Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Media Relations Assistant, came to FPL from NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s Associate Program after studying economics at Saint Joseph’s University. She blogs about tax and budget issues on Bold Faith Type.
From New Haven, Connecticut to San Francisco, California, clergy and people of faith are standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters. Despite the occasional story trumpeting the Occupy Movement as a “largely secular” undertaking, there is a far-reaching consensus from both the mainstream and religious media that the faith community is a dynamic partner in the Occupy movement.
Below is a media roundup detailing faith’s fitting (and growing) role in the Occupy Movement:
Jay Lindsay at the Associated Press:
“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.
Clergy who support the protests say they are a natural fit with many faiths, because they share traditional concerns about economic injustice. They also point to history, including the civil rights movement and abolition.”
Kim Lawton at Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:
“Many say there is a prominent spiritual dimension to what’s been happening. Inside Zuccotti Park is a makeshift community altar, where protestors of all faiths come to pray or meditate. In several cities, protest chaplains–many of them seminary students–minster to the protesters.”
Catherine Woodiwiss and Jake Paysour at Center for American Progress:
“Just blocks from where the protests began in New York, Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church opened its doors to protesters who need a place to rest. A Yom Kippur prayer service was held in Zuccotti Park, complete with a sermon given in call-and-response to compensate for the lack of sound equipment. And in South Carolina, a rabbi joined an African Methodist Episcopal pastor, among others, to help organize protests in Florence.”
Lisa Miller at Washington Post, On Faith:
“What would Jesus think of Occupy Wall Street?” I asked myself this week as I wandered the makeshift, blue-tarp village in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Born with little means into a first-century world, the historical Jesus might feel right at home with the very aspects of the occupation that so many 21st-century observers consider gross: the tents, the damp sleeping bags, the communal kitchen. Jesus would have sympathy, I think, with the campers’ efforts to keep a small space sanitary in the absence of modern plumbing.”
Rev. Chuck Currie at Huffington Post:
“Supporting Occupy America is a Christian act born out of the call we have received to help build-up the Beloved Community. Our churches should seize this movement as a new Great Awakening and once again preach a Social Gospel that lifts up the common good of all and firmly rejects prosperity theology and other movements in our churches that have allowed us to ignore the fundamental principles of biblical justice.”
A few weeks ago, New York faith leaders marched to Zuccotti Park with a golden calf, protesting the idolatry of greed on Wall Street.
Rev. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church at Huffington Post:
“We brought the calf to Wall Street to confess our allegiance to false Gods and to announce that something was dying for us. That death is our own belief in the sacred calf of the Wall Street picture of the universe. The “mike check” was just the beginning of a new conversation, between and among people, about what is really important.”
National and local TV and print outlets also covered the golden calf in New York:
WABC-TV (New York), Local religious leaders join Wall Street protest
National Catholic Reporter, Occupy Wall Street, false idols and a moral economy
Wall Street Journal, Faith and the Wall Street Protest
As FPL executive director Rev. Jennifer Butler points out in the Huffington Post, the faith community’s work for social and economic justice is not a new venture:
“The faith community’s movement for economic justice didn’t start in Zuccotti Park in September. In addition to overcoming Jim Crow, Martin Luther King Jr. worked to end poverty for people of all races in all places. Since the Tea Party has taken over Washington, we’ve organized to protect the poor and the vulnerable from immoral budget cuts and confronted politicians who pay lip service to the Gospel but pursue an economic agenda inspired by Ayn Rand. We’re working to hold predatory banks accountable, not only on Wall Street, but in cities across the country.”
And the Occupy movement (and religious involvement within it) is spreading throughout the world:
Mark Townsend at The Guardian wrote:
“As the storm of controversy over the handling of the Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration deepened on Saturday, Christian activists said it was their duty to stand up for peaceful protest in the absence of support from St Paul’s. One Christian protester, Tanya Paton, said: “We represent peace, unity and love. A ring of prayer is a wonderful symbol.”
Occupy protesters around the world also received encouragement last week from the Vatican, which released a document calling for greater oversight for global financial markets.
Fr. Thomas Reese said to NPR:
“Those who read the pope’s 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth)” will not be surprised by this new document. In that encyclical, the pope decried “corruption and illegality” among economic and political elites in both rich and poor countries. He told financiers they must rediscover the ethical foundation of their activity and stop abusing savers. He wants a radical rethinking of economics so that it is guided not simply by profits but by “an ethics which is people-centered.”
Echoing the Vatican’s call for financial reform, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for new taxes on banks in support of Occupy London protesters:
“Backing a new tax on banking, Rowan Williams said the protest against financial inequality and banking excesses had been seen ‘by an unexpectedly large number of people as the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing’.”
People of faith have also been calling for an end to police brutality against Occupy protesters, especially in light of violence against peaceful demonstrators at Occupy Oakland.
From Episcopalians to Jewish leaders, Occupy Wall Street has found support among a broad contingent of people of faith.
