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How #OWS should be received by the church #OccupyChurch

March 11, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

This,  from a blog post I started reading yesterday,  and took up again this morning,  is very close to where I come down as a “theological reading”  of the Occupy movement,  and what makes it a “teaching moment” for the church.

#OWS reminds the church of some­thing that it has for­got­ten, namely, that faith­ful and active shoul­der­ing of covenan­tal respon­si­bil­ity in rela­tion­ship with God ineluctably involves love of neigh­bor by tak­ing the side of the poor and oppressed and work­ing in our soci­ety for justice.

Just how is it that the church has “forgotten” this rather clear mandate of the gospel re: the emphasis on the plight of the poor;  that Jesus laid it out as plainly as “if you did it not to the least of these,  you did it not to me”. Just how has that clarity become so muddled and co-opted out of the prominence it is given in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ teachings,  is a question that OWS should bring back into proper gospel emphasis (Rick Santorum’s “Bible”  notwithstanding.)   If Rick Santorum actually read his Bible,  he would be as confronted as the church now finds herself on this question.  The bold and impassioned protest of Occupy certainly represents a wake-up call for those who call themselves by that name,  the name of Jesus.

The truth buried here is that when it comes to issues like those #OWS brings to our atten­tion, remain­ing neu­tral offers de facto sup­port to the sta­tus quo.

The above quote is similar in tone to the MLK observation: “The world is a dangerous place to live in.  Not becuase of the people who do evil,.  but becuase of the people who sit and let it happen.”


James A. Forbes, Jr.: The Angel Hovering Near #OWS

February 17, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

The “angel” here is,  as  Forbe’s reads Walter Wink’s exploration of “The Powers”:

Walter Wink’s concept of “the powers” in which he describes that there is, in a sense, an angel of every nation. “The angel or spirit of America,” Wink writes, “stands, as it were, before God; it bears the knowledge of that to which it is called. The angel of America is thus not identical with the present or past injustices of the nation. It always bears the divine judgment and calling to become what it is meant to be.”*

For Forbes,  he sees Occupy as the people calling the nation to the carpet;  to live up ,  as MLK put it  “to the true meaning  of its creed”,  and this ,  “that all men are created equal”,  cannot be achieved in the present and longstanding widening gap between poverty and wealth.  King saw immediately upon the SCLC’s  gaining historic advances in Civil Rights,  that this is also tied up with the obscene investments we were making in becoming a “purveyor of violence throughout the world”,  and also in our “glaring contrast between poverty and wealth”.  His opposition to to the war in Vietnam,  and his building a campaign to bring the plight of the poor directly to Washington DC,  seems to show a natural bent toward the inevitability of the present passions being expressed in Occupy.

The Occupy Wall Street project feels like a burning ember that might light the torch of justice and inflame our longing for freedom. For some time now, many have wondered where the power would come from to interrupt the obscene widening gap. It did not appear that the government could mobilize itself to be impacted by the angel — political protectionism seemed to preclude an awakening to the unfinished business of a democratic society. We have been forced to observe, literally and metaphorically, the collapse of a major bridge, the general decay of our infrastructure, and the consequences of natural and manmade disasters.

Occupy the Future @jtrane in @sojourners #occupyChurch #MLK #OWS

February 15, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Jim Rice writes in Sojourners magazine about Occupy.  Sojourners is one of those communities that have become a mashup of activist, publishers, movementOrganizers….and has been an example of the kind of theological discernment regarding our country and its churches that have been seeing the kinds of things Occupy has been good at bringing into movement form in the public square.

OCCUPY ISN’T A religious movement, although a strong sense of spirituality undergirds many of the participants. But the work it’s doing—shining a spotlight on basic issues of justice and holding up the “least of these”—echoes the gospel’s message of good news to the poor and setting the oppressed free.Martin Luther King Jr.’s last effort, the Poor People’s Campaign, had similar goals. As King put it 44 years ago this spring, “We are planning to dramatize the issue to the point that poor people in this nation will have to be seen and will not be invisible.”

