The Christians of Occupy Wall Street

Some Christians are making their voices heard in the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, and the New York Times spoke with some of them:

At Occupy Wall Street and the allied events, there are police officers in the symbolic 99 percent, wearing uniforms. There are self-proclaimed mothers in the 99 percent. There are Marines. There are Muslims and Jews, yoginis and puppeteers. Sometimes they proclaim their tribes on signs in protest-movement Magic Marker; other times their meaningful headgear speaks loud enough: firefighter’s hat, bus driver’s cap, yarmulke.

There are Christians, too, eager to be seen as Christians. They face a special challenge. They want to make the church visible, so they wear clerical collars or other religious garb, like the albs, or white robes, that lay Christians may also wear.

But they know that many, especially on the political left, are wary of Christians, suspicious that these men and women in strange garments are seeking converts. When liberal activists hear “Christian,” they often think “conservative.” Many would thrill to see an imam marching next to them but shudder at a priest.

So committed Christians have different answers to the question, “How Christian should we seem?” Marisa Egerstrom, an Episcopalian who studies religion at Harvard, recognized Occupy Wall Street as a sign of the times, “a continuation of the Arab Spring.” On Sept. 17, she brought a group of 10 Boston-area Christians, including Roman Catholics and Lutherans, to Zuccotti Park in New York.

“We wore white albs,” Ms. Egerstrom said, referring to the long clerical cassocks. “We knew that there would be millions and millions of Christians who see that at their churches every Sunday on the acolytes.” They chanted devotionals from Taizé, the ecumenical Christian community in France, and they sang “Ubi Caritas,” the Gregorian hymn whose lyrics mean, in English, “Wherever there is charity and love, there is God.”

“Whenever we started singing, people just stopped and watched,” Ms. Egerstrom said. “There would be this melting. They would understand this wasn’t just confrontation. The music and harmonies are an expression of hope in the midst of chaos.”

Protest Chaplains, the national network that Ms. Egerstrom started after her visit to New York, has attracted members from many religions, but her original group wanted to communicate the Christian aspect of their witness. “We wanted to connect with the idea that we have obligations under Christian baptism,” she said.

Read more.

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  • Fiergenholt

    To “carl” and “greta” (and whoever else that understands how staunchly Republican the Cincinnati area has been for well over a century)

    Click over to that “Ohio Occupy” post above. It is absolutely fascinating!

  • David

    I’m so glad you’re on board Deacon Greg with the Occupy wall street movement, do you plan on attending at all?

  • John Milner

    This movement is a mob which ostracizes as evil the so called 1%.
    But who is the 1%? The rich? (Dare I ask if the very wealthy Obama family is among the 1%?) Corporation presidents? Bankers? If so, it sounds like class warfare.

    And what is the goal of illegally pitching camp on private property in NYC?
    What was the point of the Occupy DC attack on the Convention Center last week? (Which can be found on youtube.)
    These mobs have strength in numbers and upright citizens should fear that some charismatic monsters might try to lead them to greater illegal activities and destruction.

    Any mob is dangerous and an affront to human dignity.
    No Christian should be part of Occupy Mobs.
    And clergy should be warning their flock to stay away.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    As was pointed out in the story the “Arab spring” is looked on as a positive. We will see. But so far it has been a bloody disaster for Middle Eastern Christians like Copts, Chaldeans, etc. and the liberals in America who are ga ga over the “Spring” seem to be the most callous about what is happening to Middle Eastern Christianity.

  • HMS

    Can’t anwwer for the Deacon, obviously. But next week-end I will be visiting my son in New York. I intend to go to Zuccotti Park to see for myself what is going on.

