The Rev’d Anne Stevens, Vicar of St Pancras, is to chain herself to a tree near Euston Station in protest against HS2. Or, rather, she is going to allow herself to be chained to a tree near Euston Station by anti-HS2 protestors. Or, even more rather, she is going to allow herself to be chained to a tree near Euston Station to save 200 trees which are scheduled to be felled in order to make way for HS2. It isn’t entirely clear where the active and passive begin and end, or whether the motive is tree salvation or HS2 damnation.
Church warden Dorothea Hackman doesn’t help clarify the cause. On the one hand she says: “We won’t have a single tree cleaning up the air or providing green space and shade in this part of central London.” And then she says: “It is incomprehensible that the government is ignoring all the evidence that shows that this is nothing more than a devastating waste of over £100bn of taxpayers’ money, while the country is crippled by debt and austerity.”
So, what’s the protest about precisely? The weak economic case for HS2 and the waste of £100bn, or the need to preserve 200 trees in a soon-to-be-lost green space?
Does Dorothea Hackman think £100bn saved by scrapping HS2 would be spent on church youth work or the NHS? What about our ever-depleting armed forces? Would she support that reallocation? And where does the figure of £100bn come from? Even the most generous estimates place the cost at about half of that. Why kick off your protest with misinformation and #FakeNews? How does that help your cause?
But let’s come to the Rev’d Anne Stevens, who is to be chained to a tree to highlight her cause anti-HS2/pro-tree passion.
When did a vicar last tie him/herself (or permit him/herself to be tied) to a tree to draw attention to the fact that 215 million Christians across the world live with persecution? When did a vicar last tie him/herself (or permit him/herself to be tied) to a tree to highlight the fact that 3,000 Christians were killed last year for their faith, and nearly 800 churches were damaged by anti-Christian forces?
David Curry, the president and CEO of Open Doors USA, said: “We need to raise the flag. These tactics are being increasingly used by extremists.”
Where are the vicars who will tie themselves (or permit themselves to be tied) to a tree to help raise this flag to highlight the fact that Islamic extremism is the main driver of this persecution?
Where are the vicars who will tie themselves (or permit themselves to be tied) to a tree in order to highlight the fact that salvation is through Christ alone, and that unless you repent of your sin and accept him as your Lord and Saviour, you’re heading straight to hell? Where are the priests who will protest publicly for the freedom to proclaim the gospel, and then proclaim it?
Leonard Ravenhill wrote in his book ‘Why Revival Tarries‘ (p33):
Charlie Peace was a criminal. Laws of God or man curbed him not. Finally the law caught up with him, and he was condemned to death. On the fatal morning in Armley Jail, Leeds, England, he was taken on the death-walk. Before him went the prison chaplain, routinely and sleepily reading some Bible verses. The criminal touched the preacher and asked what he was reading. “The Consolations of Religion,” was the replay. Charlie Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase with a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”? All this was too much for Charlie Peace. So he preached. Listen to his on-the-eve-of-hell sermon:
“Sir,” addressing the preacher, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!
Perhaps our vicars no longer believe that hell is like that.
Far more important to save a tree than a soul.