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Some reflections on visiting Occupy London

As I said yesterday, eleven adults (and one child of the revolution) spent Sunday afternoon speaking to the folks around St Paul's.  We took about 100 bible books (mainly Romans but also some Gospels) and got into dozens of conversations.  There were also some brief opportunities for open air preaching.

Before Sunday I wrote ideas of what to say (many of which I used).  Here are some other reflections:

  • Everyone I spoke to expressed deep respect for Jesus.  Of course they wanted Jesus to be their mascot for the protest, but nonetheless there was a knowledge of the Gospels and some Christian-ish background to protestor after protestor.
  • Very few could articulate exactly what they wanted to happen, but their sense that things have to change was, of course, palpable.
  • Speaking of eternity was a real eye-opener for some.  The whole 'let's try communism for a thousand years' fired the imagination.  These guys are idealists, but actually Christians have a real utopia that frees us from greed now and enables us to be generous today.  It's a bit like the slogan, think global, act local.  Christians can think of an assured future and therefore act today.
  • The most fruitful lines of conversation followed the "why" question.  I kept asking: "And then what?... And then what?... And then what?"  Imagine that everyone gets their acre of land, imagine if its free education and health-care for all, imagine there's equality of wealth... and then what?  One guy said "Well then we'll stop being so envious."  "Ah, so it's a heart problem then?" I replied.  "If it's a heart problem, legislation and force is not going to solve it, is it?  It might actually exacerbate the envy mightn't it?"
  • The most eye-opening lines of enquiry followed the "how" question.  The word "expropriate" was used on literature to describe what some want to do with the wealth of the 1%.  I was speaking to a guy who grew up in church (in fact he grew up in St Thomas's North Sydney - my old Sydney church!) - he was a Christian communist who made excellent points from the Bible about usury.  But when I pressed him on what it meant to "expropriate" wealth he said "Well they're not going to give it up freely, we'll have to take it."  "By force?" I ask.  "Well let's hope it doesn't come to war, but, if it's necessary...."  "Well then, you've abandoned the way of Jesus, haven't you?"
  • Christ's revolution is utterly unique - it is thoroughly non-violent and (partly because of this) it goes much deeper than societal structures.  Yet, perhaps counter-intuitively, it has been the one global force to actually affect societal structures in positive ways down through the centuries.
  • Josh V-B asked the excellent question to this Christian communist "Was Jesus' first coming a success?"  Not just, 'Did it plant the seed of an idea for social reform' but did His coming and dying actually accomplish something.  Because Jesus said it did!
  • This moves the conversation out of the realm of "What would Jesus do" to "What has Jesus done."
  • What He's done has been to obliterate the old structures totally and to rise up again at the head of a new world.  This is the real revolution.
  • A couple of times I had the opportunity of speaking publicly and declaring  "St Paul's manifesto for change!  Let me read to you St Paul's statement.  It's on the public record, and we have free copies if you want one.  Listen to St Paul's public announcement...  Then I'd preach on 2 Cor 8:9 or 1 Tim 6:10, speak of Jesus and then offer copies of Romans afterwards.  These proved very popular.
  • When I had the opportunity to preach I should have preached longer. I was aware of taking up the microphone, not knowing who was scheduled to be next and not being a particularly welcome voice.  But that's street preaching!  Next time!
  • This kind of evangelism is much more like speaking to people of other faiths than it is like open air work to random shoppers.  These guys have entrenched positions and have plenty to say for themselves.  I didn't feel like I got as far yesterday as I get when we evangelise the town centre on a Saturday.  (HINT: Get evangelising your town centres, it can be very fruitful indeed!)
  • Nonetheless, the name of Jesus is being used here - a lot.  And it's being used publicly, very publicly.   Therefore it's important that His people stand up and proclaim His true revolutionary message to the world.
Other thoughts from those who came?  From others looking on?

0 thoughts on “Some reflections on visiting Occupy London

  1. Steve

    I wish I had been able to make it! Next time!!!

    Interesting discussion with the Christian communist! And I like the 'and then what?' line of thought. The only place that stops is at Jesus!

  2. kirstindykes

    I found it an interesting experience... I definitely agree with your comment about it being much more like talking to people of other faiths: I didn't meet a single person who didn't have a very definite opinion. I'm not sure I always handled that well, it's sometimes easier to end up talking about why people believe what they believe and the potential flaws in their belief system, even though I'm not sure it's as helpful as talking about Jesus... I just found getting the conversation around to Him difficult.

    I - like Steve - like the 'and then what?' line of questioning, though I think that that would work best for people who are really engaged with the protest and its aims. One of the things that struck me about yesterday was actually the variety of disparate people and causes represented - and how many people weren't there with much of a drum to bang at all. It probably made it even more important than usual to listen before speaking - I found it way too easy to assume I knew what people's agenda was.

    Finally, yeah - there were a huge number of Christian and quasi-Christian groups and individuals... Establishing common ground vs. working out important points of disagreement? I found that really difficult. How do you avoid either coming across overly suspicious and critical or inadvertently appearing to agree with things that you really, really don't?

  3. Glen

    Hey Steve, sorry you couldn't make it. Definitely keen for a next time.

    Hi Kirstin, I think a big part of the answer to your final question comes through a clear proclamation. I don't necessarily mean "listening less" but it might involve that. Making it clear where we're coming from demands a 'getting on the front foot' proclamation. And in order to be clear, probably it involves doing so in ways that are provocatively different.

    or maybe that's just the contrarian in me...

  4. kirstindykes

    Indeed, no, I think you're right. I'm not always very good at that - I too much like to be liked :) ...I noticed Mike and I had very different approaches in that regard!

  5. Paul

    Thanks for organising it! The atmosphere was good and people were very willing to chat - many were explicitly of other faiths (passers by and protesters and others proclaiming their messages). Your suggestion about how universal Jesus is was good - his scope is much wider than any of our camps, he loved and died for zealous protesters like Simon, greedy fat cats like Matthew and religious people like Paul, so the question for each person is not "is Jesus in your camp?", but "will you accept what he's done for you?" I'd like to have been stronger in saying this. Was also good to have incarnate illustration of the hope in the birthpains the world is experiencing...

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