I find it very interesting that some liberal religious leaders have joined the ranks of Occupy Boston’s encampment, not to proselytize, they say, but to be a part of a movement that they see as naturally akin to their faiths. They’ve even set up a tent that is for religious services of all sorts and is considered sacred space. An ecumenical occupation, if you will.
"There's so much polarization in our country now, and demonization of one side of the other. ... As religious leaders, we want to be 'repairers of the breach,'" Katherine Henderson of the Auburn Theological Seminary in New York told Yahoo News, quoting from the bible "So the question is how we can come together, Wall Street and Main Street, to come up with solutions that are going to work for all of us?"
Even though I am a staunch atheist, I have nothing against liberal religious leaders. It’s no surprise that they’d want to jump on board the Occupy Wall Street movement. The question is, can they get many of their comrades to follow?
Mainstream religion has not exactly been on the forefront of social change in this country. Except for a handful of liberal clergy (such as Daniel and Philip Berrigan), the churches have generally fought to retain the status quo. That was especially true during the major activist struggles of the past 40 years, including the civil rights, feminist, LGBT and anti-war movements, the Black Panthers, etc.
Even during the height of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s, the number of liberal religious leaders who were out there in the streets with ACT UP and other activist groups were few and far between.
In the past decade, while Bush was decimating our civil rights via the Patriot Act, invading countries that are coincidentally rich in oil and profits for his corporate buddies, and laying the foundation for the foreclosure and unemployment crises of the Obama administration, liberal clergy weren’t on the front lines in great numbers.
All of which has left a great vacuum that since the mid-70s has been filled by right-wing fundamentalists and TV evangelists, who live like the 1% and who oppose abortion, gay rights, taxing the rich, national healthcare, etc. Those folks can sure rev up the faithful to make a stink whenever some legislator talks of universal healthcare or, heaven forbid, gay marriage.
The addition of religious leaders to the Occupy Wall Street movement raises a question I’ve been thinking about ever since it all began a little over a month ago: how does a struggle that is composed of the 99%, a group as diverse as the country itself, remain unified with so many different agendas and so much difference in ideology and political and religious affiliation?
Can a common concern such as economic justice or taxing the rich really keep us together for the long struggle that’s ahead of us if we are to affect real change in this country?
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.