Category Archives: Occupy

OCCUPY WALL STREET: What Occupy can learn from the mistakes of the Church

by Rich Lang

I’m a clergy, baptized with pepper spray after a Seattle police assault while trying to keep the peace in the midst of an ugly confrontation.  Back in the day before the State crushed the Occupy encampments, I’d venture into them, amazed at how the occupiers looked out for each other.  No one was left out: the mentally ill, the homeless, the drug addicted, the alcoholic, the young and the old were all folded into the community. Granted, much of this benevolence was funded through the generosity of countless of comfortably-housed sympathizers that wanted to support the movement. But it was, in my opinion, as close as I’ve ever seen to the utopianism of the early Christian church, when believers held all things in common.

That’s how the original Jesus Movement started, back before the Roman state got involved and launched Christianity 2.0.  After that, it quickly evolved into institutional forms that couldn’t retain its revolutionary fervor. Today, I see the Occupy Movement struggling through a similar phase. Here in Seattle, we wrestle over the ethical issue of tactics. Do we remain committed to nonviolence, or experiment with a diversity of resistant forms?  Do we expend energy on a million causes; or focus on one core issue — for example, the dismantling of Citizens United?  Do we retain the self-governance of the early anarchic energy of the camps, hoping that a spark will flare up into transformative change?  Or do we negotiate alliances for the institutional reform of the system, choosing to compromise for small victories on the road to long-term change?

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