(Page 2 of 2)
“As a partner, I think there have been particular things we’ve been able to add to the mix: various experiences of community; a practiced listening ear; connections to social service when needed; and, sometimes, the ability to help translate political demands into calls for moral clarity,” Denton said.
In a recent article in The Nation, political columnist William Greider sees parallels between the economic justice issues voiced by Occupy protesters and the ancient Hebrew society’s approach to debt crises. “Every seven years, the cycle of debt accumulation was erased by a declaration of general forgiveness. This was called the year of Jubilee, and Christianity embraced the same moral principle. Everyone was redeemed. The economy was freed to start over again.”
Notwithstanding the media’s preoccupation with the quelling of protesters by police wielding batons, pepper spray, and stun grenades in Oakland, Zucotti Park, and other urban encampments, Loeb points out that, before the Occupy movement was launched three months ago, the nation’s widening wealth disparity was seldom talked about. “Now the media coverage of the Occupy movement has validated that reality. One of the movement’s accomplishments has been to get that conversation restarted.”
In the opinion of several Puget Sound clergy, such as the Rev. Marian Stewart, pastor at Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, church participation and dialogue about the movement are still in its infancy. “The progressive, liberal churches have been supportive of the Occupy movement, but a lot of other churches are curious,” said the Kirkland minister. “The religious right has been absent from the conversation. But, these are everyone’s issues. These are deep questions. Who are we as a country?”
Stewart was one of many local clergy who joined Occupy protesters in the rally in Olympia at the start of the Legislature’s special session to debate Gov. Chris Gregoire’s 2012 supplemental budget. “Some Christians are woefully ignorant about these economic issues. It’s important that churches just show up. Churches have a larger, societal role of calling us to do better. The church has forgotten how to promote humanity and is focused on exclusivity. The Occupy movement is the ultimate human call to live up to our better selves.”
Woldt agrees. “I think that the churches have a responsibility to be engaged with changing oppressive systems. They need to be challenging elected officials and the Administration, as well as institutions that foster economic injustice. The Occupy movement is calling into question why more and more people are suffering, without jobs, hungry, and losing their homes. This is not the kind of society that I believe is healthy, nor is it the vision of God’s kingdom that is described in the gospels.”
Bishop Hagiya believes the church is well-positioned to engage the conversation about the nation’s economic turmoil. “The church is the one institution that has the ability to look outside of its own perspective and call into question all of the other institutions’ value systems. The prophets of our tradition, and also Jewish tradition, were radical scrutinizers of the society, who were called by God to call into question human greed and arrogance. It is this same prophetic tradition that the Occupy movement has engaged, and it is consistent with our history and call.”
Editor's note: Collin Tong is a member of the congregation at University Temple United Methodist Church
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!