It’s a bit frustrating to see that we’re talking about “sympathetic churches” (neccessary because of the Right wing church whose bullhorn is so loud that many other more moderate churches also absorb the “anti-protest”, status-quo defending posture of the America-loving Christian) rather than asking where the churches have been all along as this economic tipping of the scales has been building for decades.
It reminds me of the imagery Sojourner’s Jim Wallis talks about in saying that politicians wet their fingers and hold them up to see where the winds are blowing and then follow that. But we ought to instead be seeking to change the wind. The church has been following the winds (and sometimes, are some of the last to go with the wind.) Occupy has changed the wind. There are Christians in Occupy that have been there from the start, but Occupy is the vessel in which the message has been delivered. We have seen the church coming alive to its justice-seeking calling by the consciousness awakened by Occupy. It has , fortunately , been arriving to lend its voice and its messages of solidarity, but it has not been the kind of instrumental , effective voice and movement builder that it was in prior movements. But that’s water under the bridge. We’re with the program now (and holding out hope for the rest). And so we want the 99% to know we find deep theological resonance with Occupy. Stories such as Occupy Boston are helpful.
The relationship between Occupy movement and sympathetic Christians dates back to just about a week before the first sleeping bags hit the ground at Zuccotti Park in New York City. A small group of students from Harvard Divinity School and a few members of the Christian organization The Crossing decided to take part in the action they had read about in Adbusters that summer.
Heather Pritchard, a member of the original group that ventured to Occupy Wall Street, recalls that “we wanted to bring an explicitly Christian voice to the protest.” Dressed in full Albs and carrying a cardboard cross through lower Manhattan, the Protest Chaplains were born amidst the same burst of activist energy that would find its way to Boston just a week and a half later. Five of the Protest Chaplains came to Occupy Boston’s first General Assembly on September 27th, where they immediately formed the Faith and Spirituality Working Group.
We can help to strike the chord of resonance for our churches who are still in the dark; as yet unconvinced, or still largely unaware, of what is happening to the rank and file in this country. We must , at some junctures, combat the Glenn Beck-isms that demonize “social justice churches”. The “yet to be ” Kingdom of God types who insist that the “kingdom of God” is some future fulfillent scenario. It is that as well as PRESENT; as Clarence Jordan tells us, is “IMPINGING UPON YOU”. It’s not “out there” or “up there”. It’s HERE. Breaking into our moment. We need to tech a healthy theological understanding of apocalyptic. That the “as it is in heaven” is a MODEL, not an afterlife out of this realm. It’s a “way it is” as reflected in God’s realm. And we must work at overcoming the sense that this realm of God is some glittery other dimension, and reveal it as a calling and a vocation, not something for “some day”.
The participants with OccupyBoston are seeing the momentous moment. It was there before Occupy. It is capturing people In and THROUGH Occupy, and it seeks to draw in yet more of us. It’s going to take a powerful movement to upset the apple cart of the present political realities.