Awkward questions

CEOs getting richer, crumbling currencies, rising unemployment, protesters camping out – it’s enough to tempt religious people to hide from the world and dream of heaven.

That is, if you don’t happen to run a large cathedral at the centre of the City of London. Here the staff have been struggling with the incarnation – the fact that God became human in Jesus in order to put the world to rights – and what that means in the middle of human conflict.

Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, has just resigned over the matter because, among other things, he could not be party to the possible violent dispersion of the Occupy LSX campers outside. Some have consequently said unkind things about him.

But those who pour scorn on Christians who ask awkward questions about prevailing powers need to look a bit harder at what the ‘way of Jesus’ is all about. When the early Christians proclaimed “Jesus is Lord” they also meant the emperor wasn’t.

That means today, depending where you live in the world, the state isn’t, the party isn’t, the market isn’t, the media isn’t, the president-for-life isn’t.

Challenging such upstart lords can be costly, as the early followers of Jesus found out. It can also be confusing, because issues are seldom clear cut or easy to resolve (as the canon chancellor explains in this Guardian interview). And, of course, none of us is perfect.

But whether we worship in a cathedral or in a house, we can’t avoid getting involved in this imperfect world: it’s what Jesus did and it’s why we’re asked to pray for, and work for God’s will to be done on earth.