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God REALLY is neither a Democrat NOR a Republican HT @BrianMerritt #OWS #OccupyChurch

September 07, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS, Theoblogical

I totally agree with my friend Brian here:

In the end if they break ways with Christ’s teachings we are required to break with them as well and speak truth in love

And saying such things just scares the bejeebies out of so many of my “secular” friends.  They just can’t seem to grasp the idea that the “theocracy” ideas of the Religious Right are not what one is necessarily proposing in speaking of following Christ’s teachings rather than political parties.  I want to say something like “Be not afraid”,  but the American political ideology that says “Separation of Church and State” seems to require of them that they eschew any traces of “religious ideology” when considering politcal policy.  My attempts to steer them off of this course of thinking,  or to try to explain how such a sharp separation is not feasible (except to those who claim they have no such “religious problems”– to which I try to argue that no matter how “detached” and “rational” they claim to be,  their “politics” is also based in spiritual/social values that they will insist are not “religious” in nature  — but they ARE.  )

And so I find myself hesitating to say this often enough (things such as what Brian has said here,  and tweeted just prior to his post going up).   I’m afraid it may pigeon-hole me in  the eyes of certain political tweeters who follow me.  I can only hope that they read into just a few of the details.

I noticed just within the last hour that @james_ka_smith was having to explain to a tweeter that he was NOT Republican, assumed by that tweeter since Smith had no doubt said something “un-euphoric” about Obama.  This euphoria was all over Twitter last night,  as well as on MSNBC.   I watch MSNBC,  but it’s been immensely harder lately.  The blind spots are glaring even brighter than they usually are.

I sure wish we could talk about this in the churches.  But it is as about as TABOO to take ANY side whatsoever,  even a non-partisan one that would get up the dander of the defenders of the “beloved” (such as Obama)  being questioned.

Maybe I should try to set up such a conversation where we can talk about what the church we inhabit needs to be saying to the powers that be,  or talk about the question of just how to do that.

My title of this  post is based on a bumber sticker that I got from Sojourners back in 2004.  But I differ somewhat from the way one often hears it discussed by Sojourners writers.  While I find much , much more in common in terms of what we see the Gospels telling us about the merits of political platforms and discourse,  I am somewhat less enamored with the political process as it exists in America than I find in m any (but not all) Sojourners articles/speeches.


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“Not dead yet” #ChrisHedges on #OWS #OccupyChurch

September 05, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS, Theoblogical

It’s true we must guard against becoming devoted to the “brand”.  “Occupy” as a brand is not the aim;  it’s not the point to see that this name survives as the main narrative title.  If the media succeed in discrediting that,  then the aims and goals still remain.  We simply need to articulate it  and present it through new actions and new channels,  and help create a new politics independent of the one presently failing us.

“We had a very powerful first six months,” Kevin Zeese, one of the original organizers of the Occupy encampment in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., said when I reached him by phone. “We impacted the debate. We impacted policy. We showed people they are not alone. We exposed the unfair economy and our dysfunctional government. We showed people they could have an impact. We showed people they could have power. We let the genie out of the bottle. No one will put it back in.”

This is the sense I have that made me disinterested in what was being said last night at the DNC.  The RNC stirred me up more,  because what they say and insinuate and express is truly scary.  I’m BORED and jaded by the narratives of the Democrats,  not that I won’t agree with some of it;  but  the level of acquiescence to “the same ole same ole'”;  that “politics as usual” that Obama claimed would end has taught me to take it with many more “grains of salt”.   The perpetuation of the free pass given to Wall Street started all this for me.  I now support the Democrats and Obama ONLY as a buffer against a more aggressive, insane, sick group of  cynical or deluded politicians bent on opening up the lines of infusion of further resources UP from the lower 99% up to the 1%. I simply want to forestall the destruction these people would do to our injured, struggling infrastructure.  I see nothing approaching a New Deal from the Democrats.  They truly haven’t learned from history.  They’re simply locked into the least common denominator game of politics, too politically wimpy to even suggest anything so bold as the kinds of measures that would put people back to work again,  and cower in  the inane arguments of the GOP that the deficit all of a sudden matters immensely more than it did when they were handing out the favors;  and matters  more than the struggling , unemployed masses of employable, working people . I am not moved by the Democrats promises that “they know  better than the other guys”. What good is that without the political will to fight for it?  They have thus  far handed renewed  power and emboldened the banks to simply continue their manipulations and irresponsible gambles with money.  Not  exactly a shining testimony of the state of our  politics,  but there you have it.

The hope seems all the more “audacious” now.  It has shifted for many into the hope of an increased upswell;  an even more popular uprising that keeps building until the elite see that the only way to calm it is to give in to demands.  As Hedges says, quoted  in three earlier tweets:

Under a rational ruling class, one that responds to the demands of the citizenry, the energy in the street can be channeled back into the mainstream. But once the system calcifies as a servant of the interests of the corporate elites, as has happened in the United States, formal political power thwarts justice rather than advances it.


