Should Occupy Wall Street Be “Largely Secular”?   Leave a comment

In the LA Times article Occupy Movement is Largely Secular,  Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life (a progressive multi-faith organization) says,  “Our tradition and our scriptures are so clear that we’re supposed to take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan…. I think that is a rallying cry for faith communities that will unite us even when we have disagreements over other social issues.” Mitchell Landsberg, the article’s author, reminds us that “So far, though, Occupy is a predominantly secular undertaking.”

John Green, a longtime scholar on religion and politics, therefore asks,  “Where are the mainline Protestants? Where are the Quakers?” Although individuals from those groups are participating in the Occupy protests, “…there’s been relatively little denominational involvement.” I think this is a good question, and I’m asking it about Evangelicals as well. “Where are they, and why aren’t they involved?”

And I don’t think it’s as complicated a concept, or unthinkable a suggestion as it might seem. Maybe it’s too much to expect denominations to formally approve of or partner with Occupy Wall Street – and probably neither side would benefit from that anyway. Even so, it would be simple enough for individual churches (pastors) to make it clear to their people that OWS is something very important, and that some of them might be “called” by God to participate. After all, not everyone wants to minister by handing out bulletins on Sunday, and not everyone is satisfied with ministering only within the safety of the church walls – and accepting the limitations associated with that in terms of impact on others. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, Occupy Wall Street gatherings provide believers of all stripes and persuasions opportunities to share their values; pray for hurting, confused people; stand up for those who are being neglected or abused, and give a cup of water in Jesus’ name (literally or figuratively). Participation creates opportunities to act out your faith, and put feet to your prayers. It’s a way to learn from others, and sharpen your skills in sharing your faith. And if you can’t physically go down to Occupy gatherings, it doesn’t matter. There are myriads of other ways to be involved, and those ways will benefit you and others in all the same ways. (And let’s just say that your church “sends” you, and that you go – and that for whatever reason, you eventually decide it’s not for you, or that it’s not a workable fit with your view and values. If that happens, I’d say you should close that chapter and find another way to do something important with your time and your life. I promise you though, you’ll be a better person for having tried it.)

So, what is my answer? “Should Occupy Wall Street be “largely secular?” I don’t know, maybe so, probably so. (I guess I haven’t really been discussing that!) But does that mean that it’s a movement that should occur without clergy presence and influence, that Christians should absent themselves from it, that Evangelical churches should take a stand against it, that  the Judeo-Christian Faith has nothing to say about the issues it’s forcing Americans to consider in newly powerful ways?  Well, no. That’s definitely not it.

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