“What would Jesus do?” asked a pithy placard at the Occupy the London Stock Exchange protest recently. It seems rather obvious in a way. For some the answer was given in another St Paul’s placard, carried by a man dressed as Jesus “I threw out the money-lenders for a reason”. Of course we’re not in Jerusalem, nor are we technically in a temple.
But according to David Cameron’s speech to mark the anniversary of the King James Bible, we have a dire need to “return to Christian morals”, and we the people should revive “what we stand for” and go back to the Bible to define ”the kind of society we want to build.” Some Occupy supporters may agree with some of these sentiments. We are a ‘broad church’ and the Bible, and the Jesus it portrays does contain a lot of progressive political references. Plus the idea of reformulating what we are about as a nation sounds quite democratic.
There is, however, a dissonant note associated with a politician – the politician – lecturing the masses on returning to Christian morals. As Luke 16:13 has Jesus himself saying: “No servant can serve two masters.. you cannot serve God and mammon.” Cameron’s economic nationalism should also grate on Christian souls.The world needs international co-operation to solve its many problems, and Christendom was never ‘Little England.’ In fact, for most of its history it was associated with Europe as a whole ,and further afield. Yet Cameron retreats pointlessly from the European project just when we should be pulling together against the dictatorial power of the financial markets.
David Cameron’s visionary idea for Britain was ‘the big society’. Revd Giles Fraser says “one can imagine Jesus being born in the protest camp” and the early Christian movement was one of the biggest ‘big society’ movements in history. In a way those hardy souls camping out, in an effort to transform the system are the closest thing we have to a functioning global – big – society. Yet Cameron’s government has recently legislated to ban political camping!
The energy, practices and idealism Occupy embodies is a potentially huge, productive motor around which to build a new, enlightened economy. Yet no major politician has been willing to engage with the movement on its own terms. All we ever hear from them is words of demonisation or co-option.
However the church is quite a different matter. As Giles Fraser put it recently: “Occupy .. begins .. with the idea that lasting change is only possible if more people are sucked into the conversation, more of us educate each other as to the workings and effects of a dysfunctional economy… Remember the total non-event that was Tony Blair’s Big Conversation? Well, this is how you do it properly”
Or, as the Archbishop of Canterbury himself put it earlier in the year: “A democracy going beyond populism or majoritarianism but also beyond a Balkanised focus on the local that fixed in stone a variety of postcode lotteries; a democracy capable of real argument about shared needs and hopes and real generosity: any takers?”
It is now commonly agreed that debt-based finance capitalism has failed us, and from within Occupy that we need alternative, civic institutions to develop our collective understanding, and transform society. Unlike the state and the market, civil society does not yet have a recognised political form, but through the promotion of its egalitarian Assembly model of decision-making, that is exactly what many in Occupy are hoping to create.
The roots of organised religion are radical and quite relevant today. The early Church was a decentralised, counter-cultural and international movement in which persecuted Christians promoted forgiveness of sins (including oppressive debts), interest-free lending, mutual support and common ownership. Going back further, the Old Testament refers repeatedly to ideals of economic justice and in particular of debt-cancellation and ‘jubilee’. So, in the spirit of the recent Christmas season, and right at the start of a new (‘Diamond Jubilee’) year, an interesting question comes to mind. Could Occupy and the church join forces in 2012?
Working together, nationally and internationally could we not make alternative civic institutions to develop, quoting the Archbishop of Canterbury again a conversation about “who.. we are as a society” and “a long-term education policy at every level that will deliver the critical tools for democratic involvement, not simply skills that serve the economy” ? On the wider, European level, this would chime with the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s recent call for European Jews and Christians together to “rediscover .. faith and prophetic voice” and to “recover the Judeo-Christian ethic of human dignity in the image of God. Humanity was not created to serve markets. Markets were created to serve humankind”
In our broken times, with people neglected and the community fabric undone, a well-organised common endeavour between the church, Occupy and other civil society actors could help revitalise the true spirit of our culture, and the church, and transform our ailing European and UK political economy.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill