by Daniel Hong
He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” — Matthew 13:31-32
I’m currently in the second semester of my freshman year in college, which means I was only a junior in high school when the Occupy movement arose in the fall of 2011. Like many of you reading this article, my life changed because of the events that occurred in Camp — the fury of the masses; the democratic process; the global solidarity. And it was by seeing this passion and unity that I broke off from being a mere spectator and began working at my local occupation — in the kitchen, ladle in hand, serving hot food at a Monday night to whoever was hungry. That single action led me to candlelight vigils, police negotiations, a houseless camp, a mayoral campaign, and countless new friendships.
One thing that made my experience unique was the role of faith. I was raised Christian (Korean Baptist), and I believed in the biblical promises of radical social and economic equality. Yet, I grew up in a country where the Word was twisted by the hands of men to mask their greed, status, and hate, as pharisaical fundamentalists dominated the national airwaves and made a mockery of God’s justice by claiming to be it.
Which is why I was all the more excited when Occupy came. For once, there was a movement that reflected God’s true aims of fairness and prosperity for all. It was by this truth that I was able to survive the violence, repression and sabotage our movement received from the ruling class, and the internal discord that ensued afterwards from burned-out, irreligious activists who had no remaining hope.
But there’s something even more recent God gave me that should raise hopes for the Christians of Occupy: his vision for the 1%.
Last November, I attended a three-day conference with my local campus ministry. The theme was “Seeds” — what it looks like to bear fruit for the Lord. One of the parables we studied was that of the mustard seed. Our speaker led a time of listening prayer, asking us to ask God what his “mustard seed” is for us.
Immediately, I saw myself in the financial district in New York. I was but one in a crowd of other believers, from countless churches, ministries, and backgrounds. We stood outside the steps of bank towers, corporate buildings, and the New York Stock Exchange. Right then and there, we began sharing the gospel to the 1% who owned them. We began inviting them to church services and Bible studies to know Jesus. We talked with them, ate with them, prayed with them, and comforted them in their pain. The more we approached them, the more we began seeing their humanity restored, and news of this sent shockwaves to the churches. Bit by bit, they felt remorse about their financial decisions and began to take notice of the consequences. Later, some even felt angry with the system and left Wall Street entirely, coming out in public to reveal the fullest extent of its corruption — fueled by the courage of those who believed in them.
Crazy, right? It took months of praying and seeking advice from my peers before I began searching, calling, and emailing churches in New York City that were involved in Occupy Wall Street to share this exciting vision. I still want to hear from my spiritual brothers and sisters for their response, and if you want to get in touch with me, contact me with the information at the bottom.
All activists face the temptation to be caught in a “us vs. them” mentality — a culture of hate, vengeance, and competition with the opposers. Not only is this spiritually unhealthy, but socially inadequate in finding the solutions that not only fix our problem but also prevent them from repeating. For me, it isn’t enough that there is tolerance (oppositions stop harming one another) or retribution (wrongdoers are punished by how the wronged see fit) in our society. Our society needs reconciliation — the rich and the poor; the ruler and the ruled; the creditor and the debtor. We need reconciliation that closes social distance, and forces opposites to work and acknowledge each other. We need a reconciliation that brings proximity and relationship to the most alienated in our society — both oppressed and oppressor — so they all may thrive.
Daniel Hong is a college student and Occupy activist in Portland, Oregon. In sharing his testimony, he wants to hear what others have to say regarding his vision for the 1%. If you are interested in contacting him, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (503) 442-3399.