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 ISNâ€™T A religious movement, although a strong sense of spirituality undergirds many of the participants. But the work itâ€™s doingâ€”shining a spotlight on basic issues of justice and holding up the â€œleast of theseâ€â€”echoes the gospelâ€™s message of good news to the poor and setting the oppressed free.Martin Luther King Jr.â€™s last effort, the Poor Peopleâ€™s Campaign, had similar goals. As King put it 44 years ago this spring, â€œWe 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.â€
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!