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Archive for February 8th, 2012

For @MicahBales (and me),”Time to Occupy the Church”

February 08, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

It is something that should cause those of us who consider ourselves to be “in the church” to be simultaneously embarassed and hopeful.  Embarassed because it seems to many of us that the church should be have been conscious and mobilized about these issues long ago (it’s been in motion for 30 years,  and I was,  of all places,  in Seminary in 1980).  The supremacy of the economic elites have been holding onto the levers that drive and control the system,  and as they control more outcomes,  it has become all the more important to speak up,  and most of all ,  to get up and move and huddle together and insist that the country listen to the stories of what’s happening to us.  @MicahBales espresses this well:

I .. believe..that God is calling the Christian community to get out of our comfort zone, to invest ourselves in the struggle for economic justice and genuine democracy. We can no longer hide behind a false neutrality that only emboldens the predatory behavior of the wealthiest and their corporations.

We are also hopeful, and grateful, that someone has stirred the masses.  That someone is the people who are a part of those masses.  And they are demonstrating the power of many things which it seems that the church has forgotten how to do.  Again,  from Micah, in that same post:

We, the ecumenical Christian Church in the United States, must take up the frightening responsibility of living and proclaiming the uncompromising love and prophetic justice of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only by participating in his mission to liberate the poor and oppressed that we can ever hope to be his disciples.

What we’ve forgotten is the power of the conversation amongst the gathered.  It is what is missing from the spirituality we have nurtured to become more individual and private.  And we’ve also forgotten (or “unlearned”) how to take that power to the streets,  and to confront “the powers” with that show of cooperation and dedication to nonviolent force.  Occupy has shown us how to confront the powers with a different kind of power:  that of the communal thing which happens when people come together to articulate a vision,  and to explore how and when to do something about it.

I do not CONFLATE the church with Occupy.  But I DO want to recognize the stirrings of God when they occur in what is typcially identified as “secular settings”.  I sense a deep spirituality in the stirrings of the Occupy camps.  And these stirrings in people,  often not consciously identified with or attributed to theological issues,  are quite possibly evidence of the movement of the Holy Spirit where God is moving out to bring “outsiders” into the feast,  since the “insiders” are unresponsive.  I want us to include in our “reasons for the hope that is within us” the distinct theology we bring to the table,  but I also want us to be welcoming of and enabling of the stirrings of the Spirit that are driving the non-violent determination and vision of Occupy.  There’s a “Kingdom of God” thing happening and forming and it is drawing us out from all the corners of our country (and beyond).


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@DavidRHenson on Hinduism & his Christian Faith via @zoecarnate #OWS #occupyfaith

February 08, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Really good article here from David Henson (via Mike Morell) on encounter with other religious faiths.  and how this can have a renewing effect on one’s own faith.  I thought as I read the following line from a Hindu to a Christian who had begun a conversation with some thoujghts about “Hindu scripture”,  that this reply would not be received well by Western Christians,  particularly the American conservative “Bible believing” evangelical.

It would be much better, he said, to begin to learn about Hinduism from experience or at least the experiences of a Hindu teacher, rather than an ancient book that can’t talk back.

Those words are tantamount to blasphemy and a sure sign of heresy in American evangelicalism.

“Hinduism is not an acceptance of a certain set of beliefs. It is a path”

Seems to me that this is the crux of the American Christian heresy.  It is, in the American Christian Right,  a fundamental orthodoxy that we talk about and stress “right belief”,  and all the energy goes into arguments rather than exploring and walking “the path”.

While I seem to have focused on a path that here seeks to emphasize the BAD in the Christian Right,  the Hindu friend also posed a challenge to this, a nd instead encouraged the recognition of the Divine.  Indeed,.  it is in recent weeks that I have been shown first hand how even a religious culture in which many ,  like me,  have many good friends,  friends with whom I differ greatly in terms of the way in which we walk the path with regard to political culture and social policy,  it is in the strength of “The Way” in which those friends walk ,  and their everyday loving embrace and encouragement ,  that obliterates the importance of “a set of beliefs”,  either theirs or mine.  Frank Schaeffer speaks of his mother’s compassion and modeling for him a walking of the path that contrasted sharply with the culture of the Christian Right which had been highly shaped by his father, Francis.  And that it was this tghat ended up being for him the best teacher of Christian theology,  more so than “How Shall We Then Live”, the influential book of his father’s.  See some video here ( Part 1 — especially around 4:20 in Part 1 — and Part 2 ) from The Wild Goose Festival 2011 where Schaeffer is talking about his Mom and his writing about this in “Sex , Mom,  and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway” (there is a little bit of moving about and losing good framing as I tried to find a place to shoot,  and some fading of audio as Frank moved about on stage,  but the one segment I mention is central here…I include the two links to the full videos for reference and context)

And there is another dimension that this “Interfaith Dialogue” suggests to me.  That of the influence of “Occupy”.  A secular movement that raises some challenging questions to the claim to be “for social justice”.  Glenn Beck warns of these “Social Justice Churches”,  and yet it is only now,  as Occupy has raised questions of economic justice and calling for a reformed patriotism that requires movement;  that requires a more pronounced and prolonged STANCE and building of “a movement”.   To take seriously the evils (evils which are so often not perpetuated by “evil people”,  but by well-meaning people,  caught up in a system which distorts and contorts our matching up of means and ends)  is to take hold of a vision for the world and recognize the striving for “the path” that is moving people to this hopeful push and mobilization.  This seems to strike the tone nicely:

Viewing Christ’s teachings through the beliefs of a Hindu presented the familiarity of my own faith in surprising newness, giving our interpersonal relationships a sense of holy urgency and joy with the idea of meeting the Divine, not a mediated metaphor of God, when we meet someone.

This “mediated metaphor of God”  is what keeps us from recognizing elements of the striving to a path,  and this striving;  this longing;  is what I believe to be innate in us all.  And it is why I feel strongly that the Occupy movement can be and is being an awakening moment for the church.

This is how I try to relate to other religions,  and it is how I have attached myself and my own theology and “striving to walk the path” to Occupy,  which I believe to represent a momentous moving of the spirit.  There are,  in Occupy,  several distortions and attempts to hijack the movement by desires less altrusitic,  and by destructive means.  (But , uh….the church has had these far too often as well).

(Thanks toMIke Morrell  — @zoecarnate — for the tweet this morning linking to this)