God, OccupiedSocial Justice — By Pam Hogeweide on October 28, 2011 at 7:00 am
The Occupy Movement has gotten the attention of many as this movement continues to spread to cities around the world. What started as a single site protest in New York City, known as Occupy Wall Street, has become a worldwide phenomenon in a span of weeks. Just a week ago I was looking at a photo spread from The Atlantic of Occupy protestors from Stockholm to Tokyo and Hong Kong and London. It has become a global movement.
Where is God in this movement? Is he to be found there and if so, how and why? Should Christ followers be paying attention or throwing our support to this movement? Should we join it?
I’ve attended a couple of marches here in Portland. The fervor and energy of the thousands I marched alongside was peaceful yet fervent. “Show me what democracy looks like!” I chanted in unison with the throngs. “This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd shouted back in sing-song fashion of the call-and-response declaration. People were in the streets calling for justice and the restoration of economic equity in our financial, governmental, health care and education systems. There is, from my estimation, a prophetic sound emerging from this movement.
Like many Christians, I have prayed and fasted for revival to come to America. I have cried out to God more times than I can count for a spirit of repentance to visit our land. I never imagined it would look this way. The revival of my prayers I imagined was behind the four walls of steepled buildings, packed pews of the contrite with heads hung low, weeping guilt-driven prayers for sins to be washed away. I did not envision grandmothers, baristas, hippies and hipsters taking to the city streets to decry the sins of the nation.
When I marched across the Broadway Bridge spanning over Portland’s Willamette River, I paused from shouting to lean in and listen. I prayed new prayers with my feet; I listened for God’s voice not just from the heavens but from my neighbor, from the war veteran marching behind me and the young mother with her children beside me.
“What do we want?” they shouted. “Justice!”
I remembered the words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” Righteousness is one of those Bible words that also means justice. I reflected on this as my right foot prayed forward and my left foot as well, my northwest rugged bootwear keeping step with the sneakers, loafers and Doc Martens stomping around me.
Signs and banners hailed the sins and grievances of the nation. “They got bailed out, we got sold out,” read one sign in reference to the banks rescued in the 2008 meltdown. “It’s easier to buy a gun than my education,” read another carried by a scruffy looking twenty-something. One disturbing sign read, “My CEO makes more in three hours than I do in one year.”
Economic injustice and disparity is the prevailing theme of this movement. It’s not anti-government, nor anti-wealth. It is decidedly anti-greed and anti-injustice. Occupiers across America and beyond are calling for a time out from business as usual. This is the job description of prophets, those Old Testament figures that admonished the people to forsake their sins and return to a path of righteousness. The role of the prophet is to recalibrate a people, to set the captives free from lies and indulgence that have overrun the image of God each person bears.
Jesus said of himself, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…. Is not this the same Spirit at work among the Occupy Movement? The cry for justice from town squares on Main Street to Times Square on Wall Street is a collective wail for the oppressed and from the oppressed.
Everyday citizens, such as librarians and baristas, bus drivers and factory workers, waitresses and teachers, are collecting together to occupy public spaces in solidarity against corruption and greed. And it’s inspiring change (which is a modern way of saying repentance).
Last night a business owner in Portland told me he that he was planning to close his bank account and put his money in a local credit union. This is an act of repentance, not for his sin, but for the sins of the moneylenders and financial institutions that have become corrupt with greed.
Could this be the ghost of Jesus going after the moneychangers again?
The Occupy movement is not without its problems. The occupy site in Portland has had issues of drugs and drunkenness as some revel in the occupation like it’s a frat party. Guidance is needed each step of the way to keep the movement on point. That guidance is manifesting in different ways such as the emergence of protest chaplains in different cities. Interfaith groups are springing up with clergy uniting to provide sacred space and spiritual nurturance for those who seek it. My friends Donna Van Horn and Angie Fadel, pastors at The Bridge here in Portland, were headed downtown today to help in that effort.
“Mostly we’re there to listen,” says Angie.
“I don’t agree with everything, but I do agree about justice and peace which is what most people are down there for,” says Donna. Today the pair headed downtown to help lead a chapel service at the occupy site.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Occupy Movement will burn brighter or smolder to cold ash. Whatever may happen, I like to think that this worldwide trend is indicative of a Spirit-inspired shifting of consciousness.
I like how Reverend Bill Haley put it in a recent Washington Post essay,
If we can hear the echo of God’s heart for those on the margins through the voices of the Occupy movement, it will be a mighty movement indeed.
Indeed a mighty movement, a move of justice on the human heart, any heart, is a revolution.
Show me what revival looks like. This just might be what revival looks like as occupiers pray with shouts and marches through the cities of the entire earth.
Curious to know more: Here are some resources:
- A photo gallery of SIGNS
- My photo gallery from Occupy Portland