And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that played bongos and overthrew the tables of the anti-capitalists.
October 27, 2011 5:30 AM   Subscribe

St Paul's canon Giles Fraser resigns over plans to forcibly remove Occupy London protesters from outside the cathedral. A debate is building up about the role of the church and which side of the capitalist argument they should be on.
posted by pmcp (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a [a]place of business.”

That's the side of Jesus. The question is about the side of the church.
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on October 27, 2011 [41 favorites]

To all intents and purposes St Paul's owner, the Church of England, operates as an international corporation, with an investment fund of around £5.7bn secured through private equity income, stock exchange investments and a vast property portfolio.

This passage in the Bible never made sense to me until now:

12 When notified of the precipitous drop in his yearly portfolio Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the hedge funds and the benches of those selling municipal bonds. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]”
-Matthew 21:12-13
posted by any major dude at 5:46 AM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I guess I could pick and choose passages to make any sort of point, but my realization that the church is functioning as a corporation is one of the reasons I'm slouching away from the faith of my birth (though I am not Anglican)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:50 AM on October 27, 2011

20 And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.

21 And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.

22 So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.

23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

2 Kings 2:20-24
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:51 AM on October 27, 2011

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Good on Canon Fraser.

Corporate Partners
Lloyds Banking Group
Fidelity Investment Managers
CMS Cameron McKenna
London Stock Exchange
Sarasin & Partners
BGC Partners
posted by SyntacticSugar at 5:55 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

19 As when a man flees from a lion
And a bear meets him,

Amos 5:19

TVTROPES LINK Everything is Worse With Bears

And Shakespeare agrees, too!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:56 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'd hope that his position would be backed up by others of a faith which subscribes to the above tracts of text, but when it as a whole has investments in so many companies which the protestors are focusing on, it seems unlikely:

"The Church of England's investment activities have also drawn protesters' ire: the church has multimillion-pound shareholdings in HSBC, Standard Chartered, Barclays, Prudential, Lloyds Banking Group and Northern Trust."
posted by greenish at 5:57 AM on October 27, 2011

The Guardian's Occupy liveblog. Be warned: reddit citations.
posted by fight or flight at 6:00 AM on October 27, 2011

From the liveblog, an interesting quote from Giles Fraser, writing in the (subscription-only) Church Times:
"When you sit in the middle of a storm and a great deal of misinformation is flying about you are thrown back on the fundamentals of your faith. No one ever said that following Jesus would be easy. In fact, as Christians, we are given fair warning that that opposite is likely to be the case.

"And so it turns out … St Paul's Cathedral takes its name from a man of faith who knew a thing or two about being caught up in an extraordinary whirlwind. May I ask you all to pray for all those who live and work in - and indeed are now camped around - this wonderful place? I realise I have never used a column to ask for prayer. Perhaps, after all, this column is not an exercise in issue avoidance. Perhaps for all my years of being a columnist, it has taken a crisis to show me what I have always wanted to say."
Good on you, sir. Good on you.
posted by fight or flight at 6:03 AM on October 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

this is the true beauty of this movement - it's making everyone pick a side - do you stand with the corporation or the individual? So many bullshit organizations/politicians give lip service to the common man but in the secret back rooms are using their money and influence to undermine the liberty of the majority.
posted by any major dude at 6:04 AM on October 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

That's the side of Jesus. The question is about the side of the church.
True, an early example of regulatory capture, perhaps?
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:05 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

pope backs OWS
posted by kliuless at 6:09 AM on October 27, 2011

Fraser always struck me as a decent bloke - his contributions Thought for the Day
are pretty much the only ones that don't make me want to smash my radio to pieces.

...which side of the capitalist argument they should be on.

It's pretty bloody obvious which side they should be on, what with the whole 'go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven' thing.
posted by jack_mo at 6:09 AM on October 27, 2011

Then I looked up--and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand!

I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is."

Zecharia 2:1
posted by Naberius at 6:10 AM on October 27, 2011

This past Sunday, the readings for Catholic Mass included the following passage:

"If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him." -- Exodus 22:25
posted by gauche at 6:24 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

This will probably be a thread where people who don't know that clergy don't run the finances of the Church of England say misinformed things.

The Anglican Communion is not like American fundamentalism. It is not like the Catholic Church. It is not even like mainline Protestantism. Lazy boilerplate invectives do not serve you here.

I am not an Anglican. I left the Anglican Church of Canada partly after realizing how little power its extremely charitable, progressive clergy have over where the money goes. But to be not entirely soft on the clergy, part of my abandonment came from their reluctance to stand up to the folks that pull the purse strings. This happens because when donations go down (and parishioners are generally conservative types who are not really interested in adventurous Christianity) people lose jobs.

