Tom's Turn: The Occupy Movement
With so much recent history of boorishness, pettiness, childishness, lying, shouting down of opponents, demonization and threats passing for civic discourse, a recent article by Jim Wallis is refreshing.
The leader of the evangelical Sojourners community wrote an open letter to the Occupy Wall Street (and other places) folks this week. Without taking sides on that particular debate, I would like to suggest that Wallis’s advice can inform the church about some things it always needs to remember as it moves forward. He doesn’t bullet-point his message, but I will bullet-point mine.
- He speaks to them of awakening a sleeping giant, a deeply held spirit at the core of the nation. That’s the church’s role too. Isn’t it? To awaken within our people a right spirit we know is already there? Wallis writes of giving voice and space to the unspoken feelings of countless others about things gone terribly wrong. You and I are so charged by Christ, to speak to that something deep inside each one, exorcising sin, making way for repentance, leading newness.
- Wallis refers to Occupy as having sparked flame from the dormant embers of hope in lots of human hearts. What a beautiful image for our work, too, sparking flame from dormant embers of hope!
- He notes that no one seems to be intent on starting a “movement” but simply speaking out that the world is becoming a world not good for the children we have or hope to have. Ditto for the church in its prophetic role. We are not about causes but people.
- Wallis encourages Occupiers to “listen and learn from those whose feelings are being triggered” by their actions. He encouraged them to be “more reflective than certain’ and not to demonize opponents. Seems Wallis has been reading Jesus lately, about loving enemies and approaching each other always in love. That has a lot to say to us about our internal conversation as well as our conversations with the world at large, more reflective than certain, never demonizing.
- He encouraged them to keep asking the “noble questions,” about what a just economy should look like and whom it should be for. You and I have noble questions we keep asking the world, too. Ours include Wallis’s and also how we can best care for the most vulnerable and those with the weakest voices.
- Wallis says “avoid Utopian dreaming about things that will never happen.” Look instead to how we can right now do things more faithfully, in a more Christ-like manner.
- He asks them not to give up – on each other OR the inherent goodness that also resides in those viewed as opponents. How many times do we in church give up on God’s working on “those other guys”?
- Wallis says “cultivate humility more than over-confidence and self indulgence. For this really is not about you.” That, my friends, is for us too. This church thing isn’t about us, or our buildings, or our institutions. Approach with humility.
- Finally, he encourages them to understand that change requires spiritual as well as political resources and “any new economy will be accompanied by a new (or very old) spirituality.” ……………. Enough said?