I’ve just finished getting ready for the first of our evenings in church looking at ‘Mark’s Big Story,’ three sessions of discussion and study on the major themes in the Gospel. We’ll be thinking about freedom in the Gospel, focussing on the various ways in which people were trapped or oppressed in 1st century Palestine, a combination of Roman occupation, high debt caused by Roman taxes and the tithe system, and the strict purity rules policed by the scribes and Pharisees.
We’ll also be thinking how people feel trapped today. During my preparations, I came across the ‘Nomadic Hive Manifesto,’ a statement written by a group of art students and lecturers who occupied the National Gallery in December 2010, as part of a protest against increased tuition fees. The manifesto begins like this:
A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of debt slaves refusing to pay. All the powers within Europe have entered into a holy alliance to regenerate a failing economy, to realise a lethal dream of returning to business as usual, and to level the education and culture, to transform the educational and cultural sectors into a consumer society success story.
And then later it says:
If you listen carefully, all that moaning, the sound that can be heard just behind the drone of everyday life, cars and the slurping of lattes, has become a little more urgent: a humming of dissatisfaction becomes dissent. The Holy Alliance fears that this noise has become a song on the lips of all?
What’s fascinating is the way the protestors speak about the presence of ‘the powers,’ which lies behind so much of action in Mark, and throughout the rest of the New Testament. Often, it’s those outside of the church who are best placed to speak truth to it. I haven’t come across a better description of the spiritual forces which lie behind the financial crisis, the sense that we’re owned by a markets model which has failed us, but which we can’t get free from.