So your witty quotation of Scripture is irrelevant to the matter at hand. You will not turn a hard-hearted bishop -- the bishop is probably pissed off, yet impotent. Clergy probably have little or no power except to resign in the face of what people they have little control over do.
posted by mobunited at 6:24 AM on October 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to St Paul's cathedral. 14 And He found in the cathedral those who were protesting against the crimes of international banks, and the demonstrators in their tents. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the cathedral, with the protesters and anti-capitalists; and He poured out the flasks of tea of the demonstrators and unpegged their tents; 16 and to those who were protesting He said, “Seriously guys, you're going to piss off the banks and mess up [my] cashflow.”
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:26 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

What an impressive man. Good for him.

It's always nice to see someone who clearly has both good principles and bravery.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:28 AM on October 27, 2011

mobunited: That is very interesting. Who does control the purse strings? Do you mean parishioners?

Isn't it the job of the clergy to help parishioners follow the example and teachings of Christ? If at some level the parishioners are not interested in following an adventurous Christianity, don't they need a couple of homilies on how easy it is for the camel to go through the narrow gate (or rope through the needle's eye, or whatever your preferred translation says)?
posted by gauche at 6:32 AM on October 27, 2011

The Anglican Communion is not like American fundamentalism. It is not like the Catholic Church. It is not even like mainline Protestantism. Lazy boilerplate invectives do not serve you here.

It's a good thing then that we had you to come in and improve the tenor conversation by posting some informative links about lesser known aspects of Anglican organisation and finances. Thanks for making a real effort in sharing your knowledge, and resisting the temptation to instead lord it over us clueless folk.
posted by kithrater at 6:33 AM on October 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

While it's not unexpected, that third link is outrageous. That much poorly focused hate directed at someone for...what exactly? Letting some people sleep outside a church? It's really stunning.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:38 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's an article in the Telegraph by arch-wanker Toby Young, the 2-Minutes Hate in the comments is hardly surprising.
Those traditional Anglicans who oppose gay marriage are "narrow-minded puritans seeking to impose their joyless and claustrophobic world-view on the rest of the church".
I'm liking this guy more and more.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:44 AM on October 27, 2011


You're dead right, I know very little about the internal workings of the CofE or any other church really. It just seems that there is an extreme hypocrisy if the clergy are happy to preach to their congregation but not (or are not in a position to) look up the hierarchy of their own organisation and (publicly) question that. It leads you to really question the integrity of their position.

I'm not religious in any way (although brought up with it) but it does strike me that people who are held up as examples of high morality should be funded by the completely amoral (or immoral depending on your view) banking system and not have the power to act against them.

Your comment is a great argument that the clergy should unionise.
posted by pmcp at 6:49 AM on October 27, 2011

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
posted by yerfatma at 6:51 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

C.S. Lewis:
There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest: and lending money at interest—what we call investment—is the basis of our whole system. Now it may not absolutely follow that we are wrong. Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or “usury” as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only thinking of the private moneylender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not. This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that three great civilisations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life.
posted by Trurl at 6:52 AM on October 27, 2011 [25 favorites]

Interestingly Trinity Wallstreet has taken a rather more progressive stance on the occupy movement. They also happen to be one of the largest landowners in Manhattan.

The Episcopal church is connected to, but not controlled by the Church of England.
posted by ohheh at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

Mefite casts Shakespeare, +15 damage to Bible
posted by Greg Nog at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a [a]place of business.”

And we know what happened to ol' J after that.

The money-changers are happy to look the other way with almost anything, up until you start pointing your ire in their direction. Then, they'll be more than eager to show you who really pulls the strings.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

No, no, no. Giles was Fraser's brother. Crane was their last name.
posted by schmod at 7:06 AM on October 27, 2011

Man, if religious leaders don't stop acting like this I may find myself returning to a faith practice I've allowed to lapse.
posted by meinvt at 7:23 AM on October 27, 2011

mobounited, who controls the purse strings?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2011

And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Are you suggesting the police use bears to disperse the protesters? That's... extreme.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:36 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know what you're trying to say with this parable, Ends Of Invention.

But I think what you're missing is that the people you want to be critical of are more like the Pharisees, not Jesus.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. [...] No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. [Acts 2.44,45; 4.32-35]
posted by shakespeherian at 8:01 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:41-47

Which seems more like the above verses- the tents or the limestone building?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:10 AM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I can tell you that the Catholic Church is very much in agreement with the sentiments of Occupy Wall Street.

It doesn't really matter. Catholics who are invested in the current system will believe whatever they want to believe.

The truth of the matter is that “the Vatican” — whether that phrase is intended to mean the Pope, the Holy See, the Church’s teaching authority, or the Church’s central structures of governance — called for precisely nothing in this document. The document is a “Note” from a rather small office in the Roman Curia. The document’s specific recommendations do not necessarily reflect the settled views of the senior authorities of the Holy See; indeed, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the press spokesman for the Vatican, was noticeably circumspect in his comments on the document and its weight. As indeed he ought to have been. The document doesn’t speak for the Pope, it doesn’t speak for “the Vatican,” and it doesn’t speak for the Catholic Church.

