There’s a good bit more than I noted in my first post.
Consider, for example, these posts by Tom Beaudoin, who teaches theology at Fordham University (home to some of the Jesuit mentors of my youth). Here he speculates about the religious (or more properly, perhaps, “spiritual”) dimension of the protest:
Critics will no doubt condemn this protest as unfocused, thematically and strategically. But what has been so interesting over the past couple of weeks is the way that Occupy Wall Street is making itself such a symbolic movement of dissatisfaction with what theologian Harvey Cox has called “the market as God.” …I like it that there seems to be fairly wide latitude for people to find their way into the economic focus from many different political (and I would presume religious) commitments. (No doubt some are serving as chaplains or spiritual advisors, formally or informally, for this movement, and if so, I would be interested to hear from you.)…
Whether or not this action is immediately politically effective, such protests can have long-term spiritual and political effects, when they embody visions of a possible future that influence the larger social imagination, and when they sculpt the desires of the protestors themselves for the better. In these ways, resistance can become symbolic action, protests become like religious ritual — and in those ways, even more important.
Tellingly, perhaps, no one has responded by identifying himself or herself as a chaplain or spiritual advisor. But then there’s this post, which contains pictorial evidence of those who are bringing religion into this public square. Here’s his own gloss, surely true as far as it goes:
The movement is reaching a moment when a number of different organizations and individuals find, for their own reasons, that they share an overlapping set of urgent and fundamental concerns with others:
The market is not God! The economy is meant to serve the flourishing of human beings and all life!
I don’t disagree with the last statement, though there are a few “details” that need to be fleshed out. What, for example, do we mean by human flourishing? And, by the way, Aristotle–for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with religion–would also agree that moneymaking exists for the sake of the household, which has as its purpose the cultivation of virtue.
I have no doubt that a hypertrophied and apotheosized market is in some decisive ways unnatural and anti-natural, but I’m not sure that the Occupy Whatever movement is any less problematical in that connection. (Consider, for example, the parodic conception of “democracy” on display in the video linked here.)
But I digress (sort of). Let me return to a point he made in his first post:
[S]uch protests can have long-term spiritual and political effects, when they embody visions of a possible future that influence the larger social imagination, and when they sculpt the desires of the protestors themselves for the better. In these ways, resistance can become symbolic action, protests become like religious ritual — and in those ways, even more important.
For him, protests can ”become like religious ritual” because they “embody visions of a possible future that influence the larger social imagination” and can “sculpt the desires of the protestors…for the better.” When I worship (not as a Roman Catholic, but ”decently and in good order,” as a liturgically-minded Presbyterian), I’m certainly drawn away from my immediate worldly concerns and reminded of the dangers of idolatry. (Indeed, our pastor yesterday concluded a series on Habbakuk with precisely such a reminder and warning.) Crucial for our (I’m speaking of my particular congregation here) critique of idolatry is our faith in the one true God. From where I sit, however, it looks to me like the folks in the Occupy Whatever movement are replacing one idol with another.
Which ought to make those gatherings a fertile mission field, so to speak.
This was the first time that I realized that being a follower of Jesus in this present time meant being an activist. When huge banks and corporations seek to devour the soul of America, highjack our political and economic systems and reduce democracy to a historical artifact, Christians must not lock themselves in their churches. We must follow Jesus out of our churches and into the streets to stand in solidarity with all who fight for justice, fairness and equality. Our faith never tells us to run and hide from evil, but to confront it head on with the knowledge that evil shall not prevail.
And this one:
[A]t its heart, the Occupy movement is about creating a democratic society in which everyone matters, there is dignity in working together across differences, and there is enough for everyone. Is this vision tantamount to socialism? No. Once upon a time, we called this “American.”
It also sounds pretty Christian to me. What the early Apostles called “The Way” was a vision for peaceful living that built on Christ’s teaching, life, death and resurrection. The Way repudiates the pursuit of individual wealth in favor of building communities that care for the marginalized, the desperate and the powerless. Jesus demonstrated this by healing lepers and dining with prostitutes and tax collectors….
The consistent message emerging from the protests against the concentration of wealth in the hands of 1% of Americans is this: We are the 99%, and we intend to chase the corrupt moneylenders out of a democracy created for the people. It’s a vision of inclusivity and participatory government that confuses pundits and politicians alike, because this movement is more about being for a way of living than it is against anybody or any group. It’s the thing Christianity talks about but often has a hard time doing. It’s a new politics fighting to restore the vision of equality laid out in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the checks and balances so brilliantly constructed in our Constitution….
For Christians, the Occupy movement amounts to an invitation from people outside of the church to join them in prophetic witness to the failure of a hyperindividualistic consumerist society. Will Christians find the humility to accept the welcome and join? Or will we fail to recognize The Way in what’s happening in this movement simply because it doesn’t speak Christianese? Could it be that open-hearted participation in this growing experiment in abundant life is exactly what the church needs to recover its own sense of vitality and mission? As Jesus said, “Come and see.”
As the Protest Chaplains say, there is room for a conversation. What I’d love to see, however, is a serious exchange about the worldliness of those who embrace the kind of community described (idealized?) here.