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

From CNN: The Gospel according to Obama #OWS #PublicTheology #OccupyChurch

October 22, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

The CNN blog post destined to draw tons of comments:

I just did a Google Search on that title and the number two result is frlom godlikeproductions where the author simply reacts aloud:  “Is CNN Serious?”  obviously addressing the choir of folks who consider Obama to be ,  like the author his/herself says,  an “AntiChrist”.

The Christian Right is all over this,   proclaiming how “unBiblical” Obama is,  as they merrily strip the Bible of it’s “communal” and “peaceful” content and turn into a Right wing , Nationalistic treatise,  complete with the bliessing of the “Christian forefathers” (whom,  if they bothered to read them,  would draw the same “anti-Biblical” accusations rage from these same folks.  The “Founders” did not come close to speaking their language.  And Obama does it better than W. ever did.  W. Bush was often dodging theological quesitons,  a far cry from the dogmatic, self-assured claims of many who call themselves “Bible-believing Christians”.

I am not an Obama “supporter” at all.  I am deeply disappointedf in many ways in how politically tepid he has been,  at least in terms of what he COULD say with his bully pulpit.  I know that any of the things I might have considered to be “Obama platform circa 2008” would suffer the same obstructionist fate at the hands of the insane GOP leadership. But there has been a lot of letting Wall Street and the banks slide,  when they could have brought some demands to them that even the financial sector leadership were expecting.  So I am not simply joining a chorus of counter strikes to defend Obama’s faith.  I simply see through the ideological motives of the Religious Right.  That they can even allow themselves to support someone who claims adherence to what most of them consider a “cult” is flag number one.  But then again,  I’ve always known this ideology is primarily political and not theological.  They are totally captured by Republican Right Wing ideology,  made stronger by a shared animosity toward liberalism, Democratic party ideology (as they portray it)  and yes,  outright racism (I’ve heard them…’s not unfounded to realize that there are numerous outspoiken racists who are full-throated Right wingers,  even more vocal because they can ridicule Obama. )

As the article explores,  by inlcluding thoughts of “others” such as Diana Butler-Bass,  there is a quite sizeable chunk of Christians whose thought and theology is independent of Nationalism,  and has no problem with putting their “Biblical values” over those of a syncretism of American Nationalism with a “Biblical worldview” that begins with those Nationalistic assumptions.   It’s a tendency with all nationalisms when they employ the support of the religious hearts of their citizens.  It’s happened for centuries.

It is an “OccupyTheology” issue because it raises the questions of howwe can see a ideological kinship with those supporting the Occupy Movement, and therefore be Occupy supporters ourselves.  It’s raising the quesiton of how Biblical values can and often diverge from “American values” when the latter is captured by economic interests and propagandized by use of religious rhetoric.  So it has become part of the Religius Right rhetoric to ridicule the Occupy movement as a bunch of dirty, stinky hippies who make no sense (since they refuse to hear the Occupy message that these “dirty” people bring).  And to critique the United States and it’s sacred “Free Market” is taken as some sort of blasphemy,  somehow forgetting (or never being taught) that Jesus spoke more about money and the problems of the rich than he did about abortion (of which he , in fact,  NEVER spoke).

Jesus himself promoted what the Right is claiming is “class warfare”.  Jesus would likely be treated more like they treat the Occupy movement folks (and was treated that way by the Religious leadership of his day),  except they apparently took Jesus somewhat seriously as a threat that he just might engender the tyype of change that would threaten that which they thought they were protecting.

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.


A bit of #OccupyTheology applied to the #OWS message about the middle class being under assault (HT @lisasharper @Sojourners)

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

I asked Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners about her thoughts on the Occupy Movement,  and she said something we don’t hear much amidst all the uproar about the “middle class” being under assault.  While the economic figures about the shrinkage and stagnation of wages in the middle class make for a wider audience from which to garner movement support,  what we Christians need to remember is that for the poor,  this has been a constant struggle against systems that seek to make things easier for the sake of spending in order to “grow the economy”.  It’s easy to “stand up for the middle class”.  And if you look at the definiton of “the middle class” in our politics (as Lisa writes about it here) ,  it’s focus tends to be on the upper end,  where there’s debate about whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended for those making over 250,000 a year vs One million dollars a year.  Lisa Sharon Harper illustrates these efforts to widen that middle class definition in order to include a lot of people whose lives are a far cry from a “struggling middle class”.

In an article in Sojo last week,  Lisa writes:

While Jesus loves everybody, there is no Christian tradition of teaching God’s “preferential option for the middle class.”

So,  yeah,  we in the Christian tradition who have been encouraged by the emergence of the Occupy Movement,  need to keep this in mind as we (as I myself ) consider the theological implications and “Vinn Diagram” commonalities with the Occupy Movement and the Church.  While there is a definite deterioration of actual middle class income (much more so in the lower portions)  ,  and this has brought about a critical mass that has coalesced into a movement,  it should be a particular hope for Christians that this push back and awareness building will bring about a clearer focus on the more serious problems at the lower end,  and especially beyond (in this case,  below the poverty line).

In this video,  which I shot at the Wild Goose Festival back in late June,  Lisa talks about this a bit as she says “While the 99% have certainly gotten a bad deal,  in that bottom 10%,  it’s really bad”


Wesley, Economic Justice, and the #OWS movement @GBCS @UMC @Sojourners

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

Quote from Jim Winkler,  General Secretary of UMC’s Global Board of Church and Society:

“In our United Methodist Social Principles, we claim all economic systems are under the judgment of God. We believe corporations are responsible not only to their stockholders but to their other stakeholders.”

Winkler believes that if alive, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, would at the very least support the aims of the Occupy Movement.

He pointed out Wesley’s criticism of 18th century English merchants over their business practices as an indicator of that support.

I know several United Methodist firmly entrenched on the “opposite sides of the fence” on this issue.  There are commenters on UMNS’s and GBCS Facebook pages that viscerally oppose Occupy.  And there are also people who voice support.

But it continues to bother me how little evidence there is of any talk at all.  In my periodic check of Mainline  denominations home pages (even in traversing the various “links in” to the remainder of the Web site or into specially themed sections of the site)  there is very litle  if any sign that there is such a thing as an Occupy movement.  And it seems to me that this is yet another missed opportunity to tell the story of the church,  especially of  its fondness for people’s movements.  Abolition, workers rights, education,
social justice,  etc.  The Church has been either leading the way or very visibly working and advocating.  Today,  NOT So MUCH.  We seem to have “farmed out” these roles to “non-demoninational” organizations.  It’s much like what David Fitch describes in his marvelous book,   The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Parachurch Oraganizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism,  and other Modern Maladies.

Now he’s not calling para-church orgs such as Sojourners a “modern malady” so muchas bemoaning the fact that such are necessary , given  the  church abandoning being present in  any of these disciplines.  Sojourners arose  out of a failure  of the American church to recognize its captivity and acquiescence to Americanism (and indeed, the initial magazine  was originally titled “The Post American”).

Having said all that,  I very much like the fact that we have Sojourners as a resource for continuing to explore the terrain of the church’s role in the politic America. As a subscriber for almost 20 years, I have found their witness and their resources to be a valuable source of community when I have found myself feeling estranged from the church when I have experienced the scourge of Americanism distorting the message of the church.

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!