Occupy Wall Street gets religion

Occupy Wall Street gets religion October 24, 2011

The Associated Press looks at some of the religious voices being heard in this protest movement:

Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.

No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.

A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.

The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.

Clergy emphasize they are participants in the aggressively leaderless movement, not people trying to co-opt it. Plus, in a movement that purports to represent the “99 percent” in society, the prominent religious groups are overwhelmingly liberal.

Religion might not fit into the movement seamlessly, but activist Dan Sieradski, who’s helped organize Jewish services and events at Occupy Wall Street, said it must fit somewhere.

“We’re a country full of religious people,” he said. “Faith communities do need to be present and need to be welcomed in order for this to be an all-encompassing movement that embraces all sectors of society.”

Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.

A Chicago group, Interfaith Worker Justice, has published an interfaith prayer service guide for occupation protests nationwide…


…The movement could still attract center-right religious support from the Roman Catholic Church, said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. But he said it must be clear protesters in the still-fuzzily-defined movement share mainstream Catholic concerns about consumerism and an unfettered free market.

“If it becomes just another version of American progressivism, then I can imagine the church probably wouldn’t want to cozy up to it too much,” Schneck said.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organize Friday’s Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement’s power. He sees his involvement as a duty, because so many in his congregation are affected by the nation’s economic woes.

“If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they’d be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people,” he said.

There’s much more at the link.

Meantime, a reader sent me the image below, taken by her son at the park where Occupy Wall Street protestors are camped out in New York city:

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5 responses to “Occupy Wall Street gets religion”

  1. Yep, the religion displaced by OWS protestors is a mixture of antisemitism, blaming religion for being homophobic, and anti-scientific.

    ADL Calls On ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Organizers To Condemn Anti-Semitic Remarks Made At Rallies


    Where have we seen a street mob with anarchistic and leftist ideology blame the Jews for their economic plight before?

  2. George #1:

    Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who is quoted in your article calling the protesters to condemn any expressions of anti-Semitism, said:

    “There is no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are representative of the larger movement or that they are gaining traction with other participants. However, history demonstrates time and again how economic downturns can embolden anti-Semites to spread malicious conspiracy theories and promote stereotypes about Jews and money.”

    In a NYT article last Friday, he is quoted as saying:
    “There are manifestations in the movement of anti-Semitism, but they are not expressing or representing a larger view… . roughly one in six Americans believed Jews had too much power in Wall Street and the American government… . So it’s not surprising that in a movement that deals with economic issues you’re going to get bigots that believe in this stereotype… . The movement is not about Jews; it’s not about Israel. It’s about ‘the economy, stupid.”

    In fact, the protesters themselves seem to be dealing with the issue among themselves:

    “We can’t force people to leave, everyone is welcome here,” said Nicholas Isabella, a 24-year-old protester from Queens, of the man seen carrying an anti-Semitic sign. He said protesters followed him around, holding their own signs that read ‘This guy is not with us’ with an arrow pointing to him. ‘Eventually he left on his own,’ said Isabella.” (Metro NY, October 19)

  3. With the 41-page text titled, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.” Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it will certainly lead to credibility to the Wall Street Movement.

    I suspect the religious right is going to go bananas with this.

  4. Don from NH, I think that those who suspect a wide backing of this Catholic Vatican document by the left are in for a surprise. They will use portions of the document, but do not think that many who have bashed everything else from the Vatican such as an end to abortion and the limiting of marriage to between one man and one woman which are non negotiable teaching of the Chrch will suddenly find faith and wide acceptance of the Catholic Church. Fortunately, this document hold zero magesterial teaching which means those who do believe in Catholic teaching can ignore this one as they please. Now, can we hope those inspired on the left will call for an end to abortion and and end to special rights for gay behavior?

    The non negotiable magesterial teachings really get to the left who seem to want to throw everything in as equal…

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