  • HMS

    Correction:
    Can’t answer for the Deacon, obviously. But next week-end I will be visiting my son in New York. I intend to go to Zuccotti Park to see for myself what is going on.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Also, why is Wall Street and the banks taking the brunt of college students’ anger over the huge loans they must repay that paid for their education.
    How about the rip-off higher education has become that makes students need huge loans to survive in college. It used to be you could work your way through any college with a part-time job. Now it is virtually impossible to work your way through most colleges. “WHY?” Well, try professors exhorbitant salaries. It came out that the Dem candidate for Senator in Mass.–a college prof–makes almost a half million dollars a year salary. But is now on PAID leave to run for the senate. And walk around some college campuses and you will see America’s versions of the taj mahal built everywhere.
    And now the president gets cheered for cutting what students must pay back on the loans and the media and the liberal establishment want all loans owed scratched. So who pays for that. A lot will be robbed from the pockets of workers who never went to college. Talk about a rip-off of workers.
    It’s weird. These occupiers promote class warfare (which Christians are supposed to be against) But then they become the oppressing class with their foot on the wallets and financial necks of non-college grads.
    And look at the farce their hero Michael Moore lives as a kingpin of the 1%. He says his support of the occupiers makes him a good guy. Sorry Michael. In the Middle Ages–sometimes more sensible than us moderns– you would have been laughed at and ridiculed–UNLESS you had given all you owned to the poor and became poor yourself. But living in a multi-million dollar extravagant mansion???? –then preaching to the rest of us about how greedy we are is just so much horse manure.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    I never said I was “on board” with this. It’s not really my thing. And even if it was: when on earth would I find the time?

  • Andy

    Deacon John – With all due respect the vast majority of college professors do not make half million dollars per year. In fact the average salary varies with rank and number of years at eh institution. The Taj Mahals you refer to are what parents of students expect to see – not really what college professor would want. The real culprit in the rise in college tuition is the outrageous salaries of administrators – the typical small college president makes 400-500 thousand dollars a year, plus housing and travel expenses. It is also based on the rising costs of heating, technology, insurance – the list is pretty extensive. Maybe what I hear in your anger is a personal animosity towards another human being or set of human beings. Hardly the tenor one would expect of a Deacon.

    If you want to se one person as the example then we can look at Cardinal Law and say the Catholic Church is corrupt or if I used you I could say that all deacons are not pastoral, but are rather overly angry..

  • Fiergenholt

    Deacon John:

    The bottom line is that most of those folks you mention in that situation are into “status” and not education. High school seniors from all over the country are told by their college counselors or parents that they cannot succeed in anything in our culture without degrees from an “Ivy” college. That is a fundamentally arrogant falsehood.

    You do not have to spend anything near the amount you suggest. In the Midwest, a high school student can go to a highly respected public “Tier One Research Institution” for less than $9,000 per term for out-of-state students. If you are willing to start at the public community college level, cut that figure to less than half — $4,000 per term for out-of-state students.

    Please do all of us a favor and get your facts straight first — before asserting anything important

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Andy–not angry, but disgusted at the higher education system in our country and how it has come to be one of America’s biggest financial exploiters of parents and students while, at the same time stirring up students and former students to blame every other group and entity for their financial problems.
    And that regally paid prof I mentioned was quoted in the local newspapers as bragging about how those students occupying places in Boston had been inspired by her.
    However, I do agree with you that it is the burgeoning middle level bureaucracies in educational institutions that are a big part of the problem. When I started teaching history in a city voke-tech high school with about 800 students almost 40 years ago the staff was teachers, a principal, a vice-principal, a nurse, and a guidance counsellor. We did the job efficiently and well. By the time I retired we had deans of this and deans of that and dept. heads for this and dept. heads for that. And loads of job categories impossible to keep track of. None of which improved the education the kids were getting.
    But about the edifice megalomania that afflicts some institutions of higher learning that we apparently both agree is a big problem. You say it is the parent’s fault. I don’t think most parents are seduced by a school’s brickwork. And they aren’t the ones who decided to build them.
    And I don’t think any of my words were anywhere near as harsh or angry as what I see on the news being used by occupiers who are treated as almost heros in too much of the media.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Fiergenholt–I did not put down specific dollar amounts because it is so variable. But the fact is–and I stand by it–higher education costs are a big reason for graduates who must spend much of their early working life under a dark financial cloud.
    And according to news reports the money owed by graduates is now around one trillion dollars. And virtually every financial news show I have watched says that the next big financial “bubble” disaster is going to be the student loan situation.But it will be the taxpayers (many of whom never went to college) and graduates who will be its financial victims who will have to pay the piper–not the educational institutions who will dance away scot-free.

  • Carl

    Fiergenholt,

    By the way, the Ohio OCCUPY crowd has left the already troubled city of Cincinnati budget at least $128,000 poorer due to overtime for police to cover this mess. This will of course result in more police and fire layoffs in the City and that will only get worse as this continues. So the next time someone is left with a message that there will be a delay from a 911 call, thank occupy cincinnati.

