful manner.

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Occupy Faith

A new phase in the continuing Occupy movement in the UK has begun with the formation of a new charity, Occupy Faith.

This is a very important development as far as Church Peace is concerned, being as it is a melding of the Occupy protest movement and the faith community.

In part inspired by the Occupy Faith movement in the US (much as Occupy UK was inspired by Occupy Wall Street) the Occupy Faith UK movement has planned a 12 day pilgrimage from St. Paul’s Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral to highlight economic injustice and solidarity with the Occupy movement.

As a new link to build bridges between the protest and faith communities it is encouraging and inspiring to hear of this new initiative.

I do, however, have concerns.  I know other Christians and Christian groups view these things differently, yet the concept of seeking a form of economic salvation by allying too closely to non-Christian groups is not something I feel entirely comfortable about.

The rationale for Church Peace, as it stands, is to connect with the dissenting community, and though I would like this to include support for moral and ethical protests, an important part of Church Peace is the Christian input it seeks to provide.  The Occupy Faith UK statement of intent prohibits the sharing of the Christian faith and makes clear that there is no purpose to proselytise.  Whilst this is understandable considering their stated purpose of seeking economic justice, to me it seems as though the Gospel is being relegated to second place after carnal considerations of finance.

I am reminded of the situation where Israel was being attacked by the Assyrians and they then made an alliance with Egypt to fight the invaders back, which was robustly condemned by God through the prophet Isaiah.  Is it right that Christians should seek salvation from economic woes (even for the benefit of others) by allying with non-Christian faiths and movements?  Should we not, rather, seek to be witnesses of a better way than that which both Occupy and other faiths purport to be?

Of course, it is a Biblical imperative to speak up for the oppressed and the poor, and in this respect it is highly commendable that Christians should seek to do this.  But is such a close identification with Occupy and those of non-Christian faiths desirable, especially when the movement has banned evangelistic efforts by those Christians involved?

I appreciate that there are other views, and would welcome your comments below.

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What Now After St. Paul’s/Occupy LSX

The question for Church Peace is: what now?

The sad scenes at the eviction of Occupy LSX outside St. Paul’s marked the end of the occupation there, yet the Occupy movement has not given up.  Also, other protest groups are in existence aside from Occupy.

The rationale for Church Peace is to connect the Church with the protest community – how best now to go about this?

The following are some ideas and I want to urge you to contribute to this process of moving forward in the ministry.

  • I have made some links with Occupy Brighton and I am looking at how I can help them there.  If anyone reading this is a resident of Brighton then do get in touch – this may be a good way to support dialogue between the churches and Occupy.
  • If any Christians are willing to take on an administration role for Church Peace, in order to maintain an email list, produce letters, and potentially organise church representatives then do let me know!
  • I would really like to hear from Christians who have their own involvement in protest groups, whatever their particular cause.  There may be an opportunity to learn important lessons from your experiences.

Do feel free to contribute ideas, suggestions and any feedback as a comment to this post!  Thank you!

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