The popular hero of the hour is Giles Fraser. Unspeakably cool, he’s fronted the Guardian bathed in a halo of soft light under a headline quoting him imagining Jesus being born in the Occupation camp beside the London Stock Exchange. The notion is as ridiculous as it insults Christian tradition: the Occupationists have far better facilities than those afforded to Jesus at the time of his birth. The gospel is starkly clear on the circumstances of this particular saviour’s birth. There was nowhere for his parents to live so he was born homeless and his first bed was a donkey’s food trough.
That powerful image is a million miles from the encampment around St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. None of the activists in London have been forced to undertake a long journey by an autocratic authority. Together they created a fully functioning community which leaves no-one behind. There is no homelessness at the Occupation. I myself returned to camp yesterday without knowing where I would lay my head but knowing a place would be made available to me. Not just any place but a place suitable to my needs, a place pretty much equal to every other place.
Giles Fraser does not imagine Jesus being born into my new community, as he claims, because to enrich his spiritual leader’s origins like that would be blasphemy. What he does imagine is that when future court orders for eviction are carried out, the police will wade into a disciplined and pacifist people with the violence they used at Dale Farm and other places. He worries about the message his former church will give to the faithful around the world, when video of these scenes to come is replayed in every continent. He knows what little moral authority England still musters over the Anglican communion will be irreparably damaged.
Within the Occupation movement, criticising Giles Fraser is heresy. He is the new Messiah. Careful consideration of his public statements tells a different picture from the one commonly painted. From those first moments early in the morning of Sunday 16th October, he has not supported the Occupation at all. My video of him ordering the police away shows his eye was clearly fixed on the Cathedral’s public relations, rather than the issues raised by the virgin movement on its steps.
Fraser’s savvy media style can be compared and severely contrasted with the lack of anything similar in Graeme Knowles recent publicity portfolio. Knowles, the Dean of St Paul’s, has been generally agreed to have mishandled almost every aspect of the challenges and opportunities laid at his feet by the Occupation. His personal incompetence on this score is staggering. Knowles has inexplicably held contradictory positions without even attempting to explain them away. For example, he sanctioned a dialogue between the people outside his church and those within, then withdrew from it, then issued a request those outside leave, then announced there could be no negotiations for legal reasons and today he is apparently due to accompany the Bishop of London who has promised to come and talk to us. The cited legal reasons are an obvious nonsense. No part of this story hang together with sufficient coherence to found even a tabloid news column.
It is as if Knowles has set out to undermine the Church of England. Plainly that is not the case but the chaotic impression created by Knowles has had that effect. No wonder church men and women from were queuing up to preach in yesterday’s ‘Sermon on the Steps’. I listened in on Bruce Kent and today I’ll go along and listen to whatever the Bishop has to say. I think that’ll be enough lectures from patronising preachers for one weekend and possibly for a lifetime.
If the Church of England really wanted to glorify their faith, it would sell every last scrap of land in the its possession and donate all the proceeds to non-religious charities. It would withdraw its funds from the vast financial investment plans it has made with its not so lovely neighbour, the London Stock Exchange, and donate those monies too. It knows from where the light shines but does little to share it.