Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Pastoral Response to the Occupy Movement

Tomorrow evening, my friends and I will go to Occupy Boston in Dewey Square. Our goal is to serve hot cocoa, and offer free dream interpretation* to the people who have been camping there for weeks. We have checked with them, and found that our visit will be welcomed, and should not be a problem with law enforcement - though Dennis is not worried about potential arrest - he likes adventure.

As far as OccupyWS goes: today is a day of action in New York. There is a live feed of arrests going on, and at this moment (10:00am) there are more than 20,000 people viewing the live feed of what is happening in New York. Today was a call for non-violent action and a show of solidarity after the recent eviction from Liberty Park a few days ago.

This movement doesn't seem to be going away, and driving them out of the parks across the nation hasn't seemed to end its momentum. There is a need for pastoral response, because this is worldwide now, and is on our doorsteps. My little city of Salem, MA (pop. 40,000) has a tiny but existing Occupy Salem group. Your city might well have one too.

Occupy Wall Street started as a call to bring economic justice to a corrupt system. The bankers have acted corruptly with the blind help of the government, and then get bailed out of financial trouble. Their debts are erased. They get bonuses. The small guy on Main Street keeps his debt. They are too big to fail. We are too small to be concerned about. Or so, the thinking goes with many of the people who are part of the protest happening with Occupy Wall Street.

On the flip side violence has been occurring - on both sides. Police brutality is being regularly broadcast on YouTube, and Occupy protesters have similarly been acting out. Of course, the problem is that all the police get accused of the wrong from a few bad actions, and all of the protesters are accused of being in the wrong because of a few trouble makers, who may not even be with them in many cases. This is a mess, but then righting the wrongs of a corrupt system almost always requires messy action.

So, what do we as Christians do? These are my thoughts:

1) support justice - if it is on the part of the police I support justice. If it is on the part of the protesters I support justice. The problem now is that it is often on the side of both simultaneously, and thus we fall into a conundrum. Who do we support?

2) support the oppressed - God does, and so should we. The protesters are responding to the fact that the person on Main Street has been losing their shirts to the people on Wall Street. Could it be that public opinion and democracy (rule of the people - even though we are a modified democracy run through a federalist system) is calling the federal system into accountability? Could it be that we have been stolen from? Are our taxes going to things we don't approve of, thereby creating the same struggle which started our nation - taxation without representation? This is how people are beginning to feel. Whether we agree or not, we should stand with them in their concern, or find a way to minister with them in their fears.

3) support the right to speak up and take action - as long as violence is not the goal, our support should be behind honest public expression, in both public assembly and protest against injustice.

4) support truth - which means you will have to dig a little and have on open mind, because in a war of words everyone is saying they hold the truth, and the people you disagree with may have valid points you should hear.

5) This may not mean I have to set up my tent in Boston, Portland, New York or MyCity USA; but it does mean that we should seek to understand - even if we disagree. Our battles are not with this world. Sometimes the battle does go to the streets, like it did for the civil rights movement. Sometimes it does not. Where you stand in this movement attempting to create a non-violent worldwide protest is your decision. Coming to an unbiased desire to understand what is now becoming a worldwide movement is our necessary destiny as followers of the Prince of Peace.

Those are my thoughts. Probably will get me some flack, but then again we are not here to run away and hide, but to be salt and light. Sometimes both hurt a little - like salt to a cut on the lip, and bright light to eyes just waking up.

* As far as the dream interpretation: This is something we do in Salem, MA through the year, but especially for the tourists who come to Salem by the hundreds of thousands each October. We figure if was an ability and gift used by Daniel and Joseph that God is still capable of using His people to do it today.

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