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#occupychurch by @monicaacoleman of @NewMediaAtUnion #OWS

February 26, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Monica Coleman posted back in November on the New Media Project blog,  asking the question that I had begun to asking when I saw the Occupy movement start up,

If we used the hashtag #occupychurch with the same revolutionary fervor as the Occupy movements, what would we doing?
Here’s my first Tweet:
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me #the99% #occupychurch
What would you Tweet?

and not that long afterI began to see a   question being asked on  on Twitter :  “#ArabSpring;  when will it be our turn?  I found it similar because our economic situation brings to the table the question of the disparity of income,  the criminal manipulations of our trading and the i mpact that had on our markets,  and this laid bare the problem of how greed leads people to want more and more;  in sharp contrast to the idea that success for the wealthy trickles down;  what led some to believe that ,  this process has been tunred off;  choked off.  The claim that “what’s good for the wealthy is good for all” has been increasingly laid bare before us.

As the budget debates heated up and the GOP played brinkmanship games and the world watched as American politics melted down when faced with a dogmatic, ideological right wing and a tepid moderate to left wing,  the people were building some coordinated responses that spread across the country.  When the Right wing controlled GOP showed that it not only had not been concerned about the effects of the economy on the everyday American and the poor,  but also sought to further ensconce the powerful elite in  their place within the upper reaches of the 1%,  the people began to bring their frustrations to the public square.

Monica asks here what I also was asking.  When will the church show a pulse in  this conversation that has erupted in our nation?  Thus far,  it too has been tepid,  and insome cases,  outright hostile to the beginnings of a nascent People’s movement for the 21st century America.  For the first couple of years of the economic crisis that had just come to light in the waning days  of the 2008 Presidential campaign,  and in the backdrop of the hope that was heaped,  however unrealistic,  on the shoulders of Barack Obama,  the People seemed to be watching and ASSUMING that the Obama administration would institute a wave of sweeping reforms of Washington as we knew  it.

It was not to be.  The Tea Party expressed the sudden angst of a virulent right wing being incubated by the bankrolled thinktanks and media outlets such as Fox News.  They went to work immediately,  stirring up fears.  It was unprecedented.  Monica writes of how the Occupy movement seemed to say,  “enough of the lack of advocacy for the people”;  “WE” are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. Enough of this expecting our elected representatives to stand  up for us.  The utter sell out to Wall Street;  a galring lack of holding these  people accountable for the role they played  in building the house of cards that crashed the  economy;  the irresponsible, reckless greed that drove the high stakes game;  this was inexcusable.

“wait for the next King” who will help shape our faith communities in ever more liberative ways. (1 Samuel records something very similar occurring in ancient Israel.)

I saw a few rumblings from some denominational faith leaders during the budget talks.  But whenI looked at the hoome pages  of denominatonal websites,  one would be hard pressed to find ANYTHING hinting at the serious economic situation in which we found ourselves,  nor any sign of moral outrage at the oblivious right wing ideologues who seemed be holding Washington hostage,  nor expressed disappointment and anger at the weak leadership in failing to stand up to a GOP/Tea Party who were pushing for such irresponsible economic “remedies” that had  been failing miserably for at least 30 years,  and downright scary ignorance of the repercussions of an unregulated financial sector that had been allowed to become a high stakes poker game ,  gambling with the economy itself.

The mainline churches have  largely failed miserably to proclaim the message  of the Kingdom of God.  The other  churches have largely given in to a theology of nationalism,  and absorbed into its teachings a watered down gospel that must highly please the 1%.  A church that is so clearly instructed to be taking care of the poor has  instead become willing co-conspirators to pull its attention away from them,  and promote instead a  gospel of prosperity  (a prosperity based not on justice and mercy,  but on crass materialism, militarism,  and increased marginalization of the poor — which are now finding increased numbers of the middle class sinking below the poverty line as runaway health care costs and other living expenses careening out of control.

Monica asks some specific questions about what an “Occupy Church” would look like:

 What would be the content of the teach-ins? And would the designated leaders of the church also try to find a way to subvert, diminish, or relocate the protestors?

Sadly,  frustratingly,  amazingly,  many churches have done exactly the  latter.  And “teach-ins”?  The right wing,  and even the moderates,  have succumbed to the right wing barrage of criticisms and baseless rumors  of the right wing media who feign support for faith in America.   I encounter it every day on the Social Networks.  Right wing Christians troll the #occupy hashtags with snide, condescending remarks about the Occupy movment.  They sneer at the suggestion that there is a deep theological resonance in Scripture with the Occupy movement.  The church has lost touch with the very clear message that God is historically angered  at  the mechanisms of the rich to wield unwarranted power over the people.  It has all too often moved into the exact opposite camp,  and clung  to empty , pious claims that the powerful are safeguarding “One Nation, Under God”.

