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.