A recent communication about the Occupy movement, between a woman and her pastor, continues to nag at me. This private communication was shared with me by the woman. I write about it with her explicit permission. I am disturbed by the tone of the response from the pastor.
|Photo by Mark Colman, retrieved from:
The woman asked if her church would be willing to get involved in helping its local Occupy movement. The pastor’s response was an unequivocal no. The pastor’s explanation for why the church would not be helping the local Occupy included an expression of the sins (my word) of the movement. Each of the sins related to destruction of property. The pastor said the campers had destroyed the grass at the former site of the Occupation. The pastor repeated a report of an individual who had vandalized an ATM machine. The pastor listed other sins of the occupiers. They all related to property and disruption of the status quo.
As a minister of the gospel, I am disturbed by this response. If each of the sins the pastor listed were accurate, which is arguable and unclear, they still only represent actions of a minority of the Occupiers. Even if we assume that the destructive actions were perpetrated by a sizable number of Occupiers, the pastor’s response is disturbing.
The Occupy movement is diverse. It is made up of people from multiple social strata but it has a large number of marginalized people in its number. In the local Occupy, the homeless, the mentally ill, and unemployed were particularly attracted to the Occupy campsite. As long as the middle class members were the most visible, the mainstream media, the government, and the general public were extremely tolerant of the disruption created by the occupation of two city parks. Once the media began talking about the mentally ill and homeless who had made homes at the encampment, the days of tolerance were numbered. I am not surprised by this bigotry. However, I am appalled that a minister of the gospel would reflect this intolerance in response to a parishioner.
As followers of Jesus, of the One who breathed in the Divine and breathed out love to all, we must strive to emulate Christ’s actions. The Church must never–EVER–write off anyone. (Admittedly, it has and does too often.)
The Christian faith is about relating to all people in love. Our faith is about engaging–even those who act in reprehensible ways–in love and forgiveness. We are called to mirror the resurrection in our relationships. When this pastor focused on the arguably destructiveness of a few while ignoring the economic injustice that has brought people to the streets, Jesus was ignored.
Justice Seeking God,
Lay on our hearts the willingness to let go of things,
and be generous to those who need.
When we perceive sins in others,
cause us to question the context of the sin.
Help us to see where our participation in sinful systems of oppression,
are part of the problem.
Ignite in us a desire to engage,
to relate with,
and to see You in every human being.
Ignite in us the strength and will,
to be your loving arms and hands of justice,
even when it makes us uncomfortable,
even when it is easier to blame the victims.