What would Jesus do?
This is the defiant question on the banner placed in a prominent position by the so-called anti-capitalist protesters’ camp set up outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the principal Anglican Cathedral in Britain.
Intense media coverage has focused on the cathedral’s response to the protest camp on its doorstep, a challenge summed up by the ‘What would Jesus do?’ banner.
According to most of the media, the church has singularly failed to meet the challenge. It veered from an initial position of measured support for the protesters’ campaign to a reversal of that stance by suggesting it might support efforts by the authorities to remove the camp by recourse to legal sanctions – this prompting the resignation of two leading members of the cathedral’s chapter - and then, under intense pressure from both the media and protesters, renouncing any intention to support legal measures after all, prompting the resignation of its leading churchman over his perceived failures to provide good leadership in this crisis.
A church in chaos? A church failing? I think not.
It seems to me that St Paul’s has set rather a good example to all of us in this affair. It has not tried to find easy answers or resort to slick soundbites. It has openly revealed the pain and severe difficulty of trying to deal with a complex and challenging situation when trying to place ethical issues at the forefront of its deliberations. There have been honourable resignations where positions were thought to be untenable.
Contrast that to the actions of some large companies or organisations in recent years whose decisions are based solely on the ‘bottom line’, bodies that make promises about future actions only to break them quite openly within a few weeks or months without even the hint of apology for the harm done or resignations offered. No attempt to base decisions on ethical practice; no evidence there of ever asking what Jesus would do in their position.
The churchmen and churchwomen of St Paul’s are reminding us all that struggling to answer the question, what would Jesus do?, should be an important part of most decision-making, that deliberating on and interpreting the teachings of Jesus is still relevant in modern-day society.
Old and St Andrew’s Church