Religious leaders comment on Occupy Wall Street

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UPDATED: 11:00 a.m. EDT

Religious leaders have begun commenting on the nature of the protests occurring in NYC and around the U.S. Tom Beaudoin, Harvey Cox and Cornell West add their thoughts:


Sunday evening, Tom Beaudoin of America Magazine, the national Catholic Weekly, reported from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, New York City. Protesters participating in Occupy Wall Street.

Tonight, there were a few hundred people gathered to listen to an update on the day’s march and arrests, to hear from protestors from New York City and around the country, and to inspire those gathered with reminders about the purpose of the protest. What is that purpose? It seems to be a loosely focused but deeply felt sense of frustration at the way the U.S. economy is not serving human beings but instead corporations and Wall Street.

….

Critics will no doubt condemn this protest as unfocused, thematically and strategically. But what has been so interesting over the past couple of weeks is the way that Occupy Wall Street is making itself such a symbolic movement of dissatisfaction with what theologian Harvey Cox has called “the market as God.” People are chanting, marching, placarding, camping out, leafleting, and standing as witnesses for a different economy, one that serves the flourishing of all, especially those “losers” in the global economy, instead of exploiting and furthering the gap between the wealthy and everyone else.

Cornell West spoke to the protestors here.

An opinion piece from the Washington Post notes that the “rich” are feeling demonized, and the church and the press seem to be supporting these feelings:

The latest group to claim victim status is the rich. Actually the super-rich, whose wealth ordinarily exempts them from pity. While they are not yet subjected to airport profiling (except for early boarding and club access), they sense that the public is turning subtly against them — otherwise how could President Obama propose raising their taxes?

Admirers of the rich, led by pundits and politicians on the right — from Laura Ingraham to Larry Kudlow — have long derided the victimization claims of African Americans, women, gays and the unemployed, but now they’re raising their voices to defend the rich against what they see as an ugly tide of “demonization.”

And an interview with FOX news that did not air. The interviewee says, “I think that myself as well as many other people would like to see a little bit more economic justice or social justice, Jesus stuff as far as feeding the poor, health care for the sick.” (h/t to Wounded Bird blog)

And Washington Post on Who are the 99%?

These are not rants against the system. They’re not anarchist manifestos. They’re not calls for a revolution. They’re small stories of people who played by the rules, did what they were told, and now have nothing to show for it. Or, worse, they have tens of thousands in debt to show for it.

Susan Thistlthwaite writes Gandhi Goes to Wall Street:

The police response follows Gandhi’s prescription for why non-violence is so effective; non-violent protest exposes the underlying violence of unjust systems, and the dilemma that non-violence poses to armed authority. This shocking video of police brutality, including pepper spraying young women who are behind a barrier, illustrates what Gandhi taught. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” said Gandhi. And Gandhi’s followers didn’t even have cell phones that could video all of the violence that erupts when non-violent direct action grows in numbers and support. The “NYPD pepper sprays peaceful protesters” YouTube video has over 100,000 views

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We have seen the “Arab Spring” — is this “America’s Autumn?”

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Gregory Orloff
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Gregory Orloff

To paraphrase a certain Someone Else, one might say that "the market was made for man, not man for the market" (a la Mark 2:27).

For all its "Christian" and "values" posturing, the contemporary American right is materialist, consumerist and social Darwinist in his economic thinking -- none of which jive with the Gospel. In fact, they are not really religious, but downright secular in this regard, as their attitude toward wealth and possessiveness are framed exclusively in terms of this "saecula" (world, generation, lifetime), with no reference to any eternal consequence.

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janinsanfran
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It's not so tough to figure out what these folks want. They want the dignity of human beings. They aren't agreed entirely on why they aren't getting that; that's why their actions have not yet generated a laundry list of policy demands. For the moment, they are resting in a necessary prelude, just being assertive humans.

I visited the San Francisco group yesterday. Photos here.

Jan Adams

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