Archives for the month of: December, 2011

In this appeal to Trinity Church in New York to offer an empty lot for use by Occupy Wall Street, Chris Hedges addresses the role of the church in the Occupy movement:

“Where is the church now? Where are the clergy? Why do so many church doors remain shut? Why do so many churches refuse to carry out the central mandate of the Christian Gospel and lift up the cross?

“Some day they are going to have to answer the question: ‘Where were you when they crucified my Lord?’ ”

Let’s answer this appeal as lay Catholics by being the church and going forth to occupy! –JB

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Below is a proposal that (awesome activist and emeritus theology prof) Tom Keene of San Antonio has been circulating.  I commented to him that it reminded me of the slogan, “See, Judge, Act,” and he explained that he first learned of the method on which this is based in 1950, as part of a Catholic Action group at a Catholic high school in Milwaukee, around the Worker Priest movement. This strikes me as a useful and interesting model for organizing. –JB

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OCCUPY WALL STREET FOLLOW-THROUGH GROUPS

 

We are on the move. Here is one way we all can follow through to make sure our movement continues. We can build small groups that sustain our energies and enable us to focus, strategize and multiply our actions. Here are four steps: See, Re-valuate, Act, Reflect.

 

One: See reality. We identify justice issues and concerns that need to be addressed here and now. We ask ourselves three questions about what we see: Who decides? Who benefits? Who pays?

 

Two: Re-valuate. We name the values we hold that are being violated by the injustices we see. These are the positive things we work for. What changes need to be made to see our values secured? What do we believe in that we are willing to live for, die for?

 

Three: Act. We do something that makes sense. We do something that gets people to think about the injustices they experience. We show people that we and they have the power to change things. We build for ourselves and others a new way of seeing reality and living it.

 

Four: Reflect. We consider what may have changed in ourselves and others by our action. How do our actions give us a taste of our power? How else can we help others to experience their power? In light of these changes we begin again to see, re-valuate, act and reflect.

 

More considerations

 

Form a small group that meets regularly; weekly, or every two or four weeks. Let discussions be free enough to encourage spontaneity and creativity yet holding to the four steps to maintain focus and relevance. Small groups spread initiative and leadership widely within our movement.

 

Share the group’s ideas, plans and actions with the social network, with other groups and activists in the movement. Ask them to share with your group. Work for solidarity in the movement.

 

As members grow in experience and confidence we give some attention to the “spirit” in which we relate. A basketball team that has team spirit has something real that a demoralized team does not have. Sometimes this group spirit is positive, sometimes negative, constructive or destructive, usually a mix. We will want to find the right names for these forces as they become evident. Naming a force gives us some leverage in fixing or enhancing it.

 

Determine not just what we are against, but what we are for. We denounce what is unjust and promote what is just.

 

Each Follow-through group constitutes a leadership resource for our movement. Networks of these small, autonomous groups with their simultaneous, spontaneous and creative actions would be impervious to cooptation, infiltration, and distraction by corporations, as is the case with the Tea Party movement.

 

We are engaged in a revolution of consciousness. Together we can build a mosaic of alternative ways to structure a just society. What our movement wants is not blueprints but imagination and creativity. Given time to grow and daring to do, our revolution will realize our hope of becoming a people of liberty and justice for all.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. (Matthew 10:27)

Loving God of Justice and Mercy,

Please strengthen and fill with hope all of those suffering from the violence of homelessness, foreclosures, and evictions.

May we understand that we are all one so that, regardless of our current housing situation, we will stand in solidarity with all of those suffering from the violence of homelessness, foreclosures, and evictions.

May we recognize that housing is a human right and that we are called to a life of love and hospitality. Help us to remember that the Holy Family wandered through Bethlehem searching for a place to stay “because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Let us take to heart in our daily lives your sacred word, and let us “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Grant us the strength, compassion, and conviction to fully realize our loving obligation to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) so that we may, against injustice, stand up with and for one another as God has commanded.

Wake us up. Open our eyes. Occupy our hearts and our homes so that we may proclaim your love, justice, and mercy from the housetops.

Rev. Donna Schaper in Religion Dispatches:

Last week I argued in these pages that the Occupy movement might be diverted by its focus on getting physical outdoor space. I felt that the movement had gone viral—we were everywhere, and didn’t need a particular space any more. I was wrong.

We do need physical outdoor space. Trinity Church in Manhattan, sometimes meanly—and unfairly—referred to as a real estate corporation with an altar, could even give it. They own an empty downtown space at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street that is gated (providing security for occupiers) and accessible to public transportation so that allies, visitors, and media can join them. I really thought this demand was a sideshow until Thursday. Then I changed my mind.

That morning a dozen occupiers addressed forty or so clergy. We clergy were all somewhat skeptical of the demand for public space. You could hear the ministerial, rabbinical hrumph,hrumph in the room. (Most of us had never occupied Zucotti Park and a downward trend in temperature wasn’t going to improve on that.)  But the occupiers edged toward the theological as they articulated a need for communal, inspirational face-to-face contact in which they could “appear” to one another.

Susannah Black, writing in The Distributist Review:

Later on, she wrote to me about some of what that “taking care of each other” had looked like. “It’s true that there were people with problems at Zuccotti, but that always made sense to me, that those most adversely affected by this system would come there, since it is this system, and what it does to vulnerable people, that we are criticizing. Of course we all need to take care of ourselves, but we also took care of them. This includes drug users, mentally ill people, etc. We had social workers and mental health professionals on site that were down with the cause and helping those people.”