More Theocon reaction from Andrew Sullivan.

posted by longdaysjourney at 8:10 AM on October 27, 2011

Guess he was kind of a loose canon.
posted by msalt at 8:11 AM on October 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

Most churches are incorporated, it's how you become a non-profit in the US. And many churches, including my small, struggling, mostly progressive Episcopal one, have investments and 401k funds and all that good stuff. We live and die by two things: the offerings in the Sunday plate and the monies bequeathed to us by our departed parishioners. The Sunday monies usually go right into the checking account to pay bills, but we aren't going to let the gift funds sit around mouldering. So they get invested. We try to be responsible about investments, and in some dioceses there is diocesan policy about where parishes should put their money. Things happen though. A lot of small town vestries aren't going to be well versed in ethical investing and banking, and frankly, if your parish is struggling enough, you might only really care about getting the most bang for your buck so you can keep doing God's work.

I know my pastor would let the OWS folks camp out on own church lawn. She'd probably join them!
posted by Biblio at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Who does control the purse strings? Do you mean parishioners?

Anglican churches typically use a system of appointments that are rubber stamped by clergy at arm's length. Locally, this manifests in the form of churchwardens. On diocesan and larger levels, there's a system of boards and committees that follow the typical standard of practice for nonprofit organizations. Because the Communion is decentralized and because it follows the fiction that the schism with the Roman Catholic Church is temporary and reversible, few clergy have the kind of temporal responsibilities associates with Catholic cardinals.

Priests almost never promote offerings/donations. That entire culture is alien to Anglicanism. The exception is usually when something needs to be built, or something is falling apart and needs to be fixed. In the Church of England's case, its role as property owner probably requires the funding, expertise and legal position to take care of hundreds of fragile historical sites.

In the Anglican Communion, a few things inhibit the clergy's expression of various theological positions. One of these is the fact that the whole apparatus of church finance and other lay organization is dominated by an aging, highly conservative body. Lay people are also consulted in any matter of worship, and exert considerable power. In Canada, a liberal alternative to the Book of Common Prayer has been relegated to occasional use due to this political reality. In the UK, the ties between CoE laity and the Conservative Party are too obvious to even mention in any UK paper.
posted by mobunited at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2011

Huh - there's also Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose (SLYT) that is divesting 3 million from BoA in support of these movements, as well...
posted by symbioid at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by symbioid at 8:35 AM on October 27, 2011

This is an interesting contrast to the "Prosperity Gospel" types in the US.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2011

Wow, that Toby Young piece is mind-blowing. I didn't think anybody could be that crass.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2011

Wow, that Toby Young piece is mind-blowing. I didn't think anybody could be that crass.

Toby Young's been doing it for years. This one's mild. I'm not going to give the |^)&er click-throughs, but you can make yourself angry with Google all night.

For those interested, here are those "holding the purse strings" of the CofE:

Here's what they were doing and here's what happened next.

No horse in this race, by the way - was last in church for school harvest festival, but it strikes me that if a bunch of other rich funds had the same outlook, the world would be a better place.
posted by cromagnon at 2:03 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

So the canon went off before being fired?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:30 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I visited the protest camp at St Paul's this afternoon. It seems quite ramshackle at first glance, but when you look closer you quickly realise that it's highly organised, with a daily timetable of events, arrangements for sanitation and rubbish disposal, etc, very far from the disorganised 'rabble' being portrayed in the media. There's the inevitable SWP stall, but thankfully the swappies haven't been allowed to hijack the whole event as they usually do. I was struck, too, by the public reaction: there were a lot of visitors and passers-by, taking photographs and reading the handwritten signs and posters pinned up around the place, who seemed quietly thoughtful and sympathetic even though they weren't openly expressing a point of view.

Keep in mind, though, that the only reason why the protesters have set up camp outside St Paul's is because they've been blocked from entering nearby Paternoster Square. (When I visited today, Paternoster Square was guarded by police to prevent any of the protesters from setting foot on the sacred precincts of the London Stock Exchange.) In that sense it feels as though St Paul's is unfairly taking the brunt of the criticism that ought, by rights, to be directed at the City's financial institutions. At present it seems the only effect of the protest has been to cripple the cathedral at absolutely no cost to the banks.

