4 days removed from returning from Hot Springs, NC, I sit on July 3rd on my front porch wary of the Patriotism-fest about to be unleashed, and most wary of the Constantinian moves taken by so many of our even Progressive churches. We’ll sing Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful, songs I tend to like, but in the context of “Celebrating America Alongside”; the God/Country talks, I am not as moved by these songs in this context. None of this is something in any way unpalatable for the powers that be. In fact, they welcome it. It serves to moderate and in some cases, obliterate, the notion of alternative community when the values and narratives of American Empire shove out of the picture the Kingdom of God concerns that somehow need to be set forth, again and again, AGAINST the status quo that the Kingdoms of this earth want to preserve.
There was that sense, at the Wild Goose, as in previous years, that we are encouraged and strnengthened to bring home with us, and to “go out” with it. But as I return to the Nashville area, in the breadbasket of the Bible Belt, the theology of the churches continues to ignore the acceleration of the forces that seek to do the bidding of the powerful. They did during the efforts of the Occupy movement, and stayed silent rather than recognize in that aspirational and somewhat strategic public grassroots effort, there was about as clear an opportunity to sound a cry of the gospels and the prophets as has been experienced in this country since the Great Depression. But this time, we have this ubiqutous media here to tell us why it wn’t and isan’t working, and why it didn’t. They didn’t leverage the political system correctly, they say, even though what we see when we look at “our political system”, a bought and paid for game of power and a battle between moderation and right wing revolution (that ironically seeks a return to exactly what the oligrachs had thought they had achieved once and for all in the “Roaring 20’s”, but were forced to reckon with an explosion of populist, grassroot movements , and warned by FDR that unless that make huge concessions in tax dollars, they would lose it all. But there, it didn’t take them long to build their counter-movement and pit class and race against one another and grow the gap between rich and poor to levels now unprecedented in U.S. history and rendering the U.S. as an Empire that eclipses even the Roman Empire in terms of inequality).
And yet the churches let the cries and efforts of the Occupy movement die down without raising any of their own voices which ostensibly speak for the oppressed. And even as that population encompasses more of us, they remain silent still. The “Occupy” brand has been rendered to the dustbin of history of movements and many point to Occueconomicpy as if the issues which it raised are spoken of again and again, and say, but they tried that and it failed. They “tried that” and it was QUASHED, as it will be again and again if it is left to purely political movements. If inequality does not become a platform and preoccupation of the theological communities, then the status quo powers will successfully leverage the theological accomodations that are widely represented by churches and religious groups that propose what the visions of “The Founders” were. The fruits of our labor will continue to be counted for less by the powers that be, and the welfare of all will continue to suffer attack and implosion.
Gloomy, eh? All I can say is that this is not the end of the story.