Watching St. Paul’s from a distance has been an interesting experience recently.
I was then intrigued to discover (from Challies.com) that a Christian street preacher in Calgary was comparing his treatment with that of ‘Occupy Calgary’ — anti-capitalist occupiers who have been left to openly flout many of the same bylaws that he has been routinely arrested for.1 Artur Pawlowski comments: ‘I have stood over 70 times in the courts. We have been charged over 100 times. Eight arrests’, he says. ‘Just because I believe in Jesus Christ, I’m treated differently.’
Apparently his treatment is in contrast to the more familiar and understanding attitude that the Occupy Calgary protesters receive. There may be many reasons for this beyond the scope of the theological, perhaps, and beyond the scope of this article. But it raises an important question for Mr. Pawlowski and for us: what sort of ‘counter-culture’ campaign is the church allowed to launch these days? What kind of marching would be permissible? When was the last time anyone threw any moneylenders out of any temples?
If the Guardian’s statistics are correct2, the true picture of US unemployment may be even worse than it appears. It is not hard to have sympathy with people campaigning for jobs, or for fair treatment.
My point is simply: when was the last time the church tried, not social unrest, or aggressive ‘occupation’, but counter-cultural proclamation?
Of course, we do it every Sunday. And every street preacher does it. And every Christian does it every day of the week as they travel on the tube, or buckle up in the car, and get ready for another day of counter-cultural Christianity in ‘the world’.
But perhaps the Occupy Calgary movement tells us that there is more taste for confrontation these days with the powers that be, and the disadvantages and inequalities of our age, than we may in our modesty, and tendency towards irenic Christianity, have predicted.
Perhaps a temple or two needs to be occupied — that is, with the gospel.
Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois, and Associate Fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University.