Theological Community, EcoTheology, The Church, The World, The Blogosphere

Packard , the People’s Bishop by Chris Hedges #occupychurch

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

Chris Hedges spoke to Episcopal Bishop George Packard,  who says in a restaraunt overlooking Zucotti Park:  “The spirit is calling us now into the streets, calling us to reject the old institutional orders. ”

This is the kind of Pentecost that I see coming.  And it reminds me of the warning in Revelation:  “Because you are lukewarm,  I am about to spit you out of my mouth…..Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.

When I see churches focusing so much of their energies of “surviving” instead of “being the church”,  I think of this.  When there are glaring problems in our national life which impacts so many,  and the keepers of the national treasure continue to ,  blindly,  take from the poor to give to the forces of destruction (military),  to feed the beast of the industrial military complex,  and continue to make it easier and easier for the very rich to amass yet more,  I see that there is no other choice than to call these acts of “The Principalities and Powers”.

Hedges writes of Bishop Packard:

Packard’s moral and intellectual courage stands in stark contrast with the timidity of nearly all clergy and congregants in all of our major religious institutions. Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets. And Packard’s arrests serve as a reminder of the price that we—especially those who claim to be informed by the message of the Christian Gospel—must be willing to pay to defy the destruction visited on us all by the corporate state. He is one of the few clergy members who dare to bear a genuine Christian witness in an age that cries out in anguish for moral guidance.

Packard is not short on his ire for lukewarm Christianity:

Those in the church may be good-hearted and even well-meaning, but they are ignoring the urgent, beckoning call to engage with the world.

It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ. And with the rise of the Occupy movement it has become clear that the institutional church has failed. It mouths hollow statements. It publishes pale Lenten study tracts. It observes from a distance without getting its hands dirty.


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The Occupy Toolkit via The Lambs War Blog @michabales #OccupyDC #OccupyChurch

March 24, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

From “The Lamb’s War” blog of Micah Bales:

One unique way that Occupy Church is participating in the American Spring is through the development of a theological basis for this movement.

When I read this line in Micah’s post from yesterday,  my heart sung.   Yes! A theological basis for this movement. It is the hope I intend to help further and enable and resource in any way I can with all the theo-tech-gnosis I can offer.

Encampment, street protest and rallies – these all have a place in our toolkit. But in Occupy 2.0, we are working to develop organization that can sustain a long-term movement for justice. The American Autumn was an expression of our passionate refusal to cooperate with unjust structures, and the American Spring is about developing positive alternatives to those structures. We are not merely protesting – we are organizing.

Here’s the CLEAR, obvious to all who take the time to listen AT ALL to anyone in support of Occupy :

we will accept nothing less than the restoration of a government of the people, by the people and for the people

Funny thing about these detached critics of Occupy in the U.S.  You didn’t hear them asking this of the Arab Spring.   Why?  It was clear to the rest of the world what the people wanted.  They insisted on the end to the oppression;  the oppression of economics and the oppression of violence.  Here,  there is the same,  although the physical violence is not as overt,  the economic violence done to our country is severe.  And as Occupy is showing that it is not “GOING AWAY” as so many have jested as encampments get evicted,  the physical confrontations come to the surface as the powers that be say “enough of the reminders” of the way things are.  At some point,  the powers have to come out from behind that curtain/veil of “democracy in words and rehetoric”  and make their statements with force concerning who is “in control”.  But Occupy says NO.  We say , through continued, insistent prescence,  encamped or not,  that this is not going away.  And as Micah says here in this blog post,  the church has always been called to this very message.

We are in the early planning stages of a program to equip the Christian community to engage in stockholder activism, and to move its money out of the most exploitative banks and into local banks and credit unions.

we are discovering how the Holy Spirit calls us to the work of reconciliation and economic justice.

we are exploring whether Occupy Church might release a declaration outlining our sense of how the Spirit is speaking to the churches in our present context

While Occupy 1.0 was primarily centered in public encampments, the next phase of this movement is playing out in offices and living rooms, coffee shops and schools. This spring, we are rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty in the messy business of grassroots organizing.

Thanks for this post Micah!  YOU have said it and said it well.  I hope to see you andf others in #occupyDC nd #occupyFaith and #occupyChurch when I am on a trip to Philadelphia the second week in April (I’ll be passing through DC for a few days on my way back to Tennessee after  that event held by the Religious Communicators Council,  where I am poroducing their awards show on April 12).  I hope to be also asking people there about their thoughts and involvements for faith communities in the Occupy movements.

@Vanderbilt Historian: #OWS movement right on time in new Gilded Age

March 19, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

All of the interview with Vanderbilt history prof Gary Gerstle from which a clip was used in a VUCast (Vandy’s YOuTube News Channel)  is available here:!

He says “second gilded age” began under Reagan.  But only now has there been much of an outcry that could be identified,  until OWS.

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.”

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.


Theology of Occupy: clergy discuss role of the church in #OWS #occupyChurch

February 25, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

This panel represents what ,  for me,  ought be happening around the country.   These clergy are in the NY area,  and so it may well be even more obvious to them,  as their parishioners may well be seeing the encampments every day,  or often.  For us in less urban settings,  we are nonetheless citizensof this country,  and even more importantly,  citizens of a Kingdom that calls us to stand in sharp contrast to the systems of an economy that has been at work on us for decades,  most dramatically in the past 30 years,  as the income disparity has shot off the charts.

I am disturbed by the lack of an urgency displayedby the churches and their leadership in bringing Occupy issues to the theological table to lay it alongside the images Jesus preached when he spoke of the Kingdom of God’s inbreaking.

[Occupy] challenges church leaders to evaluate the relationship of the church to movements for social change.

Sadly,  the church is MOST often apallingly distant from the economic forces that should be offending its vision for our  country (or any country)  if that country wants to claim it is “under God”.  We all sense  that these are words that do more for our self image than words which impact the policies and actions of that government which imprint them on our money.  In fact,  it is the circulation and manipulation of that currency that tilts the system in favor of the very rich.   Economists have been pointing this out for several years now,  and precious few churches or church bodies have taken these warnings to heart,  or as challenge.

Sniffen said the church is often better at raising awareness than actually engaging in the practice of seeking justice

oh?  I think OWS has also put the church to shame inthat departmnt as well.  Only a select few have been at this job prior to Occupy.  Groups like Sojourners,  churches like Churchof the Saviour in Washington DC (and a whole host,  spread around the country,  too thinly as it  turns out,  but perhaps more are awakening now that the conversation amongst Occupy protesters has been making its way into the national debate (often to be sneered upon by the callous nature of today’s GOP,  and “borrowed” by the left and by the Democratic Party,  without attribution by name to the OWS movement,  since it would be “too politically risky” to express “solidarity”.

The church has had the Scriptural and theological resources to “Name the Powers” and “Confront the Powers” and “Engage the Powers” (these 3 phrases borrowed  from book titles by theologian Walter Wink,  who has been getting renewed re-reading and initial looks by new readers,  of his signature series on “The Principalities and Powers”.

The panel talked about:

how the church should engage the “one percent.”

image of Jesus who turned the tables in the temple was a more salient one than Jesus eating with the tax collector, Zacchaeus.

creative use of shame

I’d like to find the full transcript or a recording of the entire conversation there,  and hope to see more  of this happening in the future.  I have begun video taping some conversations with various faith-based participants at Occupy Nashville,  presently undergoing editing.  I have a few more to do —- and it is my plan to keep doing these as the movement continues,  and as ,  as I have expressed, hope to see it initiate a renewed sense of the justice envisioned and proclaimed by The Kingdom of God.