Soon after the Occupy movement began, I bought the domain occupytheology.org. It was an immensely theological event for me, and continues to be, regardless of the “hibernation” it’s most “visible” elements may be experiencing. I write “visible” in quotes, because it’s visibility tends to be defined by the media. If it’s not being covered as a REAL MOVEMENT, but as a “News Blip” event that makes good film, it doesn’t exist in the minds of the public who depend on the mainstream media for “The way it is” on any certain day.
I saw then, and still see now, the theological fundamentals at stake here; that the church , to be “present” enough to be able to “proclaim the Good News”, has to BE PRESENT with eyes and ears and hands and feet; to GO where the people are. Occupy brought to the fore the plight of the 99%, and the ongoing threat of the 1%. The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is dominated by language of justice, righteousness, and an ongoing , everlasting, mighty stream”. But the economy of the United States has become something of a religion for many evangelicals, who replace the Kingdom of God Jesus highlighted and about which he told parable after parable, with an idolatry of the myth of a “capitalism” endowed with the power to enable “Freedom”, when it has actually done a massive amount of the opposite, creating a “class warfare” that becomes more apparent as income inequality grows.
Those trends have done anything but subside, much less been addressed. Obama basically told the Occupy movement ” I feel your pain”, but kept on his merry way, giving no identifiable leadership in standing up to the banks and their starship commanders. No real bully pulpit. No real tangible “No” to the banks, no discernible call to put the brakes on what continues to expand the income gap. And so the church is called, in the in between times, where the more “visible” and “filmable” moments occur, to forge ahead, knowing that there are new “the time is now” fruition moments to come. The Civil Rights movement had its “hibernation” periods from 1954 to 1968 and beyond. (Again, “hibernation” is the image one gets from a present perspective looking back, as told to us by the media who “cover the events” for us — but really aren’t covering much at all)
Reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate has expanded my “Occupy Theology” with yet another branch, which is also drawing from that same set of nutrients supplied by the oligarchy which is global. In a global economy, it’s beyond the United States, just as Wall Street itself is “hooked in” to and very attuned to the global economy.
Now a new branch is bulging out and bending increasingly low to the ground, making it impossible to miss if we are looking at our ecology and our economics. The ecosystem is also under siege from those same 1% who are promoting their “fundamentals” which are represented by that “free market” that will bring us magical prosperity of we would (if government would) just “get out of the way” and let the deity called the Free Market lead us to the promised land. We are now aware that this is a nasty, complete falsehood that is continuing to degrade us and exponentially expanding that degradation. And our home for our physical world is now showing us what we have been sowing as our technologies are focused on plunder for profit, endlessly, and increasingly more radical in its extractive destruction. Christian people seem to be immesely and blindly willing to accept the myth of inevitable human progress, that assures us that since we have never before destroyed the earth, that we never can. That “God created it and therefore we cant destroy it.”
Really? God created each of us as a precious life with sanctity and interdependence, but we can clearly see that it is possible to take a life. God does not prevent it from happening. The exercise of human agency can work evil. We’ve seen it throughout history. And we’ve seen that agency lead to death and ruin and oppression and decadent greed. The earth was created FAR prior to technology, with a balance and an ecosystem that existed eons before we got here. And the reach of technology has time and time again taken us beyond the point where its un-inhibited use skews the trajectory of justice. Cumulatively, we have begun to see the real effects of our production of waste by-products. And that waste (byproducts of burning fossil fuels) has been building decade after decade as we move “full steam ahead” (something of a pun as we “moved” our mode of moving to “independent but finite, non-renewable sources” of producing steam and then eventually burning oil).
The Tower of Babel seems to me to be our presnt existential warning to us from the Bible. The hubris of humanity that leads to the unbounded application of technology upon technology. That refusal to heed the bounds of ecological science (which has only very relatively recently in history has been made known to us by climate scientists) has finally confronted us with the direct existential threat to our hubris. Prior, the exploitations of “civilized” “developed” actions unleashed upon indigenous peoples could have been a prior ethical cautionary regarding the dangers of unbridled, limitless extraction and plunder, callously pushing aside or ven enslaving the people whose own prior history had been to live on and with that land which was now to the object of the drive to profit from plunder. Colonialism wrought technological. Centuries of it, with human and now ecological impact. Existentialism wrought large. Existentialism wrought THEOLOGICAL.