The Occupy movement has expressed ,  in numbers,  and with  insistence,  that we aren’t going to take it anymore.  Enough of the couchpotato debates.  Time to mobilize.  The powerful were at ease with the  inconsequential talking heads  and the online debates.  Occupy has produced physical gatherings where people can meet their fellow “99 percent-ers as dissenters”  (hey,  I like that,  that just popped into my head as I wrote this line).  And the gathering has  tapped into the dynamic that has driven and sustained many a movement for justice.

And the statement made  by CAMPING is to communicate the insistence that “we will occupy”  and keep doing  so.  Insisting that we will not go away, and will remain as a constant community that is determined to keep hammering home the message that we are onto the 1% and their game.  Pull down our tents and pass laws restricting the airing of grievances in democratic, non-violent ways,  and we will continuously re-coalesce around new approaches (except for that of violence,  which is the oldest and ultimately most self-defeating approach).

When will the church begin to awaken to the realization that it has rendered  its vision for the Kingdom of God dormant?  Will it lose its role as a prophetic community?  It has ,  for many. I spoke to a leader of the Occupy Nashville who said that he would not consider  himself religious because of how irrelevant it has  rendered its institutions and its theologies.  The church would do well to take this to heart.  The church needs to awaken.  God is already sending out invitations to the Great Feast to those outside the Kingdom (the message being, they are not really outside of it,  but merely designated as such by the proclamation of the religious elite.  The Kingdom of God is a party.  God seeks  those who seek after a New World that is possible.

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Occupy Boston &the Christian Left via TheBostonOccupier HT @zoecarnate #OWS

February 16, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

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.

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).


The New World That’s Possible; Inequality Matters:

January 22, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

This from an article on Bill Moyers’ website expresses for me the anger and the disgust I feel toward the clueless, selfish, out of touch arrogance that is the attitude of the frontrunner candidates.

So no, Mitt Romney, when we say that Americans are waking up to the reality that inequality matters, we’re not guilty of “envy” or “class warfare,” as you claimed to Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today. Nor are we talking about everybody earning the same amount of money – that’s the straw man apologists for inequality raise whenever anyone tries to get serious.

I have to laugh when Newt tries the “elite” criticisms,  trying to pretend he’s not a quintessential “washington Elite”.  As they said on Up with Chris Hayes this morning,  he’s been in DC since Carter was president.  And he’s consistently shown himslef to be one of the most self-absorbed politicians of our era.  He STILL uses “political” rallies to SELL HIS BOOKS and Videos.  He’s like a SPAM BOT.

As I wrote yesterday,  people are waking up to the idea that “another world is possible”.  If anything,  this openness to the future and the recognition that another world is REQUIRED is to also be open to the alternative vision of the Kingdom Of God.  For too long the church has been seen as a defender  of the status quo.  To this,  churches should be offering up a counter stance.  The economic system has reached a tipping point at which “The People” are aroused and tired of what they are seeing (and,  to a large extent,  beginning to experience in their family finances,  if they haven’t been doing so for a couple of years already).  When Egypt spread to a larger “Arab Spring”,  people began to ask how long it might be before the same unrest boiled over  in the U.S.   When Scott Walker led the way for numerous GOP state governors to begin a coordinated campaign of going after union rights,  we began to see the coming of an American version of Arab Spring.  When Occupy Wall Street hit the streets,  we are being presented with the answer to the quesiton of how long.  Not long.

This openness to a new world is in many ways an oppenness to a new gospel for American churches.  Sure,  it’s the SAME gospel,  but a very different one from the Americanized, nationalistic ,  “Exceptionalism” hyping version we have been getting from American churches.   The challenge we must make is to this Americanized, watered down,  co-opted gospel.  It’s not even the gospel anymore when it is co=opted.  It is simply another support structure for the status quo.  And the Kingdom of God is the opposite of the status quo.  When the GOP candidates and pundits complain about OWS and the Dems inciting “class warfare”,  they are righ , in a sense.  It’s a matter of whether the larger portions of the oppressed class wake up to the fact that they are being “kept in their place” by the powers that be,  even as they “remain kept in their place” by their own efforts to discredit protest and the very idea  of questioning the direction of the American economy.  They are victims of the unlimited resources the economic elite have to shape political support and couch their intentions  in terms of an “American Dream” (that is quickly becoming pure fantasy).