The Left Nave


by Robert Sharp    
5:05 pm - January 20th 2013

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Following the tragic death last week of the digital activist Aaron Swartz, here’s an interesting post by a US theologian and priest, A K M Adam:

when a force of digital nature (as it were) falls silent, stills, stops, one might anticipate at least a murmur of theological deliberation about what’s at stake, how we cane to this pass, how churches might take a deep breath and rethink their relation to copyright and the commons, to digital technology and the increasing centralisation of digital power

Do read the whole thing, and click around the AKMA blog for more ideas on theology and the digital commons.

This idea that Christians should explicitly take sides and campaign on issues such as copyright and net neutrality got me thinking about the relationship between The Church and the Left. I know there is a whole canon of liberation theology out there, and I know that an explicitly Christian morality played a part in some of the great social movements in history. But in UK politics I wonder whether this relationship has been left to fallow in recent years? In the current discourse, Christianity (whether, Anglican, Catholic or non-denominational) usually sits on the socially conservative side of the debate: think of gay marriage, or the recent women bishops debacle. In American politics, Christianity seems to be very firmly aligned with the Republican Party.

When the Occupy LSX group established their encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral, there was a moment where we all recalled Jesus casting the money lenderschangers out of the temple. Everyone remarked at what a great opportunity it was for the Church of England to participate in the debate over cuts and austerity. But neither The Church or The Left seems to have capitalised on that opening.

In the past I have read articles on how the Church should be at the forefront of, say, the climate change debate, or reaffirming the morality of the welfare state. But these well meaning op-eds and blog posts never seem to evolve into a political programme.

Some questions:

  1. Am I right about the lack of thinking on this issue? It is perfectly possible I’ve missed a think tank project or an entire Labour Party policy commission on this issue. I would love to read more if that is the case
  2. Why is the Left not exploring this avenue more? Why is the C of E not doing the same?
  3. Which writers are good on this issue?

Perhaps a renewed coalition between the Left and the Church could provide the political momentum to finally nudge this Government (or the next one) towards fairer economic policies? Perhaps it could lead to more votes for liberal left candidates? Perhaps it could help fill the pews?

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments


Thank you for this notice, Robert — and both the churches and the Left should (as far as I’m concerned) be pushing hard on this front. For easy reading, Cory Doctorow provides an edifying start; for more formal, more serious writing, Lawrence Lessig of Harvard University and James Boyle of Duke University have written ably, amply, own this topic.

And I have been blessed to be relocated to Scotland, so pro tempore I’m not a US theologian, but a proud resident of Glasgow.

The church was making some decent strides in this direction, but then the consultation on gay marriage was announced, and that was the end of that. Just in case you were wondering why same sex marriage was being pushed by a conservative government.

This idea that Christians should explicitly take sides and campaign on issues such as copyright and net neutrality got me thinking about the relationship between The Church and the Left

What does this mean?…”explicitly take sides”

I’m sure christian individuals do explicitly take sides. Do you mean that they should take sides as a block…as though the church can take a position and drag its ‘flock’ along as a single body?

Have you looked into the history of Christianity…or even thought about what a ‘church’ is? And why the fuck would the left want to align itself with Christianity anyway? I’m thinking that by ‘left’, you must mean the kind of loosely aligned liberal minded gaggle that haunts sites like this and counts directionless soi-distant ‘anarchists’ like Occupy among its fold?

Be careful what you wish for. Yes the left and the church both have a sense of moral superiority, but this is not enough for either to be taken in by the other’s. What little both could agree on might well be a fusion of the most tribal and insular elements of each.

@JoeDolphin:

A ‘block’? Well, I suppose you could put it like that, yes. In the same way as parties might court the ‘Women’s vote’ or the ‘working class vote’ etc. Political parties and movements know that individuals make up their own minds… But on a macro level there are particular constituencies you can court either through a specific policy or by the ‘narrative’ and ‘framing’ of your political communications. There’s no shame in raising this possibility.

1. Get the name right, it’s Swartz not Schwartz.

2. When Jesus (presumably) copied loaves and fish to feed the 5000 he was not (in Chrisitan terms) sinning. So if copying physical objects isn’t sinful, copying information isn’t sinful either. (The only real argument that it is is that it put people out of business — but copying bread and fish could equally be said to put bakers and fishermen out of business). Therefore Christians should support the Pirate Party’s line on the morality of copying.

” When the Occupy LSX group established their encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral, there was a moment where we all recalled Jesus casting the money lenders out of the temple. ”

Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.

8. Dick the Prick

Old campaigner to young kid – stay the fuck away from the church, there’s a good lad.

9. Richard Carey

@ 3

“Have you looked into the history of Christianity?”

Have you looked at the history of leftism? Not exactly spotless.

“And why the fuck would the left want to align itself with Christianity anyway?”

I’m sure the feeling’s mutual.

@ 7 Richard W,

thank you for beating me to the correction of a somewhat telling error.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Phil Hunt

“When Jesus (presumably) copied loaves and fish to feed the 5000 he was not (in Chrisitan terms) sinning. So if copying physical objects isn’t sinful, copying information isn’t sinful either.”

Yeah, but nobody has intellectual rights over fish.

Phil @6 and Richard @7: Thanks for point out the errors, which I have now corrected.


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