    As to going to the link mentioned, the post itself is a garbled mess that seems should have received some edit.

    [Comment edited to remove irrelevant material. -- Ed]

  • Fiergenholt

    Deacon John

    No: you did not put down specific dollar amounts but my point still stands. There is a large amount of folks — parents and students — who do not care about “education” as much as they care about “status.” “Status” seems to be an issue of folks along the Atlantic Coast more so than the rest of the country. Is a baccalaureate degree from Harvard or Oberlin worth three times as much as a baccalaureate degree from Kenyon or Creighton or six times as much as a degree from Wright State University or University of Nebraska at Kearney ?

    The problem is not education but supply and demand and supply and demand is as much a problem of “greed” than anything else.

  • Carl

    What is going on there seems obvious. there is growing problem with disease, huge amounts of money and time being spent by the police on this mess rather than police work, deaths, rapes, assults, etc.

    For anyone comparing this in any way with the Tea Party rallies, please refrain from further use of whatever drugs you are taking. I remember the photo’s of a guy carrying a gun at a Tea Party rally who had a permit and the press went nuts. Now we see a complete breakdown of law and order and some think this will end in a good way. Still do not have a clue what the Occupy crowd really want to see..Do they want the Wall Street Crowd which gave millions of dollars to the Democratic Party and Obama to stop doing donating and as a result getting billions back from Obama? Confused on this point.

  • Carl

    You are 99% right on your post John. So it is not hard to understand why the Democratic Party has adopted this group as part of their organization. I suspect 1% of the party would not do so just in case it goes even worse than it has already.

    As to Christians joining this group, that is no surprise at all. After all, some endorsed Obama.

  • HMS

    Yes, Carl, that is what I have read and heard from some sources and that is why I am going to see for myself.

  • Carl

    You are correct in one aspect Andy that the salaries of many in the colleges have had an impact, but you are wrong on the huge increase in salaries of professors as well as the huge increase in the number of professors. Many of these professors teach courses that did not exist not to long ago when the university was much more in sync with graduating kids that were prepared to get jobs. If we eliminated about half the course that have zero beneift to getting jobs, it would lower costs and better prepare the kids for work. The Anchoress had an excellent post on this on her blog.

    Also the huge influx of government funds and government loans has allowed the universities to live in a very unreal and unsustainable world. They have done the same to the cost of healthcare and to the defense industry. Anywhere you find massive amounts of government funding, you will find industries out of control with costs. Look at what wonders the giant influx of cash did to the green industry. I note that it is now estimated that because of the new discoveries and new technologies, the US could be self sustaining in oil and gas within 10 years with almost no serious funding from the government and massive restrictions placed in their way. If this happens, the green industry is dead as gas will drop to about $1.50 a gallon and utility rates will drop.

  • Carl

    Fiergenholt, ask someone applying for a job if a degree from Harvard gives them a better shot than one from Oberlin. The higher the paying the job, the more they give favorable status to the better known insitutions. After all, the employer likes to point out their new hire comes from Harvard and never mentions it if they come from Oberlin. Whether it is worth the multiple is another discussion.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    So I guess it proves that Christians can be as simple minded on economics as hippy free loaders. I still don’t know what the “99%” want to do with the “1%”. Lynch them? I will say this again. People have a right to protest. They don’t have a right to occupy. It’s time for an adult mayor to step forward and end this nonsense.

  • naturgesetz

    Carl —

    I look back to an earlier paradigm of college education, before it became vocational school. College was supposed to give a liberal education — an education suitable for a free man, an education which would be fitting for one’s time “off the clock,” learning for its own sake. Unfortunately, what happened was that people noticed that college graduates got the better jobs and made more money. They didn’t realize that it was because of the “old boy network.” they thought it was because college prepared students for the high=paying jobs. So myriads upon myriads of people started going to college, not to be fitted for the life of the mind, but to be trained for a high-paying job. And then they started complaining that the curriculum wasn’t relevant: who needs to know Greek, philosophy, and literature in order to be a banker or a lawyer. “Give us business school, give us computer science!”

    Time in college spent directly on job preparation is wasted time.

    This is not to say that special interest courses, which enable people to avoid anything truly intellectual, are an improvement on job training. They are wasted time, as well.

    If someone doesn’t want to spend four years studying various facets of the fundamentals of Western Civilization which underly contemporary culture, he should just enter the workforce from high school, or go to a vocational school.