I do feel sorry for the dean and chapter of St Paul's, caught as they are between a rock and a hard place. However, their stated aim is 'to recapture the Cathedral's ancient role as a centre for public debate, contributing to the current discussion surrounding the direction of our financial and economic institutions', so they can hardly complain when people take them at their word. It also has to be said that several members of the cathedral staff have -- how can I put this? -- a certain conflict of interest with regard to capitalism. The Dean of St Paul's, Graeme Knowles, used to be a bishop in an offshore tax haven. The head of finance at St Paul's, Gavin Ralston, also happens to be an international asset manager at Schroder Investment Management. In such company Giles Fraser was always going to be the odd man out; I'm sorry he's gone, but I'm glad he's left with his integrity intact.
posted by verstegan at 4:14 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Interesting, I thought the Occupy Movements were about justice, not class warfare.
posted by MikeWarot at 4:19 PM on October 27, 2011

I appreciate the Hip Priest. I was just looking at Pacem In Terris recently.
posted by ovvl at 5:09 PM on October 27, 2011

Joe in Australia: yes but at least the canon had balls.
posted by pmcp at 5:45 PM on October 27, 2011

It's really irritating seeing people here and overseas buy into the right wing talking point that OWS is anti-capitalist.
Not helping.
posted by entropos at 6:10 PM on October 27, 2011

Jazz Hands for Jesus!
posted by SyntacticSugar at 1:57 AM on October 28, 2011

Worth noting as well that the C of E in general has been on the side of the anti-capitalists throughout, with Rowan Williams in particular speaking out against it - see here and here.

When he observes that economic relations as they are currently played out threaten people's sense of what life is and what reality means, surely what he's really saying is that capitalism damages people. To my surprise, he agrees. Does he therefore think economic relations should be ordered in a different way? "Yes." So is it fair to say, then, that he's anti-free market capitalism? "Yes," he says and roars with laughter. "Don't you feel better for my having said it?"
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:28 AM on October 28, 2011

Sorry for falling for the right wing myth entropos.

Here's a photo from Occupy London.
posted by pmcp at 4:21 AM on October 28, 2011

Andrew Rilstone has gathered some quotes from Giles Fraser at his blog (repeated here in full, but the gathering is Rilstone's work, I'm just copying-and-pasting):
Easter is not all about going to heaven. Still less some nasty evangelical death cult where a blood sacrifice must be paid to appease an angry God.
Giles Fraser, 22 March, 2008

The idea of an omnipotent God who can calm the sea and defeat our enemies turns out to be a part of that great fantasy of power that has corrupted the Christian imagination for centuries.
Giles Fraser 8 Jan 2005

Jesus set out to destroy the imprisoning obligations of debt, speaking instead of forgiveness and the redistribution of wealth.
Giles Fraser 24 Dec 2005

Nicene Christianity is the religion of Christmas and Easter, the celebration of a Jesus who is either too young or too much in agony to shock us with his revolutionary rhetoric....And from Constantine onwards, the radical Christ worshipped by the early church would be pushed to the margins of Christian history to be replaced with the infinitely more accommodating religion of the baby and the cross.
Giles Fraser, 24 Dec 2005

Evangelical Christianity, with all its emphasis on Jesus as friend, risks domesticating the divine, pulling God too much within the dimensions of the human perspective. With this sort of Jesus at hand, God becomes just too easy.
Giles Fraser 11 Dec 2011

For too long, Christians have put up with a theory of salvation that has at its core the idea that God requires the sacrifice of his own son so that human sin can be cancelled. "There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin," we will all sing. The fact this is a disgusting idea, and morally degenerate, is obvious to all but those indoctrinated into a very narrow reading of the cross.
Giles Fraser 11 Dec 2009

(On evangelicals who support corporal punishment): Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise. For, as evangelicals, the Pearls believe that salvation only comes through punishment and pain. God punishes his Son with crucifixion so that humanity might not have to face the Father's anger. This image of God the father, for whom violence is an expression of tough love, is lodged deep in the evangelical imagination. And it twists a religion of forgiveness and compassion into something dark and cruel.
Giles Fraser 8 June 2006
I like this Fraser person, I think.
posted by Grangousier at 10:03 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

pmcp: "Sorry for falling for the right wing myth entropos.

Here's a photo from Occupy London.

So - when I say "A house is burning down" that means I'm "anti-house"?

Plenty of moderate/traditional economists are saying the same thing.

Yes, Marxists say it too, of course (the crisis of capitalism is a recurring theme). But it's not as if such a phrase is the exclusive domain of anti-capitalist leftists.

If there wasn't a crisis, we'd have plenty of jobs to go around. I guess calls for massive austerity measures by the right-wing must have no basis in reality - there's no crisis!
posted by symbioid at 6:15 PM on November 12, 2011

I mean, FFS, there's a GODDAMNED GOLDEN CALF (all done growed up now into a full-fledged bull) in the modern marketplace/moneychangers temple on Wall Street.
posted by symbioid at 6:23 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

symboid, the sign doesn't say "capitalism in crisis", but "is crisis".

It's not saying "the house is burning down", it's saying "the house is built out of petrol soaked straw".
posted by pmcp at 2:00 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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