Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Theology of the Occupy Movement

                                               Photo/REUTERS/Andrew Burton (on ENS)

I don't get the "Occupy (OWS) Movement." I was waiting to see if they might develop a concrete political agenda or a unifying philosophy, but I never expected that they would develop a "theology." Recently the NYC branch tried to occupy property owned by Trinity (Episcopal Church) Wall Street. The protestors, including a retired Episcopal bishop (pictured above), were arrested after the refusal by those in charge of the church as well as the Presiding Bishop of TEc of the OWS' request for a peaceful occupation of the church grounds. One of those arrested, Tim Beaudoin, posted a report at "America: The Catholic Church Weekly" which contained these strange statements:

"Occupy is appealing to Trinity, a very wealthy church, to share its resources (prime Manhattan real estate, currently empty but presently leased on a short-term basis to a tenant) with the Occupy movement whose social goals are ostensibly the same as Trinity’s – a more just world for more people – and many of whose participants explicitly dedicate themselves to the cause for reasons of religion or spirituality. Some in Occupy use religious language of 'sanctuary' for Occupy in their appeal to Trinity, because we were forcibly evicted from Zuccotti and have been hounded out of other public places since then. A religious organization like Trinity, many argue, ought to appreciate a basic point from the theological tradition: ongoing material space that is artistically curated, ritually inhabited, and safely overseen is essential for an ongoing witness to a more deeply flourishing reality...

...I think we have a very important theological matter before us when Occupy, through its religious-leader allies, is saying to Trinity Wall Street: We in Occupy -- as a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement -- can better meet your mission as a Christian church in this particular time, and this particular place, with negligible negative financial impact (Trinity is a very wealthy community)..."

I don't think the Occupy people get it either, I am unaware of the "theological tradition" behind "...material space that is artistically curated, ritually inhabited...", since that description might fit a number of non-Christian spaces as well as quite a few Episcopal churches.


And might "safely overseen" be properly interpreted to mean, "squatters will be evicted"? 

If, as many in the Episcopal church see it, the mission of the Church is to promote various liberal political and social causes, then the author may have a valid argument about OWS being better able to meet the Episcopal church's mission. After all, OWS doesn't have all those pesky trappings of religion as well as the cost of suing dissenting members to slow it down.

But, if OWS thinks the mission of the church is to sue other Christians, then there is no way OWS can do better than David Booth Beers and the TEc legal team.

I have to admit that Tim Beaudoin's "a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement" is a pretty good description of the Episcopal church of 2012. 

Perhaps the OWS folks do need a philosophy, but they should forget about the theology.

Let us pray that they look to God who is our rock and salvation for sanctuary from whatever it is that is persecuting them.

7 comments:

  1. If the core OWS people nationwide started going to the Episcopal Church, certain inner city churches might grow by 4 to 5 attendees each Sunday.

    I've read reports of Episcopal clergy joining with the OWS mob on occasion. If they held a service, could they count the protesters as part of their ASA?

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  2. Matthew,

    I guess they could count toward the ASA, but those churches might see a drop in plate collections on those Sundays as some money might walk out the door with the protestors.

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  3. When a movement bases its theology on a violation of the 10th commandment against covetousness and envy, you know you've got a problem.

    I think a read a quote by one of the OWS people re: Trinity to the effect, "They have more; we have less. It's our right and their obligation to provide for us."

    Maybe, but shouldn't he who's providing decide? If the resources are transferred by force, then where are the spiritual brownie points?

    Cheers.

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  4. Anonymous2:09 PM

    To paraphrase the Iron Lady - Socialism works just fine until you run out of other people's money!

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  5. The "Let us pray that they look to God who is our rock and salvation for sanctuary from whatever it is that is persecuting them."

    seems to indicate that the church is unrelated to what people pray for; as if it is not the calling of the church to respond to the places in our socities and communities where economic injustice is not only taking place, but being defended as "God given" by its more pious defenders
    The theologians of the Occupy movement recognize that the Church is called to be God's instrument through which the Kingdom of God is exemplified and proclaimed.
    Some of the comments here have illustrated the problem of today's church: condescending, callous, and somewhat clueless about the very issues which the Occupiers are proclaiming.

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  6. anonymous quote about socialism is inane. You illustrate the very point of socialism: it's a sociall contract, which a Republic, like we have, also is.

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  7. Dale wrote,

    "The theologians of the Occupy movement recognize that the Church is called to be God's instrument through which the Kingdom of God is exemplified and proclaimed."

    And what does that have to do with the OWS other than to try to recruit the Church to support OWS' social values?

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