Since last time I have was in NYC for a few days to reconnect with friends and family not seen for many months. While there I took time to visit the late great Zuccotti Park encampment. My interest was not simply curiosity.
Before leaving, our local Occupy Grand Rapids group was searching for a place to camp out, unwilling to squat on parkland that was clearly illegal. Without thinking, I offered them night use of our parking. (We are a downtown church which is where Occupy folks like to be for maximum visibility and access.)
Just before leaving we moved them from the parking lot, where they had to pack up every morning to allow cars in, to under our portico which means they can unpack and stay. The picture gives you an idea.
Why are we doing this? Because they are a voice that has not been heard for a long time. In these troubled times, the focus has been on debt and government overreach, which are important but not the whole story. Occupy has made us look at other angles of the economic issues that have been dismissed or just ignored by most of the media and the country.
Agree or not, they are asking that we pay attention to the disparity of income, the persistence of unemployment, the cost of student indebtedness, the influence of money on government. As I say it to those who ask, it can be summarized in fifteen words:
Too few have too much. Too many have too little. We need to change this.
Precisely how and to what extent is highly debatable, but the issue is real and I think even more crucial than deficits and government overreach. Their number and anger and persistence demand our attention. And they succeeded.
Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, New York City, have all rousted and demolished the encampments. The reasons were reasonable – sanitation, drug use, sexual assault – but I suspect these were no more than the pretext, somewhat the way some police stop black drivers for broken tail lights much more than white drivers.
I have written, without much success, that the next step in this movement is for houses of worship to become the sanctuaries for Occupy, as we have. I see no reason why any Christian, Jewish or Islamic building should not shelter these people who are living the demands for justice found in Torah, Gospel, and Qur’an. My guests in Grand Rapids are a gift to me and my church. Not without effort of course, but my members feel they are actually doing something and not just saying something. We are blessed.
Why is this not happening everywhere?