When I read the following, from a previous Chris Hedges article just after the start of Occupy Wall Street, I immediately added my own group to the list of “discarded intellectuals”:
Bakuninâ€™s vision of revolution, which challenged Marxâ€™s rigid bifurcation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, carved out a vital role for these rootless intellectuals, the talented sons and daughters of the middle class who had been educated to serve within elitist institutions, or expected a place in the middle class, but who had been cast aside by society. The discarded intellectualsâ€”unemployed journalists, social workers, teachers, artists, lawyers and studentsâ€”were for Bakunin a valuable revolutionary force
(this article was also incorporated into the chapter “Days of Revolt” in Chris Hedges’ latest book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”)
This additional group of “discarded intellectuals” I have in mind falls within a subgroup in Progressive Christianity.
This question opens up a big sore spot for me on the content side: the present absence of the church, especially those supposedly “Progressive” mainline denominations, in the conversations such as the Occupy movement has started in our national conversation. There is an obvious avoidance of what is CLEARLY a set of issues that affect not only the poor (which is and always has been , in the church, a matter of heeding that clear call), but increasingly, most of the rest of us. At what point do the churches begin to say, “You know those accusations of the Occupy movement about the 1%? What do we as a church need to be saying and doing regarding our message during these times? It seems to be on hardly anyone’s radar. The home pages and second level pages and sections of denominational websites are not addressing such things. Rarely if ever do we see any denominational effort to indicate that the leadership is interested in asking its people about this, or informing them on these issues. It’s like its political dynamite; or poison to the “civil discourse”. When matters of state become so “off limits” in theological communities, it seems to me that we’re deep in the throes of nationalism that threatens the notion of what church represents.
For instance, how many and to what extent to people identify with the yearnings expressed by the Occupy movement? What do they feel about the degree of involvement and conversation that the church is having/not having with the messages being delivered by the Occupy movement? I’ve heard Occupiers say that they left the church long ago BECAUSE they felt the church was not listening or interested in such things (and in some cases, even hostile to the idea of “criticizing America”. How do we as a church arrive at a place so foreign to the history inscribed in the Scriptures themselves, which have frequent narrative of nations behaving in a manner which leads to their destruction? Even “God’s chosen”, Israel. Jeremiah told his contemporaries “Do not take refuge in ‘this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord’ and think that God will protect us from harm when we continue to participate (and help to perpetuate) the injustices carried out by the nation at large.
The church, if it looks for them, has a small enclave of activists for justice that caught the drift and the energy of the Occupy movement early on, and saw it is an opportunity to engage with that political energy and bring the strong history of the the social justice work of our people into the happenings across the country, from NY to DC to Nashville to Oakland. Many of these people are seminary trained, many experienced activist, many both. They have immersed themselves inthe histories of church-based social justice actions . And these are among the class of the church’s “discarded intellectuals” that are being ignored at just the wrong time (if you consider how damaging that is for the “connection” between church leadership and the people they serve). Kind of reminds me of the political problems our country has. “Leaders” failing to serve their people, focusing instead on “survival” instead of having “Eyes on the Problems and Eyes on the Prize”.
“Part Two” of this has to do with another “Discarded intellectual” group that is sorely needed by the church, but is kept from playing a significant role largely because the church organizations have followed the market tendencies in technology to the exclusion of sound theological discernment about how to let the “Social” actually BE social. It has much to do with theological study and defining who we are in a way that makes the network such a potentially powerful tool for enabling the church to significantly extend itself into some powerfully creative spiritual habitat. I’ll link to this as soon as I put on some finishing touches.