While attempts to 'Christianise' the Occupy movement from above are rightly being resisted within and without the protest outside St Paul's Cathedral, there are profound Christian lessons to be learned from 'the Church of Occupy', suggests Simon Barrow. The juxtaposition of movement and institution dramatises the questions and issues raised by the uneven transition from Christendom to post-Christendom.
As with the leadership of the Church of England, the main Westminster parties have struggled to know how to respond to the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, says Simon Barrow. He questions and deconstructs the idea that the tent protests have been 'unconstructive' politically and 'disastrous' religiously. Quite the reverse, he suggests.
The Occupy protests, environmental movements and civic revolutions across the world are suggesting that there is a whole world of politics available outwith the narrow party perspectives that still dominate the electoral machinery of Western democracies, says Simon Barrow. Party posturing is looking increasingly irrelevant. A spirit of change is in the air.
The core to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's appeal, and to the opposition he has also elcited, lies in his sheer humanity as well as his fidelity to the core of the Christian message, says Simon Barrow. This is a pattern which holds out hope for the future of Christianity in dark times.
The debate on Scottish independence in advance of a mooted 2016 referendum is only just beginning, but Simon Barrow suggests that the contours of a fresh agenda on both sides is already emerging in surprising comments from representatives of the Westminster parties north of the border.
Theology is ‘wrestling with the unfathomable mystery of God’, but to enlighten rather than to obscure, says Simon Barrow, paying tribute to two Mennonite scholars and pastors, Alan and Eleanor Kreider, as part of a festschrift entitled 'Forming Christian Habits in Post-Christendom'.
The prospects of settlements in some of the most intractable situations in the world today, as well as in domestic political wrangles over the health service, education and more, depend upon a host of unseen actors, says Simon Barrow. They create the conditions for the more formal political mechanisms to make progress.
The recent horrific terror attacks in Norway seem to have been occasioned in part by the rise of fearful far-right movements which use Christian language as part of their guise. The answer to these should not be accommodation, says Simon Barrow, but an attempt to build robust civic alliances for social justice and against racism and xenophobia.
The ‘Big Society’ is becoming a fresh political battleground over the summer, says Simon Barrow. Shrinking the state by galvanising more money and resources from private citizens through volunteering, delegating and contracting is central to the Prime Minister’s approach – both to running the country and to keeping his own party together. But the strategy is beset with disagreement, and a huge 'reality gap'.
Where does the Church of Scotland – not the established church, but still a self-proclaimed ‘national’ one – now sit within a changing Scottish national settlement, following the formalities of its 2011 General Assembly? Simon Barrow looks at some of the issues.