I’m a Catholic, and I Occupy. Some of you are shocked, but I’m not alone.
Since all this started back in September for me, life has been insane. I’ve been arrested, pepper-sprayed and slept out in the rain, in the cold, intents and on sidewalks…I’ve been slandered, abused, called names, and I don’t mind so much. In fact, I’m not really bothered at all.
It’s because for me, Occupy is a response to the call for faithful citizenship. I Occupy because I’m Catholic and because the world needs justice. Do I believe that Occupy is the solution? Not exclusively.
Occupy fills a very important gap in society, that of an actual Leftist movement, a radical left that diverges from the neo-liberalism so content to settle within the establishment. I watched over the past 4 years as society began to crumble, as capitalism over-extended into culture and became in visible tangible results the poison that results from greed.
I’ve longed for other prophetic voices that would speak with the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah as well as the Apostles like James and John who would write and speak out. The following is James 5:1-6
1 Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. 2 Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, 3 your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. 4 Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.
I remember reading Stanley Hauerwas and feeling like too few Chrisitians were aware of the severe disconnect between Christianity and capitalism in the West. I still feel that way, as though too few Christians allow their faith to question their establishment.
Christian theology became for me a language that questions not only my personal assumptions about myself and spirituality, but also about the nature of reality, the relation of the state to me as a religious individual. My epistemological approach is a thoroughly theological one, I know through faith, I think through dogmatics, I apply myself to critical citizenship through prayer.
It is my prayers that keep me going through this.
It is my personal responsibility to my neighbors, and not my commitment to any particular cause that fuels me. I believe that the most important ethic in this whole situation is a personal ethic of thick relations. It’s an ethic based on the idea that ultimately my actions are dictated by the concerns I have not for this or that cause, but for my neighbor. If the Church’s people remain silent in the face of injsutices that are not explicitly religious, we cannot expect to find solidarity when religious issues are under attack. Regardless of mutual aid, the Church has a responsibility to be the prophetic voice in the most traditional sense, calling for economic and social justice .
I will say this: I believe that the Church has a place in history in this moment, and that she should side with the populist cry for justice rather than the establishment that continues to undermine her at every turn. I don’t think that the Occupy movement is the most Catholic friendly movement in the world, nor do I think it is parallel to Catholic economics. However, the cry for justice unheeded and neglected by the Church would be a grave error.
I am a Catholic, I pray, I am the 99%.