  • moritmerzilch

    Martin Luther King, Jr. should be titled properly: REV.DR. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    nowadays the media HIDES the Christian component of the Black Civil Rights movement. nowadays the FEDS will prosecute organizing civil disobedience inside Churches, maybe EVEN IF it is Black Baptist Churches like MLK, Jr. used, like REVEREND DOCTOR Martin Luther King, Jr. used….

  • Andy

    Deacon John
    As a college professor it is the parents who ask us about the various amenities that the college offers – they may be doing it for the children, but they are the ones asking. I do remember when I was an undergrad and having a TV in my dorm room was beyond my dreams (computers as we know them today did not exist, my computer courses were in Fortran IV, now I am dated). When I first began working for my PhD it was not to make a huge salary, it was for love of my content (special education and literacy). Today at larger institutions many faculty are paid not for their teaching, but for how much money they bring in by obtaining grants. These faculty members who make lots of money for the institution are paid overly large salaries, I agree, as are faculty in certain areas – engineering, business and medicine. THe rest of us live in genteel poverty by comparison.
    The real killer though is the incredible increase in middle management. At the college where I teach we have a president, A chief operating officer, a VPAA, a VP for business, a VP for STudent Affairs, a VP for Admissions – each of these has an assistant or two, and we have only about 2,000 students. The salaries range from a bit over 500,000 for the president to 120,000 for the assistant VP for admissions. The college pays almost exactly the same amount for all administrative positions as it does for faculty. It is the disparity that we see here that is also seen across the country and that may be why I categorized your comments as angry.

  • Carl

    naturgesetz

    Do not disagree on the issue about the “liberal arts” concept in place for university training. I wonder if you should be making this argument to the crowds at Occupy to let them know that what they are whining about in huge loans and no jobs was never the major intent of the university training or maybe make that argument to the parents who helped or in some case footed the entire bill.

    It was also at back in that time rare for a woman to be in the university setting and if they were, they were expected to take liberal liberal arts type courses to prepare them for marriage. Minorities were even more rare. Much has changed in our society now where both husband and wife in many cases both out in the workplace.

    However, you did not address the huge influx of cash from the government into this environment. That changed much of what was happening in universities. Also, when the government and courts started to get involved with the hiring process in business, you can immediately see a change to a requirement for a degree to get a job by most of the companies. The desire to bring equality to outcome to those in business may have been the right thing to wish for, but it had as often happens, a negative result in many ways. By making it a college degree requirement, the same people were again eliminated, but the left, pro university degree, did not attack this method of discrimination. There was a push to get more people into universities with things like affirmative action, but there was no real program put in place to change the dynamic of lower level education leaving the poor urban student ill prepared to succeed even if programs like affirmative action got them in the door. Thus, years later, you still see few minorities in the upper level of companies and the entire purpose and impact on the college educaton distorted.
    The left also brought in many programs to the university that have little value to society and certainly none that prepare them to get a job. How many university courses were not there even 30 years ago that today are supported with professors and staff that yield no real positive benefit to the economy. I would suggest that we simply label the courses in the university as such so that the student knows that like smoking cigarettes, these courses are death to anyone expecting to use them to find work as a result. Seems like truthful labeling of courses would solve the issue and be acceptable to both sides of any political spectrum.

  • HMS

    naturgesetz:
    I think that you, are so right on target. I am a big proponent of a liberal arts education. It pays off in the long run, if, and I say if, you are open to its gift.

    I graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from a Catholic women’s college in Philadelphia quite a few years ago. Then, we were told that we were there for an EDUCATION and, if we wanted to get a job, we should go to Pierce Business School after we graduated, Not very forward thinking, I know.

    I happened to major in Chemistry and graduated with an B.A. in a science, so, fortunately, there were many opportunities for me at that time. I am always surprised and delighted to read the alumnae news and see the varied accomplishments of my former classmates over the years with their liberal arts undergraduate education – careers in law, business, education, as well as so many involvements in laudable causes and issues. Of course, things are much different and harder for liberal arts graduates nowadays.

    But I must say that my liberal arts education from a Catholic college served me well when I decided six years after graduation to pursue a graduate degree in Theology, not an undergraduate offering for a laywoman at that time but I had practically a minor in Theology and Philosophy – enough credits to qualify me for acceptance. There, I found my bliss.


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