St Paul’s and Occupy London: ask the right question get the right answer

As events in London outside St Paul’s twist and turn and the media filters the story through its own secular hermeneutic there is a growing potential for a great amount of good to emerge from the situation.  If the passion and determination of the protestors can be combined with the ancient wisdom of God revealed in his word then there is no telling what change might take place, but we need to ask the right question.

One prominent protestor’s banner the media has picked up on says “What would Jesus do?”  This is a good question but it’s not the best because it supposes that some form of action, structural change or taxation will resolve the problem.  Changes such as “Tobin tax” might produce some small good but this merely tinkers at the fringe.  In the last quarter of a century we have witnessed the failure of both ends of the economic spectrum.  First, communism collapsed and now “free” market economies are collapsing.  The question “what would Jesus do?” suggests that the collective human mind might find a solution to the problem by changing the rules of the game.  History teaches us that we should not invest too much expectation in structural change.

The better question to ask is “What would Jesus say?”  To many people this sounds weak because we believe words don’t change things and that, people will argue, is why we need action or structural reform.   But we must not underestimate the power of words because words transform the collective human conscience and the conscience is formed in the human heart by words.  If you don’t believe me think about the effect of common phrases such as “no more return to boom and bust”, “education, education, education”, “the big society”, “fulfil your potential”, “make the most of life while you can” or “look after number one” have on the collective conscience.

The question is, what words best shape the collective human conscience?  What will change the hearts of all people?  The answer is not one that all want to hear but which we know is true.  The words of Jesus have a unique wisdom and power to shape the hearts of individuals but more wonderfully, the collective human conscience.  If we add to that unique power of words the fact that over half of the applied teaching of Jesus deals with the matter of money we must expect things to change.

Much of what Jesus said is still a part of the fabric of our society; “you cannot worship both God and Mammon”; “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”; “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  The words act much like wallpaper to us but to be effective they must become the foundation of who we are.

This might well already be happening in discussions on the ground, we won’t know as long as the secular media gets to select the news.  Social media will play an important role as the microphone is removed from the secular chattering class and put in the hands of the common people.  Wherever is said to the media and whatever is discussed between protestors and St Paul’s we must seek to answer the question, “What would Jesus say?”

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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2 Responses to St Paul’s and Occupy London: ask the right question get the right answer

  1. Jenny says:

    Isn’t the question we should be asking: ‘What DID Jesus do?’? His death, resurrection & ascension is what has dealt with & will ultimately bring an end to injustice… & it’s only the power of individual hearts transformed by the gospel that will make any difference to the situation as we wait for his return.

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Jenny, welcome to TG and thanks for your comment and for picking me up on not pointing to the cross as the ultimate place of God’s justice and mercy. I thought anyone visiting my blog might get that from elsewhere.

    It is the case, isn’t it, that the two statements cannot be separated. “What would (did) Jesus say?” and “What did Jesus do?” are part and parcel of the same thing. We must take what Jesus said seriously before we understand why he did what he did. And, once we see that he died and rose again, we take what he said seriously.

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