I have been captured by the elements of Occupy that Jim here describes as ” a sense of spirituality undergird[ing] many of the participants”.  As the Arab Spring rolled across our TV screens and pulsed  through our Social Media streams,  we saw Wisconsin happen,  and talk of how to take these same fights and “fed-up-ness”  to Wall Street and Washington.  I bought a book back in August ,  “The Last Crusade: MLK, the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign”,  because I have long believed that MLK may have done more to seal his fate as martyr in starting to branch out to the broader values underirding the problems of violence , war, and poverty in this country.

I wanted to revisit the stories of the MLK days through a closer focus on the Poor People’s Campaign,  because I saw some close relationships between what was becoming a much wider spread issue of the powerful keeping the system “safe for [their] vision of democracy” ,  rather than the much broader sense of the common good that many in this country had previously shared.  IN one sense,  it was an awakening in more people regarding the injustices of the system because the effects are coming ever closer to home, where we live.  For many, though,  it is realizing what many of the poor have been feeling for as long as they can remember.  It has helped many of us to ask ourselves “How did we let it come so far?”

Sojourners has been warning us about such things for 40 years (and I’ve been reading it for 30 of its 4o years).  The Occupy movement poses a serious challenge to the church that has “settled in” to the habits of America.  And a resource for those that are noticing.  And now a partner with the longings that are now taking a “movement shape” with Occupy.  Sojourners has been one of those influences on me instrumental in my being at a place where I am relieved and hopeful about the future of the church when I observe the invigorating hopefulness of Occupy.  And it is the hope I have that harsh times in America can create a stronger sense for us of a gulf between the “Principalities and Powers” and the world as the People of God see it,  through our common journey in God’s salvation history.

Great article , Jim!

Imagining a New Reality and #OWS

January 21, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

My favorite writer, Elizabeth O’Connor,  who wrote accounts of the journey and history of The Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC,  wrote about envisioning a new world in this selection from the Inward Outward blog (this blog posts daily selections from a host of great theological writings).  I thought it very relevant to how interested I have been in the OWS movement.

Martin Luther King was not killed because he had a dream. Dreamers are easily dismissed. He was killed because he sought to introduce into the political arena what he saw with his heart and mind. The same was true of Gandhi and of our Lord.

As Jesus made clear his solidarity with the poor and his vocation to engage them in a liberating process, he came into confrontation with entrenched political and religious powers. As suspicion of him turned to resistance and then to hatred and fury, he began to prepare his disciples for what he would have to suffer. Peter immediately took Jesus aside to protest his continuing on what was surely a collision course….

via Imagining a New Reality | Inward/Outward.

It is often heard at Occupy gatherings:  “A New World is possible”.  When the Occupy movement people gather in public,  and march to particular locations in an act of confronting the injustices of various power structure entrenchments that testify to the disparity in income in this country,  the power structure often reacts.  They pushed people off the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States this past week,  as they gathered ,  shouting dissent with the “Citizens United” ruling with its idea that “corporations are people”.

MLK, Gandhi,  and even Jesus were not a threat because they had these “spiritual visions”  (if you define “spiritual”  in the way that the power structures prefer,  which is “internal, private, pious”….these things are not a threat.  They often serve as “opiate” which keep the masses pacified).  No,  these men sought to ENACT the vision of a just society,  and the ones who benefitted most from the inequities fought them.  They employed the “law” to “keep order”.  When these injustices reach a tipping point,  resistance begins to take shape,  and a “New World” beckons.

While OWS may not be motivated by Christians’ vision of the Kingdom of God,  we can understand the movement,  and can also identify with many of the particular expressions of dissent,  and add our voices to the addressing of the power structures concerning those points of dissent.  It aligns with what I see as a calling of the church to proclaim a “Year of Jubilee”.

MLK vs The Status Quo via @jarrodmckenna

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

Jarrod McKenna wrote today,  on this MLK day 2012,  about the big problem so many Americans have in co-opting MLK and making him a “cheerleader” for whatever cause they please.  I have heard this over and over from those who oppose the Occupy movement on the basis of “lawlessness” and seemingly the very idea of being critical of U.S. structures.