More stories from around the country:
Bangor Daily News, Jesus goes to Wall Street
Chicago Tribune, Clergy providing spiritual support for Occupy Chicago masses
Jewish Daily Forward, Why ‘Occupy Judaism’ Is Turning Point
Religion Dispatches, God Dissolves into the Occupy Movement
Washington Post, The Vatican meets the Wall Street occupiers
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Public Religion Research Institute released new findings this week detailing an increase in the correct identification of Mitt Romney as Mormon among white evangelical Protestants. According to Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director:
“The increase in knowledge of Romney’s Mormon faith among evangelicals is potentially problematic for Romney,
since we know from our research that 6-in-10 evangelicals do not see the Mormon faith to be a Christian religion.”
This data also provides a window into understanding Herman Cain’s meteoric rise in the polls and Romney’s stagnation among white evangelicals. While 21% of evangelical voters say Romney’s political views are closest to their own, he continues to struggle with a demographic that distrusts his religion.
While understanding what drives a candidate’s particular stance on issues is useful when voting, religious affinity should in no way be the only measure of a candidate’s worthiness for elected office.
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This week’s statement by the Vatican on the need for greater oversight of the world’s financial markets was highlighted by numerous media outlets. Prior to the statement’s release, Faith in Public Life shared background information with reporters. The excerpt below from Elisabetta Povoldeo’s piece in The New York Times details the Vatican’s important call for policies and institutional structures that benefit the common good:
“In a report issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Vatican argued that “politics — which is responsible for the common good” must be given primacy over the economy and finance, and that existing institutions like the International Monetary Fund had not been responding adequately to global economic problems.
“The document grows out of the Roman Catholic Church’s concerns about economic instability and widening inequality of income and wealth around the world, issues that transcend the power of national governments to address on their own.”…
“In the United States, the report was embraced by politically liberal Catholics who are concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor. Vincent J. Miller, a professor of Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton, wrote, “It’s clear the Vatican stands with the Occupy Wall Street protesters and others struggling to return ethics and good governance to a financial sector grown out of control after 30 years of deregulation.
John Gehring of Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in Washington, said, “In the next Republican presidential debate, someone should ask Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, both proudly Catholic, whether they support the Vatican’s call for more robust financial reform.”
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Photo Credit: The Protest Chaplains
With the flurry of violence against #Occupy Wall Street protesters this week, it is easy to overlook the peaceful presence that clergy members bring to the movements happening across the country. The Protest Chaplains, a group of clergy-in-training, arrived at Zuccotti Park (and later Occupy Boston) with a desire to be in service to fellow protesters through nonviolent action and compassion. All evidence points to the Protest Chaplains fulfilling their mission:
“We are committed to caring for all who join, chronically homeless and well-heeled activist lawyers alike. We work through our differences to envision the future together. These are the values and actions woefully missing from our public life and political discourse. It is unclear how we will regain these values without first relearning them. Thus, we feel it is necessary to show the United States and the world: this is how humans flourish together in dignity, respect, and love.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes: a disheveled man, a bit twitchy, walks into the village and says, “I’m here and I want to stay.” Within two hours he has a tent, a sleeping bag, warmer clothes, and a hot meal. The cuts on his hands have been bandaged, and he stands next to me at the General Assembly, our democratic forum.
If a rag-tag group of protesters managed this, why can’t the wealthiest nation on Earth? Why can’t many religious organizations and social service institutions with billions of dollars and all the right intentions manage to do this? What are the missing ingredients? This is the challenge and promise of the Occupy movement, often overlooked in both pro and con commentary. It’s less about what we’re saying, and more about what we’re doing.”
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As the Super Committee gets closer to its deadline, the Circle of Protection is still watching for immoral cuts to programs that serve the most vulnerable. Reverend Michael Livingston, Director of the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative, went on public radio to talk about the coalition and why it is important for people of faith to be involved in the budget debate:
“I think the people of faith have been lacking in their response and a vigorous public engagement on issues of advocacy for people who are in need. I think we’ve been much too busy maintaining our houses of worship and being concerned with our own internal affairs–important as they are–and not paying enough attention to the common wealth, to the common good, to the family of people, all of whom were created in God’s image.”
The Circle of Protection rightly contends that the federal government has a responsibility to prevent families from falling further into the depths of poverty. Astonishingly enough, Livingston’s co-interviewee, Acton Institute Fellow Michael Miller, contends that safety-nets designed to prevent increased hardship is actually the cause of out-of-wedlock birthrates:
“…if you look, for example, at the African-American family, you look at the policies from the 1960s onward, you see out-of-wedlock birthrates were in, you know, low-20 percent, mid-20 percent, before the war on poverty. Now, they’re at about 75 percent, and that means three out of every four African-American child is born out of wedlock. Well, there’s no better indicator of poverty than to be born out of wedlock, and I think the state has actually created the incentive for this type of behavior.”
Miller’s “concern” for those born out-of-wedlock is yet another tired conservative talking point designed to simply shrink the federal budget and decrease taxes for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans.
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