By Nick Coke
On Sunday I preached a sermon from the Old Testament prophet Amos. Standing before my congregation, they graciously listened as I wondered aloud how this unlettered, unqualified, shepherd from nowhere could pull off delivering such an angry howl of protest at the religious and political establishment of his time and still manage to have it remembered for millennia as part of the canon of scripture. His message has virtually no hope – a handful of verses at the very end promise a better day but for the most it’s wave after wave of finger-pointing, judgement, warning and lament. The reason it stands the test of time is that sometimes there are moments when all you can do is protest. Whilst protest does not provide the answer it certainly raises the question. Protest marks the moment of refusal to be comfortable with things as they are. It is the beginning of change but never the end. Continue reading “A Calais protest”
Naomi and I were on our way to Salisbury this afternoon with our daughter, when we suddenly had to come to a stop on the B3079. We realised that, a few cars ahead, a cow had come into the road. With its friends, the cow waited patiently until it was ready to move on. It reminded us that over the last few weeks, cows have been ‘wandering’ into places they’re not usually found – namely, supermarkets! Farmers for Action, a campaign group, organised a number of actions which drew significant media attention. These, alongside the negotiations, put sufficient pressure to get Asda, Morrisons and Aldi to agree to increase the amount they pay for milk, linking it to the cost of production.
In our pamphlet Marching Towards Justice: Community Organising and The Salvation Army, we describe public actions as being essential for seeking justice. Without it, the other ingredients that we discuss (visitation, power analysis, and leadership development) become neutralised for the purpose of changing the world from the way it is to the way it should be. The public actions by the Farmers for Action are great examples of how it can and should be done. Here’s why: Continue reading “Cows! and what we can learn from the farmers”
By Nick Coke
In our pamphlet, Marching Towards Justice, we outline a methodology for justice-seeking. We highlight four key elements required for bringing about lasting change: visitation, power analysis, training and development, and public action. Of the four, public action is the most contentious. Why? Because it involves struggle and agitation. In our section on ‘public action’ you will find the following words and phrases: ‘actions are targeted and personal’, ‘they should involve confrontation’, ‘the appropriate action is the one that will provoke the action one is looking for’. Provoke, target, confront – words that might make us uncomfortable as followers of Jesus. After all, isn’t the Christian life all about love, mercy and grace? Yes of course it is, but if we ask the question ‘what would Jesus do?’, we might soon realise that he would not have been too squeamish about the kind of public action we write about. In fact, not only was he a remarkable practitioner of agitation and confrontation (turning over the tables in the temple courts, healing on the sabbath, telling stories about good Samaritans, reclining at the table of ‘sinners’ and ‘outcasts’), he also taught his followers exactly how to do it in some of the most revolutionary political statements you’ll ever find. In Walter Wink’s wonderful short book, ‘Jesus and Non-violence: A Third Way’, there is brief exposition of Matthew 5:38-41. You will know the passage well: Continue reading “What would Jesus do? The art of public action.”