This current economic system which creates such inequalities cannot endure because it is unjust. It is powerful. It is very powerful, but it is not a god, and we serve a God who cannot be mocked. So since you have already lost, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!
The Church – particularly established Church – has to make its mind up on where it stands on the big issue of the day: Economic justice. Does it seek to avoid to ‘take sides’, or does it seek to remain true to the Gospel?
It has been interesting to follow the contortions St Paul’s has gone through over the past fortnight, in order to maintain a position of ‘neutrality’ – to avoid to be seen to be ‘taking sides’ – either with business as usual or with the protestors. A classic Anglican position, but one which is increasingly unsustainable. The Church is not a version of the ‘Oxford debating society at prayer’ – it has a Gospel to uphold.
As Jim Wallis has said on many occasions, if you take poverty out of the bible it falls apart. The Bible is not neutral on injustice. It is not neutral in relation to those who lead lives of luxury whilst ignoring the plight of the hungry and destitute on their doorstep. It is not neutral on usurious moneylenders, who grind the faces of the poor.
Did Wilberforce seek to put an end to slavery by opening up St Paul’s for debates between slave masters and their opponents, whilst resolutely refusing to be seen to ‘take sides?’ No.
Wilberforce took sides against slavery – and in so doing made himself unpopular not just with slave traders but with the establishment of the day. But in the end, he won through.
Did Archbishop Tutu seek to end apartheid by acting as an impartial adjudicator in jocular debates between apologists for the regime and those who sought change? Of course not.
Tutu was absolutely clear in his belief that apartheid was an evil which must be resisted – in the face of a seemingly all powerful regime. As Jim Wallis recounts:
I’ll never forget my first day at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa. A political rally had been called and canceled by the government, so Archbishop Tutu said, “Okay, we’re just going to have church then.” And church he had. They gathered together in that Cathedral and the police were massing by the hundreds on the outside and they were there to intimidate, to threaten, to try and frighten all the worshipers. The police were so bold and arrogant they even came into that Cathedral and stood along the walls. They were writing down and tape recording everything that Archbishop Tutu said. But he stood there to preach, and he said, “This system of apartheid cannot endure because it is evil.” Then he pointed his finger at those police standing along the walls of his sanctuary and said, “You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked.” Then he flashed that wonderful Desmond Tutu smile and said, “So, since you’ve already lost, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!” 
Did Archbishop Oscar Romero seek to end the Salvadorian death squads by inviting them to debate ethics with those who they labelled subversive Communists? I doubt it very much.
Not know for his outspokenness before he took up office, in the face of the injustices of his day he felt compelled by his Christian faith to speak out. Romero took sides against the brutal regime of the day. And paid with his life.
In his own words:
“Do you want to know if your Christianity is genuine? Here is the touchstone: Whom do you get along with? Who are those who criticize you? Who are those who do not accept you? Who are those who flatter you?”
“When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.”
“A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! – is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call.”
The Church in this country today faces none of these threats. There is little risk in taking sides with the poor and the oppressed, beyond the risk of an odd bit of ridicule in the right wing press (unless you are the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, that is).
So which side are you on?
Are you going to side with those who are suffering disproportionately from the spending cuts, or with the big corporations who cheat the public purse of at least £35bn in tax avoidance?
Are you going to side with the cleaners and the caretakers, the shopworkers and care assistants struggling to make ends meet on £6.08 an hour, or with the company directors who, in spite of our precipitate economic crisis, awarded themselves 50% pay increases last year?
Are you willing to take the side of the millions in this country (as well as globally), who will struggling with the choice to ‘heat or eat’ this winter, or with the energy companies making millions from rigged energy markets?
Are you going to side with those in low paid jobs, struggling to make work pay in the face of an effective marginal tax rate in excess of 70% (when tax and benefits are taken into account), or with investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other corporations who threaten to take their business abroad if their 50% tax rate isn’t cut?
So why is the Church so timid, so reluctant to take sides?
And Mary said:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant…
…He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly:
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Luke 1: 46-48, 51-53