Power or Glory? In the Occupy Movement, Its Potent Ideals and Traditions of Resistance Are Resurrected
Religion without religion? Faith without dogma?
To some clerics that is exactly what the Occupy movement is all about- and that raises some interesting questions. Is one man’s social justice another man’s oppression? Who decides?
What happens when there is division in the ranks? Who becomes the arbiter?
Does social justice look different in some cultures as opposed to others?
Late last year, people started putting up tents in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Similar things started happening to public spaces in cities across the United States, and indeed across the globe. Occupy protests were reported on every continent beside Antarctica. The movement’s defining image, its most visible expression, was young people camping out on public squares. Its other manifestations are much less well known, if no less significant. Occupy Homes, for instance, organised US neighbourhoods to prevent mortgage foreclosures and family evictions. Occupy Sandy is a more recent sign of life: it formed in response to the devastating hurricane that struck the east coast of America. Occupy Religion is still another strand, embodied by people who felt compelled by their faith to join the protests, people whose spiritual commitment grew deeper in the streets.
Religion, particularly in the US, is commonly used to justify power. The divine is envisioned as commander-in-chief, a successful CEO, an arch-conservative. The Occupy movement, on the other hand, has tried to embody alternatives. It called attention to the flow of power in economics and politics. Its battle cry ‘We are the 99 per cent’ was a wake-up call heard around the world. It reminded us that many are no longer benefiting from the ways in which the economy is going and from how politics is organised. It seemed, in short, and in America at least, as if Occupy was playing on religion’s opposing team.
So, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the expressions of faith embodied by Occupy tended to go ignored. It simply did not occur to most observers that the movement might enjoy a good deal of support from religious communities, or that religious professionals might have got involved — indeed, some of them became known as ‘Occupy chaplains’. The media, for its part, rarely reported Occupy’s spiritual links and implications. Perhaps they just didn’t want to offend well-connected religious power brokers.