OWS and the Holy Spirit

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My friend Glenn Zuber, a blogger at Iona Conversations, just sent me this report from Occupy D.C.:

Hi Brian,

Just wanted to share a little tidbit with your readers about the Occupy DC village/camp/gathering on McPherson Square in Washington, DC. The camp is about 3 blocks from the White House. I'm not sure what exactly to call Occupy DC. It's a protest, but it's also a big campground where people gather to talk about politics and reform.

Here's my eyewitness account: about a month ago I was invited by a friend, a minister, to join him at the Occupy DC camp. At the time, about a quarter of this urban park was covered by camping tents, a press table, a welcome table, gathering areas for political discussions, and a food area. There were circles of people sitting on the grass and discussing what was wrong with country. The number of people in the camp ranged between 50 and 100 people depending on the time of day and the event going on. Some homeless people relocated to this park. Periodically, TV reporters with their cameramen would make an appearance and interview participants. Office workers on lunch breaks were walking through the park and looking at the signs and flyers. The friend who invited me is a local minister and was holding an interfaith discussion and healing prayer meeting once a day. I went down to the Occupy DC gathering to be in solidarity with him and with the campers/protesters. Like the protestors, I believe something is fundamentally wrong with our nation's values and general direction right now.

When I visited the camp I was surprised at the powerful spiritual and theological experiences that motivated people to join the protest. I was deeply moved by all that I heard and witnessed. My minister friend told me that a range of interfaith religious leaders were taking turns holding afternoon interfaith gatherings for those who sought some kind of spiritual healing and community. The week before I arrived, a Jewish group had held a holiday service for any of the campers interested in putting their faith and activism together. I heard about 100 people showed up for that event. My minister friend told me stories of the profound spiritual experiences that motivated some to leave their jobs and hometowns in places such as Tennessee and Illinois to come to the camp in DC and show their solidarity with the struggles of the 99 percent. I also personally met people who saw the Occupy DC struggle in primarily spiritual terms. A couple of people talked about their concern that large, multi-national corporations were claiming that they owned the earth and all the natural resources. As they saw it, only God could claim the earth as Creator. I was surprised that I would meet protesters with that kind of theological analysis. In my opinion, you can't argue with that kind of theological argument.

Then my friend introduced me to another religious leader who was one of the lead organizers of Occupy DC. And then it hit me, all three of us had participated in the same emerging Christianity conference in DC a couple of years ago. It turned out that all three of us have been deeply impacted by the emerging Christianity conversation. So I thought to myself, "What's the probability that the three Christian leaders involved with the protest also would be connected with the emerging Christianity movement and avid Brian McLaren readers?" So I asked this organizer the same question. This is what he told me: "This is not a safe, cautious, church-sponsored protest, so only faith leaders who are willing to take a chance, and willing to 'be in the world,' would dare come out and support this." I have to agree with him. The emerging Christianity movement is helping many of us take chances with our faith, we are being inspired to take our faith in new directions, and we are loving every minute of it.

I would urge your readers to visit one of the local Occupy Wall Street camps. I'm sure they will be surprised at the level of spiritual intensity and compassion present at the gatherings. In DC, more and more religious leaders and organizations are supporting the downtown camp. Our country is at a tipping point. It's been amazing to watch how the Occupy Wall Street movement has forced the news media to focus again on some fundamental economic justice issues. Take heart, folks—a small group of committed justice activists can still have a powerful impact on our culture.