The Parable of St Paul and the Protester.
St Paul’s Cathedral is certainly attracting some attention in recent days. Fingered as the biblical little bitch of the economic beasts that reside nearby, the protests that began as part of the ‘occupy’ campaigns that are scattered across the globe directed at big business, government and those that hold the purse strings of the world economies, seems to have descended (or ascended depending on your perspective) into a full blown assault on the Cathedral and its management itself. Following the wider media coverage at the moment, you would be forgiven for thinking that St Paul’s and those who huddle inside are actually those solely responsible for the economic crises and social hardships faced by those camped outside (though of course there are no shortage of well off middle class semi retirees in the crowd who can afford to take the time off from their oh so pressured lifestyles to go on holiday in central London, who realistically have very little to complain about in the real world, and have no tangible grasp on the concept of ‘social hardship’, but that’s something to rant about on another day).
Of course, in no way can St Paul’s take the direct responsibility for many of the ills upon which the Occupy protest is speaking out against, but equally it does little to cover its own back. Big business partners have been cited, the Cathedral for instance being firmly in bed with the financial devil thanks to the support it is offered by its friends in the commerce district. Yet people speak out in its defence, ‘this is a place of worship’ they cry, a place for prayer and reflection, not a place for the disgruntled mob of this generations political protesters to make a mess of with their candles and their placards and their tent tether ropes. Should a place of worship be singled out for what is made out to be such a disruptive protest (though how a group of people camping out next to, not in front of, and certainly not in front of the doors, can disrupt anyone from praying is beyond me)?
Again, St Paul’s does little to cover itself in glory. This ‘temple of worship’, this ‘place of god’, is hardly the most welcoming of institutions. After all, anyone can come into St Paul’s, anyone can come and admire of that which was inspired by God…so long as you have a spare £14.50 to give for the privilege. No shortage of signs outside the Cathedral ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ Well, one imagines the very first thing he would do is tear down the ticket office and chastise and humiliate the person responsible for putting a charge on the door of God’s house. Come to west Wales good pilgrims, come to St David’s Cathedral instead. Here you will be able to enter God’s house for free. Donations are requested, but that is your choice, your free will to decide if, and only then, how much should be parted with to gain entrance to such a sanctuary.
Put simply, St Paul’s has long been symptomatic of the problems seen in London, and many places elsewhere. It is a commercial enterprise; in practice its spiritual core, its ethical centre, has been eroded to make a profit. No doubt they in the Cathedral will speak of the need for such fees for the maintenance of the building. Well St Paul’s, plenty of other Cathedrals manage just fine without ripping off the pockets of those who wish to look upon the inspiration of God, why can’t you?
St Paul’s and its direct affiliates may not be responsible for the economic crises and all of its implications, but it has put itself in bed with the devil of the coin. In entrance fees and its financial partners, this institution has very firmly turned its back upon the principals of its foundation, and stood up to be counted with all that goes against that what it preaches to stand for. St Paul’s is not responsible, but it is certainly due its share of the blame. So cheers to the protesters, give ‘em hell, because due to the decisions made by the hierarchy of the Cathedral, they have committed themselves on a path in that direction already.