Theoblogical

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The elusive “message” is an easy slam when you don’t listen

March 14, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

I just read the follwing line in an article about Occupy:

“A lot of people who came into the camp with the preconceived notion that ‘these people don’t have a message’ came by our booth and were surprised by the level of discourse there.”

http://www.thenation.com/article/166749/revolution-radio

As I continued to hear the critiques of Occupy Wall Street that “they don’t have a clear message”,  I was struck with how this same exact critique is leveled at the church by outsiders.  If a typical church member were to be asked “what is the message of the Church?”,  the number of answers would bedazzle the inquirers,  causing them to behold the variety of often incoherently theological abstracts and lead them to conclude that the church doesn’t have a coherent message.

Even if the reply is being given by a more articulate member,  the assumptions of the questioner about the way the world works are so often a barrier to being able to grasp the assumptions of the articulator of the message,  since the Occupy movement AND the church operate from a positioin of challenging the assumptions of the status quo in politics,  or the status quo in “the world as it is” (as the outsider is often heard to say in criticing what they see as the “lofty idealism” of the church -assuming there is some “not of the world” element to a particular church member’s “message”).

The Occupy movement has brought to the masses a questioning of the “way things are” in politics,  and in the “workings of the Republic”.  We’ve worked with this “system” for so long,  it has created for us “assigned avenues” of ways to be “the people” and “exercise our “duties”.  When people hear this being questioned,  it doesn’t compute.  If it falls outside the “accepted means” of expressing displeasure,  such as the vote, or in temporary,  maybe one or two hours of picketing,  or maybe even a day;  if it “spills over” and begins to insist that it’s in this for the long haul,  then people begin to shake their heads and say “go away”;  “get a job”,  etc.

To those who don’t sense the exasperation with the system as it is;  the status quo;  “the way it is”,  the acxt of protest,  if it moves beyond the token temporary “one and done” event,  the Occupy movement is a constant reminder or prodding;  and this wears thin.  And the incentive to really understand takes a back seat to simply accepting the attitudes of the mainstream;  which is itself a servant of the status quo.

Now this is in no way an attempt to equate the church with Occupy.  But simply to take a look at the refusal to listen to the articulations of its voices,  and ask how that works.  I want to ask the Chriatian Right,  so vocal in its disdain for Occupy,  and a major contributor to the “there’s no clear message”,  what they say is “the message” of the church.  The typical conservative evangelical would say something like “to win the world for Christ”,  and to that I would say,  “so what does that look like?”  I would ask because I recognize that the Conservative evangelical church seems happy to leave it at that;  that there is no explanation or translation neccessary.  And the run with it,  often leaving it right there as a propositional statement with the assumption that if the world doesn’t understand,  it’s because they oppose it.   And the world would have the right to say “that doesn’t mean anything to me”.

Occupy,  as the article goes on to explain,  has plenty of articulate and thoughtful voices,  uncovered and unexplored by the mainstream media.  They continue to show us the things which people can use to further their preconceived notions.

Major news outlets fixated on the skin of the movement—on tattoos and piercings, poor grammar and lack of leadership, on the unsightliness of the camps—and they proved unable or unwilling to address the substantive issues underneath

We see how the media does this in their coverage of religious issues.   I don’t hear the voices out there who are putting flesh to their belief that “bringing the message of Jesus” is a proactive prescence and “being with” the people in distress.  I find them becuase I look for them.  The mainstream media shy away from them  becuase they are afraid of the apprearance of favoring one group over another.  Perhaps they feel the same about Occupy.  They’ve become such a wedge between the “left/right” camps/divides that to give them a platform would be to “take sides”.  This is my exasperation with the media.  The myth of objectivity that precludes “having a point of view”.  Occupy POINTS of view (I stopped myself from saying “A point of view”,  because that falls right into the traps of the “view from nowhere”  (as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tells us).  The “he said/she said” approach in media pits “one side” against “the other”,  as if there’s a place to stand on “one side or the other”.  It precludes listening and gets us into the mode of acceptance/rejection, either /or, left/right.   I am constantly reminding a friend of mine with whom I discuss politics at least 2-3 times a week,  when he says that a particular news host didn’t have anybody “from the other side”,  and I ask “THE other side?  There’s ONE other side?  There’s not 2,  there’s probably closer to 92.”

The public has been trined to assess things in this manner.  And so here you have a movement like Occupy,  that includes people who are extremely frustrated with Obama.  The right wing media accuse Obama of supporting Occupy.  He never mentions them by name.  NEVER.  The fat that he is saying things associated with the massive inequities of wealth has the Right screaming that he is enagaging in “class warfare”,  and the “We are the 99%” vs “The 1%”  is the identifying rhetoric.  Again,  it’s Right vs Left.  Lost is the very real FACT that many,  maybe even most of the Occupy movement would vote for somebody other than Obama if there other alternatives that wouldn’t result in victories for “leaders’ that would result in this divide becoming far worse and opening up even worse recessions.  And not only that,  there are many who will not vote for Obama regardless.

So LISTEN folks.  LISTEN mainstream media.  It’s times like these we need a media that tells us the stories of what is happening;  where people are,  instead of feeding the inane divisive,  us vs them, he-said she said.  Occupy is a community rife with diversity, determination, political savvy (yes,  it’s there…but challenging “the system” isn’t completed in 5 months.  That’s all its been .  FIVE MONTHS.  And people want to see results?  The required “result” is already here.  It’s the establishment of the conversation.  It’s not going to be left at that.