Being the Church on Wall Street

Early in the morning, I will be departing for New York City. I have not been there since the summer of 2001. It was a different world back then. That was before 9/11 and Afghanistan. Before the PATRIOT ACT and the invasion of Iraq. So much has changed in the ten years since I have set foot in New York City.
My country seems primed to change yet again. New York has become the epicenter for a new, grassroots movement to call America back to our ideals of peace, democracy and freedom in community.
Many of you may not have heard much about the ongoing occupation that is taking place in lower Manhattan, near Wall Street. It is a shameful fact that the corporate media have almost completely ignored a movement that has the potential to be the beginning of an American version of the “Arab Spring” that has rocked North Africa and the Middle East.
Though we as Americans are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as “exceptional,” we have a lot in common with countries around the world that are experiencing unrest as the financial system buckles under the pressure of corporate greed and lawlessness.

I do not completely identify myself with the demonstrators who have gathered on the streets of New York. I think that their analysis, process and organization is incomplete, at best. Nevertheless, I am grateful to these men and women who have taken the bold step of occupying Wall Street and demanding an end to the immoral financial and military systems that the wealthy have used to impoverish and disempower the citizens of the world.

I see lots of problems with the way the demonstrations have gone so far. There are many things that I imagine, if I were in the demonstrators’ shoes, I would want to do differently. Yet, it feels wrong to stand on the sidelines and throw stones at those people who have the courage to express their God-given sense of moral outrage. I feel compelled to join my voice with theirs, calling for a more just, compassionate and democratic society in the United States.

It feels important that we not wait for this movement to be perfect before we join in. The occupation is young and fragile, and it needs our cooperation if it is to grow into a mature and broad-based call for righteousness.

Yes, I said righteousness. I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in these demonstrations, calling us to greater faithfulness and christlikeness as a country. I believe that the Church has a responsibility to stand up and offer prophetic witness as the Body of Christ.

Jesus stands against injustice and oppression. He has come to liberate those held in bondage by human greed, and to proclaim good news to the poor.(1) I pray that we as his Church will have the courage to be an embodiment of his love and justice.

As I travel to New York, my prayer is that I might be a vessel of God’s love and peace in a highly charged environment. I pray that the Holy Spirit might use me to help ground the demonstrations in the love and truth of Jesus Christ. I pray to be an embodiment of Christ’s love, and a witness to his power to transform us as a people.
Please keep me – and all of those on the streets of lower Manhattan – in your prayers. There has been a fair amount of police brutality, and while I am by no means looking for trouble, sometimes trouble finds us.

May the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Peace be to you all.

This video gives a good introduction to the nature of the occupation on Wall Street:

1. Luke 4:16-21