Sunday 3 April 2011

The philosophers have merely interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

I used to have a high regard for Canon Giles Fraser, a regular columnist for the Church Times. His thoughtful and sometimes insightful comments have often helped me to understand different issues in new ways. But more recently, his remarks have left me increasingly cold.

A diatribe he released recently against liberation theology on radio 4 left me reminded as to the difference between liberal and liberation theology. They are often confused, but they are very distinct. Mr Fraser is a liberal philosopher, and as he pontificates about the world each week, one cannot but think of Marx's famous adage 'The Philosophers have merely interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.'

Fraser's latest column 'Why I did not march on Saturday' in this weeks edition of the Church Times helped me to recognise his relationship to Marx's remark, and cemented my disappointment with the Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.

His assertion that marching is simply about 'feeling better about myself' is arrogant in the extreme. Up and down the country, vulnerable communities are facing cutbacks that are wrecking their lives. Everyday last week I encountered people about to lose their jobs, people who provide services that improve the lives of disadvantaged groups. People are not marching to enjoy a 'feeling of moral superiority' (as he put it in the column) but because they are facing job losses and economic devastation. Churches need to stand by those most affected.

The cutbacks sparked by the bankers greed, and bailed out by the taxpayers, is particularly felt in the Northern cities that rely more heavily on the public sector. Maybe Mr Fraser is more protected from these realities, looking out from his seat in the pub in the city of London (where he watched the march pass him by.)

Life in the 'square mile' seems to be very different indeed from the vantage point of theologians living outside of it.

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