It’s not that she doesn’t know about the other serious problems that had cropped up in Zuccotti, either: the thefts, the rapes, the divisions between occupiers who brought their own sets of advantages and troubles to the park, the interpersonal conflicts. She knows these problems far better than anyone who has been following the news coming out of the park. All of the problems are true. But they’re not the only truth. What she saw was her place destroyed. “People were traumatized,” she said. “People were sick, they were hurt—it was like a tsunami hit. It was like a village after a natural disaster.

“I don’t want people to think that it was just that the NYPD came and cleaned up a mess. The NYPD came and messed with some of the best and brightest. From now on, I hope that when OWS asks, the rest of the world answers. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Maybe it’s not perfect, maybe it’ll take a while to grow into itself, but this is it. This is not a left-wing tea party—It’s not just, ‘I want my piece of the pie back.’ People are waking up, and they’re waking up in solidarity with the rest of the world.”

At Messy Jesus Business, Julia Walsh offers some Occupy-themed Advent reflections:

Although we are together, we are different. Others are confused about what we’re doing here and there. Some are even angry because they don’t understand.  Still, we remain confident that we’re in the right place.  They tease us and ask us silly questions.  We declare we have an appointment and our time is soon.

We insist on sticking around.  Really, we are so desperate to feel better that we are willing to keep waiting at all costs. We are willing: we’ll give up our jobs, we’ll fast, we’ll protest, we’ll go to jail if we must.  As we wait we study the Bible and remember recent history. We pray ancient psalms and poetry.  We are not leaving.

We keep believing that soon we’ll have our time.  We have hope that the consciousness is coming. Hope is our mantra and our message. We know there’s a Way.

We’re waiting in a room full of hope. We believe and trust in God.  We’re excited and we’re happy.  We wait in Love.

Walsh concludes with the Occupy Wall Street video “The Revolution Is Love”:

Ernesto Cortest, in an interview on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:

DANIEL: Can you put your finger on what it is that draws you in your work to churches?

CORTES: I grew up as a Catholic. For me, it’s just that the tradition and the faith have meaning and significance. The words have always been very powerful. They’ve helped me understand what makes sense to me — the words, the liturgy, the Scripture, the stories, the ideas, the people who are part of it. I’ve had moments of doubt — long moments of doubt. But it’s a combination of Pascal’s wager and the fact that the people who are in [churches] help me understand what I think is important.

DANIEL: How do you see the connection between what happens on Sunday at Mass or a worship service and what happens in our civic culture the rest of the week?

CORTES: Ideally, the Mass or any worship service is a celebration of the work of the people — that’s what the concept of worship is all about. It’s a way of coming together and celebrating our relationship with God, and recognizing that our God is a God of power — and love, which means that presumably there’s some responsibility, some challenge, and vision we take away from it that enables us to go out and do the work of the church, which is not just “church work.” The work of the church is to bring about the vision and values of the kingdom — justice, peace, concern for those who are strangers, those who are vulnerable, and to create the kind of community that enables that to happen. In the Hebrew tradition, it’s the notion of justice at the gates of the city. In Christianity, it’s Matthew 25: “I was a stranger, and you took me in.” That means to make people a living part of the decision-making of the community. How do you do that? How do you create that kind of vibrant understanding of our responsibility to one another and to ourselves? How do we understand that we don’t become human without being connected? That’s the challenge of Sunday morning.

On his National Catholic Reporter blog, Joshua J. McElwee discusses Occupy, Catholics! and our St. Nicholas novena. St. Nicholas was both generous and flawed. We ask St. Nicholas’ intercession as we seek justice for the poor and the path of nonviolence. 

Could St. Nicholas be the patron saint of the Occupy movement?  Who else might be a good patron saint for Occupy?

Rev. Patrick O’Connor and Mike Gecan in the New York Daily News:

Only sustained pressure and real power will generate lasting change. That’s why another, largely unnoticed development in a governmental office down the street from Zuccotti Park, holds such promise. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has refused to go along with a tepid settlement offer being pushed by the White House and its hand-picked attorneys general, which would let the banks that destroyed so many families and communities off the hook for a mere $20 billion. Our proposal is to add a “0” and make it $200 billion, which would approximate the tobacco settlement of several years ago and finally make it possible for many Americans to recover from the foreclosure threat.

When that happens, we might finally start to get a handle on this economic crisis. We might finally dig out of this hole we’re in.

We believe that only the movement of money will finally convince the banks to act more responsibly. Last year, Massachusetts withdrew more than $240 million last year from Bank of America because of dissatisfaction with BofA’s practices. When billions start leaving, when the cops and food vendors and office workers, the unions and religious groups move their money, banks will suddenly rediscover traditional values and accountable ways of operating that served them – and the rest of us – well.

The financial community may be able withstand the charge of any movement, even this one. All it has to do is play for time, so that cold weather, missteps, fickleness and new crises can take their tolls.

But it can’t withstand the pressure that institutions with staying power – attorneys general focused on a real solutions, citizen organizations deeply rooted in their cities and counties and states, unions that stop enabling the banks with their own pension funds and credit card deals – can bring to bear.

May peace be with us all.
May all of us be awake.
May we veiw the events
of the Occupy movement
through a lens of love.
May we grow in compassion
as our breaking hearts
witness and keep vigil
as we await the coming of Christ.