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

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.

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Unmasking the Press and the Powers #OWS #occupychurch

February 15, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Still finding tasty theological results from my Googling of “Walter Wink powers occupy”.  Here’s one  on the sequence implied in  Walter Wink’s “Powers” series of books:

As the theologian Walter Wink shows, challenging a dominant system requires a three-part process: naming the powers, unmasking the powers, engaging the powers(11). Their white noise of distraction and obfuscation is the means by which the newspapers prevent this process from beginning. They mislead us about the sources of our oppression, misrepresent our democratic choices, demonise those who try to challenge the 1%.

This “unmasking the press”  is a worthy cause as well,  and will often get us into the “hidden” stuff for which the “Unmasking” stage enlightens us.  It also reminds me of studies like “Manufacturing Consent” made famous by Noam Chomsky.  The education we need in the media strategies of the 1%  (and it is a strategy of the 1%,  however deep it has penetrated down into the 99% who are forced or persuaded to serve the interests of the 1%.  To use the relevant term here:  “Consent”,  this is what goes into the strategy:  advertising for products gives us the clue;  it is telling a story about “the world as it is”,  and the think tanks provide us with a steady stream of “facts” that align with “the way it is”  which they seek to instill in us.

The Powers and “the way things are” HT @glassdimlyfaith #OWS

February 13, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

Some excellent writing from Walter Wink on the subject of “The Powers”,  which is a direct hit from a theological perspective on the very systems against which Occupy rails (with only a few theological caveats and some fine theological tuning)

when evil ran roughshod through corporate boardrooms and even churches, unnoticed and unnamed, while “Satan” was relegated to superego reinforcement and moralistic scare tactics, then we should have caught the stench–not of brimstone, but of putrefaction.

Yes,  it is a Satanic system,  and “Satanic” does NOT mean,  as we have grown accustomed,  dealing with hell fire and animal or human sacrifice,  or even the most horrfyiing examples of the workings of evil such as Hitler (or,  as I see it,  the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki– which is an even better  example since it invariably invites the justifications of the Pentagon and military industrial complex,  claiming that it “saved lives” by avoiding a ground war).  The capacity of humans for evil is further acentuated by the effects of “systems” which  sweep up entire cultures (with the exceptions of the dissidents,  who are often demonized and rendered “radical” for daring to question the “facts” which they present. )  In the case  of Hiroshima,  the very act of calling these scenarios “facts” rather than “theories” or “scenarios” is a part of the “systemic” ideology which instills in us the very idea that this is “the way things are”.

“The way things are” is also found in various arguments for the bailout of the banks,  and that we had to do this to “avoid catastrophe”.  Lost in this crisis is the absence of safeguards” in the deal.  The extent to which there were virtually no strings attached to these bailouts (and if one wants to claim there were,  then of what relevance is this against the lack of holding anybody or any group accountable for it?)  But the point is that we have the system’s power elite pushing for  the “relase us on our  OWN recognizance”,  and so we have,  shockingly,  a series of “voluntary safegaurds” which is a misonomer.  The problem in the first place was a lack of safegaurds,  BY DESIGN,  enabled by lawmakers,  and Presidents (such as when Clinton signed the bill that effectively neutered the Glass-Steagall Act put into place as a result of the abuses of the banks leading up the Great Depression.  Clinton effectively enabled another economic  crisis unmatched  since then).

Wink’s ” putrefaction”  surely seems like an appropriate word to describe the process of what’s been put in motion since 1980,  which the Clinton years,  due to the so-called “Financial Services Modernization Act”,  which seems to have been more deserving of the name “The Return to the  Great Depression Rollback Act”;  or what Bill Moyers described a few weeks ago with “”They put the watchdog to sleep”.

There’s much more ahead as Kurt and Jeremy have raised some pertinent and extremely important issues regarding the role of the church in helping to raise the issues of economic justice,  because God knows we haven’t been able to trust those we  elected to look out for the interests of all Americans.  And that also is a Biblical theme.  We could never hand the state that much power.  We  must continue to speak truth to power.  Always.  And not only the state powers,  but to the powers in the church,  where  we have some unique  problems of our  own.


The Powers That Be, the Gift of Enemies, and #OWS by @KurtWillems

February 13, 2012 By: Theoblogical Category: Occupy Theology, OWS

I was just thinking about Biblical themes that  conure up the present economic scenario,  and Occupy Wall Street movements.  I thought of Walter Wink and his series of books on “The Powers”,  and how we are face to face with those he identifies as “Principalities and Powers”,  which are the systems of “theis world”.

These systems take on a life all their own,  turning individuals into cogs  in a machine that begin to behave and self-protect in a manner that those individuals (or even the smaller groupings of which they may be a part) that alters their behavior and impacts their way of thinking about the world.

In most cases,  the activity of the large entities (“the powers”)  creates an alternate spiritual reality which is largely invisible to the “participants”.  Since having read many of Wink’s works,  I have become convinced that Paul is talking about “systems of power”,  which today can be accurately identified with “corporations”,  “Wall Street”  and perhaps our entire American system of government,  now that it has seemingly given itself over to such massive realignment of wealth.

Obama promises to change the ways of Washington,  and he may have felt that to be possible,  or that he was  going to try,  and once he got there,  came into personal contact with the mechanisms that have become increasingly ossified into place as chief operators of the reigns of the direction of American politics and economics.  But the “Principalities and Powers” are indeed a formidable force.

In thinking about this anew this morning,  I did a google search :   walter wink “the powers” occupy

and sure enough,  Kurt Willems of thepangeablog  did indeed write up such a connection back in October,  concluding with the theological assesment:

 This truly is the Domination System of “empire.”

Kurt concludes this article with a warning of sorts.  That we must also resist the tendency to demonize;  and this accurately addresses the way I try to keep from being too harsh on,  say,  Obama. It is natural and easy to say he “sold us out”.  But if we take  seriously the perniciousness of “the principalities and powers”,  we are forced to wonder just what the pressures are that are at work in this present crisis.  The whole idea that one has to compromise with the system in order to gain re-election that would ostensibly allow one to “get things done” (which often turns out to bring yet newer sets of compromises to ease the path of the next candidate for the party.  I caught this overriding theme of politics in watching the excellent drama “The West Wing”,  and I have heard it used as the justification for nearly every bewildering move of “progressive” candidates.

And as a conversation I had with Jeremy Johns most recently has taught me (or “re-emphasized”),  is that our tendency to violence is most vulnerable when faced with violence being used or threatened upon us;  as a rather emotional and tempermental person myself,  I must constantly check myself when I recognize my becoming judgmental toward those who have chosen to be less condemning of any form of violence.  Stanly Hauerwas,  one of my theological heroes,  is constantly stressing how he needs the church to hold him to his commitment to non-violence,  since he is  all-tto aware that he is “a violent son of a bitch”.  That is why non-violent protests do well to simulate in their training,  and share testimony about the depth of their propensity to respond in kind.