The Obama I’m FOR vs the Obama I’m against

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

I will vote for Barak Obama,  but I have trouble these days calling myself a “supporter”.  I explicitly deny that designation when it is suggested that I am.  But I find it hard now because of the way he handled the banks,  the way he has extended and built upon the “security” measures undertaken in the Patriot Act,  and the way he has “held back” on a full-throated , tireless advocacy for a Works Program which is so obviously needed.  I recognize that their are political barriers.  I recognize that “reaching across the aisle” can (or should)  build some common ground that will result in ,progress being made.  But the outcomes and the politics of the great recesssion have made it disturbingly clear that the financial elites are calling the shots.

I read “Confidence Men”,  Ron Suskind’s account of the economic team around Obama,  and the numerous conversations with advisors with Obama and other members of the  economic team,  and it painted a not-so-impressive picture of the weakness of Obama’s economic policy moves and efforts,  up to a point where it was widely known and expected that the bankers were expecting the hammer to fall on them when Obama called them to a meeting early on, just after the crisis hit.  They were all in a state of “bracing for the hammer”.  What they got instead was an assurance of support from Obama.  I already had my doubts,  given the lack of significant steps to hold the banks or SOME of them accountable.  This account had the effect of sinking my remaining threads of confidence  or hope that remained afloat.

And the GOP that is fighting anything and everything Obama does or tries to do (whether it be piecemeal or more substantive) ,  they have long ago crossed the line of any sign of integrity or showing any intent  to actually serve the people.  They have shown they are willing to go to any length to “defeat Obama” rather  than to do anything which would help Obama improve the economy.  It’s the politics of destruction ,  “our way or the highway”.   But Obama has not been strong in the face of this.  I keep hoping he would,  in the very least,  make us of the bully pulpit to lay out what he believes is needed.  In the wake of what I learned about Obama and his economic team,  and their refusal to lower the hammer  on  the banks when he had a clear mandate to do so,  I am now doubtful of just what those desires really are;  whether he really does desire to do what it takes to help us defeat the stranglehold the elite have over this economy.  Or is he himself now IN that stranglehold?

This is not the Obama I voted for.  The one who promised a severe challenge to the “way of  Washington”;  an end to the stranglehold of special interests,  and even that Obama that seemed to be coming straight down a road of a social justice Christian tradition.  I find it difficult if not impossible to see that Obama anymore.  I’ve had some friends tell me that although they intend to vote for Obama this time (usually always because the alternative would be much worse,  and bad things would come of it much quicker)  , they will no longer support the Democratic party  if the next term didn’t bring a very different Obama.  It’ll be third  party time.  It’ll be serious challenges to the present system of  representation,  and the safeguards needed to protect it from being blown away by financial interests.

I’m thinking that’s where I am too.  If nothing can get done in 8 years to make a dent in what has been wrought on our economy by the corporate take over of our politics,  then its time for a new process.  With Citizens United allowing unlimited propaganda to be dumped on the American psyche  (and don’t be naive, people.  Advertising WORKS, no matter how you may insist you;re not swayed by it,  it  works,else they wouldn’t be continuing to pour money into it.  The  effects are subtle,  and largely imperceptible. And somehow the Supreme Court has overlooked this ; or,  more accurately and/or likely,  they HAVEN’T overlooked it;  they are in cahoots with the aims of Citizens United),  given all this,  our “process” is truly screwed.  It no longer sounds  convincing to say “vote and make your voice heard”.  It all comes off sounding like false piety.

#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.

CNNs Erickson: Obama “Claiming” To Be A Christian, “Chose To Pervert Gods Word” | Media Matters for America

February 06, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Theoblogical

The President this week chose to pervert God’s Word to make the case for a tax increase, but he also chose to ignore God’s word on life and is ordering Christians, while he claims to be one, to violate their Christian conscience on abortion — requiring Christian organizations to provide health insurance that will cover the cost of drugs that induce abortions.
— Eric Erickson on CNN re: Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech

This is about as blindly arrogant as it gets.  This guy proudly flings about the self-assured air of perfection ,  smug in his “status” as an entirely objective, accurate interpreter of the Scriptures.  And in reading his usage here,  the amount of “stretch” he has to assume here is wildly more presumptive and illogical as the point Obama was making.  Obama merely pointed out what is undeniably a recurring theme of Scripture:  that God stresses that how we treat the poor is an indication of how we actually feel about God.  Somehow,  Erickson seems to ignore this.  Somehow,  Erickson has adopted the typical stretches of the American Christian Right.  One which has to jump through a host of logical hoops in order to ignore this rather clear emphasis of Jesus.


CNNs Erickson: Obama “Claiming” To Be A Christian, “Chose To Pervert Gods Word” | Media Matters for America.

I particularly find his “This cannot end well for him, particularly doing this claiming to be a Christian. ”  deplorably judgmental.  His “claiming”?  Has Erickson taken on a “partisan” judgment here to color his appropriation of Scripture?  Because it seems to me that this is a good explanation for ignoring what would seem to be the most “on face value” interpretation of the words of Jesus on the  topic of the poor,  and replacing it with a strenuous effort to twist the words into something which better serves the aims of the Religious and Political Right wing  (which is ,  of course,  what they accusse Obama of doing here).