The Zeitgeist Movement…

A little while ago, in response to my blog piece on the camp at St Paul’s, an old school friend sent me a link to something by The Zeitgeist Movement.

Specifically, Carol suggested I watch the clip below. It is quite long, but makes for rather interesting watching.

I had not heard of this movement before, so spent some time researching what I could about what they are about, their core beliefs and campaigning aims. At first I was pretty suspicious to be honest- there is something about their website that made me instantly uncomfortable- it is a little too slick, too shiny.

TZM is another one of these internet generation organisations that grows not along the lines of corporations that are led and controlled from the centre, but rather grows virally by a network of connections, and a set of common evolving principles. It has vague, fuzzy edges, and slightly non specific goals. Rather than ‘leaders’ who are appointed and recognised, there appear to be some key voices, but the structure is deliberately local.

This is a familiar organisational structure to me- as it reminds me very much of the ‘Emerging church’ movement. Such organisations are always difficult to get your head around from the outside- as they appear to lack structure and substance. There is more about these kinds of organisations here.

But back to the specifics of what BenMcLeish had to say above-

I liked much of what he had to say- particularly his analysis/critique of the state of our current economic/political/environmental situation, which I find myself largely in agreement with. I might also echo some of his concerns about religion- although unlike him,  I remain a believer.

I think the importance of a strong critical voice against the excess and over consumption of our wider culture is vital. I have been wondering for a while where this will come from, and where we might see examples of people living lives that are different- people that break from the flock and show a better way to live. I have been excited by these possibilities all my life, and so wherever I see these things being talked about, I am interested.

Unlike what Ben had to say above however, I have seen most of this kind of thing within faith based organisations. Sure, there are a lot of people within our churches and mosques and synagogues who are as sheep like as the rest of society, but there are also many whose beliefs lead them to aspire to something more. Within my own faith, I would point to the  New Monastic movement, towards which my own little community makes a slight nod.

CS Lewis used to talk about Communism being a ‘Christian heresy’- in the sense that the impulse towards good things was in many ways Jesus-like. I think you could perhaps say the same about TZM. I have described previously my belief that the job of Christians is to watch out for wherever there is truth and beauty, then to seek to shine light on it, and to salt it to bring out the flavours. On this basis alone, I intend to keep an eye on TZM.

Which makes what is happening in front of St Paul’s Cathedral all the more interesting. The grand old Church of England have got themselves in a bit of a cafuddle- they want to be ‘nice’ to the young activists, but can’t quite deal with the mess of it all.

Having said all that- TZM seems to espouse some macro economic and political solutions to our current woes- these I find myself less inspired or convinced by. A futurist perspective like this, with grand predictions of the fragmentation of the current mechanisms of state and society, seems to me to be highly speculative. The grand idea of a money-less society, with resources allocated according to need (and administrated by think tank and committee) just seems to be rather fanciful on a national scale.

But not necessarily so on a local small community scale. This is where my interests lie. Ben speaks at the end about what individuals and families might do to look at their own patterns of consumption and life choices- a list of things that are very familiar to the aspirations of my faith community.

Does this organisation offer a real alternatives to our Capitalist consumer economy? Not yet. What it does do however, is to push back- to offer a visible critical analysis of what we are.

Alleluia.