Aside from this being a huge irony for Tea Party folks to be saying this (since it is their claim that the Tea Party is opposing “big government” and that “big government” has reached its apex in the administration of Barak Obama.  Their claim is that it is time foir citizens to rise up and say no to government intrusion.  A rather stark critique of the status quo itself.  And yet they are just as critical of others finding fault with the American system.  They cannot even seem to bring themselves to a point of saying they support the right of the Occupiers to voice thier protest,  rather they focus on accusations intended to discredit it altogether. (Another irony as well,  since the oppositon to MLK in his day used practically all of the same criticisms and accusations being hurled at Occupy by its most ardent opponents today.

as Martin Luther King Jr day rolls around again in the United States, we are often presented with a figure that seems more like a cheerleader for the status quo rather than a prophetic challenge to it. Somehow, it seems we have made this dangerous figure very safe.

I have written before about how I suspect that the Tea Party is not really putting their energies behind challenging big government,  but rather this particuar big government.  When the GW BUsh administrstion grew the size and spending of government,  the Tea Party was not “rising up” in protest.  It was when Obama rose as challenger.

It turns out that the Tea Party is very much a defender of the status quo.  We see it in their reactions to Occupy,  and the lists of “connections” and “endorsements” being ciurculated regarding Occupy Wall Street.  The same lists were offered up as white southerners (including the mainstream press,  as Jarrod relates in this article) .   These kinds of invective accusations and hearsay ratcheded up as King began to encompass issues of war and economics into his message.

Many in his movement began to criticize his widening of the circle of influence regarding what constitutes justice.  King once said “I’ve worked too long and too hard against segregation to end up segregating my moral concerns.  I’m not going to do that”.

When it comes to specific struggles,  the status quo has a track record of fighting tooth and nail against the campaigns to bring injustices to light.  As the society is forced to change,  it will,  as in the case of slavery and then, civil rights and MLK,  adopt the language of those changes into the canon of public acceptance.  But it continues to resist at each front where it is confronted by the people and asked to account for it’s inequitable behaviors and systems of perpetuating those inequities (which allows the status quo to appeal to the “workings” of that system as “neccessary” and “for the greater good”…..when it is ,  in reality,  “for the good of a select few” who have the economic power to mold the educational systems and what Noam Chomsky calls the “manufacturing of consent”;  the advertising , journalism,  and education machine that is molded by the pressures of monied interests to fashion a system that benefits those who benefit most (and today,  through Occupy,  we are told that this is “the top 1%”).   Fox,  the Tea Party,  GOP candidates (and,  through their “silence”, the Democrats as well)  insist that the critiques of OWS are promoting “class warfare”,  and that the 1% “provide jobs”  (even though as they are rewarded with more and more of the government revenues through increased tax relief,  jobs have disappeared and income disparity has grown to its highest in recorded economic history).  The system has continued to insist that “it’s working for all of us” solong,  that it is finally come toa boiling point.

Arab Spring planted the seeds,  as many were asking “what about our country?”,  and Wisconsin’s reaction to Scott Walker’s radical moves to curtail unions (along with several other right wing GOP governors across the country)  further ignited the spark.  In 6 months time,  Occupy Wall Street sparked a flame.   What MLK saw as he began to organize the Poor People’s march is the Civil Rights movement of our day.  MLK saw further down into the roots of injustice,  the economics.  The responsibilities of the richest nation on earth to its citizens,  and even to the citizens of the world.

There’s no co-opting MLK on this one.  He spent his last years noticing and exposing the problems he saw in our economic system and declared that ”
America must undergo a revolution of values”. He would have been a teacher in the school of Occupy Wall Street.  OWS needs a “University” to open the doors to the people of the United States into the economic history and “People’s History” such as that of Howard Zinn.  This movement is writing some new chapters,  chapters for which MLK had been laying the groundwork in 1968.  We’ve had 40 years to see what can happen when the wheels of government ,  taken out of the hands of the people and entrusted to “representatives” who have increasingly allowed monied interests to pressure them into “laying low” as the country swings more deeply into oligarchy.