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Protesting and Pro-Testifying

Here's this week's Naked Theology column at Patheos.com ... on the 99 Percent Movement (Occupy Wall St. et al):

I've included (with permission) some additional thoughts from my wise friend Tom Austin of Congopeace.org - after the jump:

Good to read about your recent travels and have been keeping up with your blog.

On the Wall Street protests: Last Friday at lunch stopped by Freedom
Plaza in D.C. and signed a statement, which basically draws attention
to what President Hayes once lamented: "This is a government of the
people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a
government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. —
How is this?"

In the DC region, the military/security contractor industry dominates.
My friend Bill Samuel from Cedar Ridge wrote about this in the
Washington Post opinion section yesterday, after our county council
here in Montgomery supported a resolution calling for a reduction in
U.S. military spending, currently more than half of all discretionary
spending, to allow human needs to be funded.

Bill explains:

"A military contractor, Lockheed Martin, lobbied against it and got
the county executive, the governor of Maryland and a U.S.
representative to fall in line dutifully behind its position.

"This is precisely the corporate dominance that has resulted in
throngs of people occupying Wall Street, along with sites in the
District and many other cities, in an approach like that of people in
many other nations who have risen up against autocratic regimes. A
number of those regimes have a democratic system on paper, as the
United States does..."

An observation: many evangelicals in the U.S. continue to align with
wealthy, security-based interests, but that wasn't always the case.

Author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a Wash Post opinion piece the other
day that rung true and sad: "Evangelical Christianity," she said once
harbored an ancient biblical bias in favor of the poor, but now, at
least in its high-profile megagphone church manifestations, it has
abandoned the book of Matthew for a "prosperity gospel that counts
wealth as a mark of God's favor." And, I would add, that wraps itself
around a state-sponsored security apparatus that has at times had
adverse effects around the world where "U.S. interests" are played
out. This is certainly the case in Central Africa.

I tend to agree with author Marianne Williamson's assessment of the
present state of affairs in "Healing the Soul of America" (a very
relevant 1997 book referenced by Richard Rohr in the Naked Now):

"A mean group of selfish people did not decide to steal America; what
happened is we gave her away. We have not been vigilant on behalf of
our own good...In a society where selfishness and greed have become
the accepted ethos, a commitment to social justice is a rebellious
mode of being. What is happening in America today is that there is not
enough spirit of true rebellion." She suggests that much of the
American populace is in a stupor, addicted to pleasure that distracts
us "while a market-obsessed corporate mentality lords over us like a
new ruling class."

Finally, some thoughts from Tom Friedman in y'day's NYT:

"Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author of the book
“The Great Disruption,” argues that these demonstrations are a sign
that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its
financial and ecological limits. “I look at the world as an integrated
system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or
inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation —
I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,” which is
what he means by the Great Disruption, said Gilding. “Our system of
economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth
— our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the
kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to
say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken. Think about the
promise of global market capitalism. If we let the system work, if we
let the rich get richer, if we let corporations focus on profit, if we
let pollution go unpriced and unchecked, then we will all be better
off. It may not be equally distributed, but the poor will get less
poor, those who work hard will get jobs, those who study hard will get
better jobs and we’ll have enough wealth to fix the environment.

“What we now have — most extremely in the U.S. but pretty much
everywhere — is the mother of all broken promises,” Gilding adds.
“Yes, the rich are getting richer and the corporations are making
profits — with their executives richly rewarded. But, meanwhile, the
people are getting worse off — drowning in housing debt and/or tuition
debt — many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are
unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more
damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off
than they are. This particular round of protests may build or may not,
but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the
system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the
environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people,
including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the
results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades
go to the top 1 percent.”

Friedman also offers a counter perspective from another thinker.
Here's the full link:


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