I spend a fair amount of time volunteering on the national board of Creating a Culture of Peace. It is the parent organization of the nonviolence training program that over 30 folks from my congregation, Robbinsdale United Church of Christ have attended. One of the unique pieces of this training program is that it is both spiritually grounded and interfaith in its approach. During the training each participant comes out with a plan of nonviolent action that can be accomplished in order to build a more compassionate and just culture around us. These past several months in the news, many of us have been following the Occupy Wall Street Movement. As a trainer of the strategies and techniques of nonviolent action, I have been paying close attention and learning from the process that is happening on the ground in New York City and around the world. There have been trainings going on every day to help new folks understand the principles and practices of nonviolence, and people are committing to the power of nonviolence and love in the face of the institutions that focus more on competition and greed.
Many people at OWS have even claimed that this community is more like church than any place they have ever been before. The people who are part of this movement are part of every major faith background and no faith background. They are mostly young, but every age is represented. They are both highly educated and uneducated, and they come from every political background and no political background. The folks at OWS belong to the human family and they are taking turns in leadership, in care taking, in risking confrontation, and in communication. There is no single voice or spokesperson, because there is no single person who could represent the whole family.
The reason the movement feels a lot like church is because it is a lot like church, just not the formal denominational church that we know of. This church is more similar to the people who were searching in the first century for both identity and belonging during a time of great fear and separation. The ancient world was brutal, and the division between the wealthy and everyone else was huge. The movement Jesus began was to remind people of their own power and their own gifts. Jesus reminded folks that they were worthy of love and healing. Jesus reminded folks that serving others was the highest form of goodness.
Today, we are learning, once again, that there is great power when people realize their self-worth and dignity. I applaud the folks in the Occupy movement for their commitment to nonviolence and their embodiment of sharing and service to things that benefit everyone. I hope you’ll join me in learning from this movement and lifting up the highest ideals in their community and ours. May the movement continue to grow, adapt and flourish until the values of life and freedom triumph over the fear and greed that infects every aspect of our society.