Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Occupying St Paul's

I have visited St Paul's Cathedral for the inauguration of my friend the Bishop of Swindon, who is a fellow immunologist. I must say it is a magnificent building and concert venue. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, a fellow blood transfusion specialist and scientist, it is of architectural and historical importance. I believe it ought to be preserved for the nation on those grounds.

I am not in favor of a national church and would vote for the disestablishment of the Church of England if I had the chance. My parents baptised me into the C of E without my consent and I have seldom taken part in any of their services. There are, of course, many true Christians in the C of E.

The Occupy London sit in is different from those elsewhere in the world in that it has got itself involved with Establishment Churchmen in a way that it hasn't elsewhere. In some way the protest has got itself conflated with the story in the gospels of Jesus overturning, with some violence, the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple.

From what I have seen of the London Occupiers, they are nicely-spoken, reasonable, middle class youngsters - mostly unemployed - often hirsute, left-wing and scruffy, but non-violent and naive who feel aggrieved at the way that the economy is shaping up.

The funding of St Paul's is from entry fees (it makes £16,000 a day) and grants from institutions in the City of London, which is immensely wealthy. I have no doubt that a disproportionate amount of money is garnered in the City from less than admirable sources. Insider trading undoubtedly exists and the whole system is geared to favor those already rich. Gambling, which is a national pastime, is where big money is made. So I have some sympathy with the protesters, though I doubt whether their methods will do more than raise the debate. I must say that I have no remedy for the lack of justice within finance, though my own personal wealth has grown by cautious investment over the past 30 years. I must be one of the richest 1% on the planet if not in the UK alone.

Most of us do not quibble if some one is rich having worked hard, though inherited wealth (if it implies that someone does not have to work) or wealth attained by trivial work, criminality or deceit does raise our ire. We are also moved by extreme poverty, unless it is brought on by idleness or refusal to work. Many of these well spoken young people outside St Paul's would be better employed working in a refugee camp in the horn of Africa - I would certainly give a donation for their travel out there.

The same could be said for those churchmen who side with the protesters. I think we have too many church buildings. The church is the gathered body of believers and a church building may favor that gathering, but it doesn't have to be owned by the church or be particularly beautiful. I have met in town halls, school classrooms, basketball courts and in the open air. The main purpose of a church meeting is to preach the gospel so as to make, mature and mobilize disciples. I really don't see much of that going on at St Paul's.


Anonymous said...

Everything that you say seems quite reasonable. I was personally amazed and overwhelmed by the ammount of wealth concentrated in a few places (such as Windsor Castle)when I visited your lovely country some years ago. The same can be said the world over (think of the Vatican, the Hermitage, the Taj Mahal).

I agree that the individuals could do more good working somewhere to elevate the condition of those less fortunate and I, too, would gladly help to subsidize such an effort, though I fear that the usual corruption would occur.

The irony of this so-called "movement" in my opinion is that the protestors are protesting the wrong things.

World wide we have seen time and time again how "bad" capitalism is...BUT it is the best system there is insofar as I can see.

If people accumulate wealth through their own efforts...be it their own genius, there own good luck, their own industry or the good fortunes of their forebears it is not evil.

Evil only occurs when corruption, illegality and similar mechanisms lead to people's gain at the expense of others.

Many very wealthy people have simultaneously produced things which have made the world a better place for everyone. Think no further than the so-called Robber Barons of the USA whose efforts brought us railroads, better communication, better healthare, etc. Think of Steve Jobs, purportedly a very wealthy man...you and I and all those who read this have benefitted from his efforts.

The world should focus on righting wrongs brought on by crime(including, of course, white collar crime)and natural misfortunes and correcting economic problems through increasing economic growth, not by "redistributing" the wealth.

If we don't grow the pie, we can't expect to have very much to share.

The people sitting in these churches and parks are unlikely to accomplish much if anything of value just sitting on their rumps.


Dan Cullen, Westchester, NY said...

Dr. Hamblin,

I found your perspective very interesting and clearly transmitted. Your general description of the youth protesters reminded me of a statement I heard as a youth made by Roger Moore as The Saint: "How very British". Incidentally, reruns of The Saint are being broadcasted by a station in neighboring Connecticut.

I would like to add a note to your comment: "Gambling, which is a national pastime, is where big money is made.". I suspect that it is most likely the same there as it is here that gambling has been termed as one of the most regressive taxes on the poor, if not the most regressive. In a way it's an aspirational wish tax where the odds are against the hoped for expected pay-off values.

Doesn't the history of St. Paul's Cathedral date back c. some 1500 years? Having been raised as a parochial school boy of a different faith, when I first read of it I perceived it as a possible desecration of the site and was rather surprised not to have heard outrage over this aspect.

Last week, before losing electrical power for 3 days to a very rare October snowfall (10" of heavy snow), I came across an article about one of the activists responsible for the "Occupy" movement published by Bloomberg Businessweek, which I thought you would find of interest. The activist, David Graeber, is a U.S. American who teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London. The link is: "http://www.businessweek.com/printer/magazine/david-graeber-the-antileader-of-occupy-wall-street-10262011.html"

I pray that your health is recovering.

Terry Hamblin said...

Doesn't the history of St. Paul's Cathedral date back c. some 1500 years?

There has been a church on this site before the Norman conquest, but the present cathedral was built in the 17th Century.

Terry Hamblin said...

Graeber sounds like a typical anarchist from the Baader Meinhoff generation. They had no solutions then and none now.