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God without borders

St Pauls

God Without Borders: an address to the ‘owners’ of St Paul’s…

St Paul’s, we will
Not let words fail
On your threshold,
Nor world be sold

Off to the rich
Who will entrench
In their towers
Of selfish prayers.

Witness the tents,
See homelessness,
Mark ‘industry’
In community!

St Paul’s, we will
Not let words fall
On your threshold,
Nor world be sold.

John Kinsella is an Australian poet, novelist, critic, essayist and editor. His most recent book of poetry is Armour (Picador, 2011).

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    • Some of the letters in which Paul mentions slavery have had their authorship disputed, but the early Christian view on slavery is rather complex. I seem to recall Christ telling a few parables commending faithful slaves, as well.

  1. it’s st paul’s cathedral being referred to. the poem is definitively anti slavery in all its forms. and yes, the poem is a plea for the ‘owners’ of st paul’s not to behave like slave masters…

    • Thanks for the reply John. I do realise the poem is about the Cathedral, just pointing out the association. To me, the poem, reads like the protestors are protecting/invoking the spirit of the cathedral in their dissent- that it is a kindred spirit in the fray. Whereas to me, the venue is symbolic of greed/injustice and the protest is ,in a way, AT what St Pauls stands for. I’m not there though, so that’s just a thought. But why that venue? Why St Pauls?

      • I could be wrong, as I’m not there either, but I thought the main reason they’d turned to St Paul’s was because the canon chancellor, Dr Giles Fraser, is quite the radical — he’s even written for Socialist Worker! — and offered them the grounds of the church. According to the Guardian:

        Fraser quickly became a hero figure among the Occupy the London Stock Exchange (LSX) movement, clearing police officers off the steps of St Paul’s and supporting the group’s right to peaceful protest after a court injunction stopped it from setting up camp in nearby Paternoster Square. He also delivered a Sunday sermon decrying corporate greed, which was seen as another sign of his endorsement of the protest.

        • I recently read Amanda Lohrey’s QE from 2006, Voting for Jesus: Christianity and politics in Australia, which seems relevant to this discussion. In it she quotes Justice Michael Adams, a Uniting Church elder, who said at a Christian legal convention in 2001 that basically ‘every major reform in modern history – including the much-vaunted Christian opposition to slavery – was opposed by the organised churches and divided individual Christians’.

          Lohrey writes:

          Justice Adams concludes that the churches, as such, have generally reflected the dominant notions of the societies in which they operated, ‘whether they were brutal, cruel, acquisitive, irrational, unjust or (latterly) liberal’. What then is the role of the church in law reform? asks Justice Adams, and concludes:

          I think that it can do little else than not stand in the way … In the end, there is no reason to suppose that the Church will try to defend that which it never helped to create, a liberal democracy governed by the rule of law, for all that individual Christians might do do.

          I was reading the essay for an entirely different reason – the role of the Church in abortion law reform – but this passage stayed with me, and, imo, echoes Maxine’s sentiments.

      • The literal reason for the choice of the area outside St Paul’s was because they couldn’t occupy the site they wanted — as The Guardian reported:

        “The Occupy camp ended up on the site, which is part owned by St Paul’s, on 16 October after an initial plan to base itself at nearby Paternoster Square, the private business and retail development housing the London Stock Exchange, was thwarted by police action.”

        I think what you say about some of the protesters wishing to see St Paul’s as a kindred spirit is true for those of them who are Christian. But they are from a whole mix of backgrounds. John, who wrote the poem, is an anarchist and not an adherent of any institutional religion. Yet I think it’s possible to sympathise with the protesters’ entitlement to feel that the church should live up to its claims of compassion and so on. The poem’s attitude toward the institutional power is really indicated by the scare quotes around ‘owners’ in the title…

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