• Ian Sutton

Self-Examination, Shakespeare and BP


I am an Episcopalian. Therefore, the Eucharist or Communion is a central feature of worship (which has created a special difficulty in our world of virtual everything). During the ceremony, we hear the following familiar words from 1 Corinthians 11.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

We rarely hear the words from verse 28 that follow.

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.

I was put in mind of the need for self-examination in the context of the three theological points that I discuss here by an event that occurred recently in the U.K.


People are quick to blame the oil companies for the pollution and waste associated with the extraction, refining and processing of crude oil. But the oil companies are merely agents — they would not be processing oil if we did not demand the products that they make for us. It is true that some of the oil company tactics to do with suppressing climate change information have been less than commendable. But the people who protest BP and the oil industry need to face up to the fact that we — all of us — are “to blame”. Oil  and natural gas are being extracted, refined, burned and turned into thousands of “essential” products because that is what we want and need in order to maintain our current lifestyle.


Here’s an example of my concern.

Recently, the Royal Shakespeare Company decided to reject financial sponsorship from the oil giant BP, which had been providing tickets for young people at a deeply discounted priced of £5 (about $6). Do those who rejected the offer not recognize that a small, island nation cannot support 55-60 million people without an abundant supply of fossil fuels? The population of the British Isles during Shakespeare’s time was in the region of 5 million. Is it our goal to return to that population level? If so, how?


When I look at the picture of the inside of the theater I see floodlights powered by fossil fuel energy and I see people wearing clothes made of artificial fabrics derived from fossil fuels. Rather than protest BP, would it not be more effective to forbid the use of artificial light and to insist that the audience members wear only homespun clothes?

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