Last week, I was in Berkeley, California, for the Occupy Faith National Gathering, coordinated by the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland. I was one of six from Occupy Faith NYC/Occupy Wall Street, and our delegation was a small part of over 60 conference participants from some fourteen Occupations around the United States. Christian-identified participants were the overwhelming majority, and there were also Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Buddhist, and Wiccan-identified participants, and more, including multiply-identified persons. We also convened an interfaith service at Occupy Oakland. The whole conference was generously facilitated by theologian and activist Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock. 

Over the course of a couple of days, we traded stories of experiencing and supporting our local Occupy sites, and caucused with the aim of planning some coordinated national Occupy Faith activities for the rest of the year. I will write more about those as they come into public view in the coming months. 

Here is an excerpt from a panel discussion among Occupy Faith leaders (this happened to be mostly men, with Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock as facilitator, but the religious activist leadership in Occupy is broader than that). This panel was part of the conference and open to the public on Tuesday 20 March:

 

The Occupy movement has often fallen off the front pages over the winter months, due to the many evictions from Occupy sites, but due also to Occupy's quieter work of advocacy and solidarity with workers, with people stuck in the underclass, with families displaced by foreclosures, with students, and much more -- work that is not the flashy stuff of major media news coverage.

But a big spring of events is coming, indeed is already underway. For regular updates on the works of Occupy, see the InterOccupy site. The Occupy Wall Street page is here, Facebook here. The Occupy Faith NYC page is here. Of particular interest to many America readers, Occupy Catholics are here

In this Occupy work, theologically, I am most interested in what actually happens to people's faith/religion/spirituality when we meet and work with other people of different faiths/religions/spiritualities, in their integrity, working for the common good -- and what the implications might be for the way that theology understands the stability and plasticity of faith/religious/spiritual identities... in the interest of learning how to live responsibly, sanely, justly. 

Tom Beaudoin

Comments

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John Barbieri | 3/29/2012 - 9:22am
Forgive me for being so blunt:
Do ''occupiers''actually work for a living?
If yes, then good for them!
If no, getting and holding a job will make them more credible!
ed gleason | 3/27/2012 - 1:09pm
As an early supporters of OWS in San Francisco we saw it fell apart when the street anarchists joined and the homeless used the 'occupy tactic' to establish encampments not as a protest but as semi-permanent park take over. The 'inter-faith' presence quickly drifted to be taken over by the weird.  The 'no leadership' style also led to no direction; an army without non-coms and officers becomes a mob.  So Oakland took on all the bad outcomes..a short BART ride away.. and a short, not well led police force.  
I guess we learned that Anarchy is not a plan for change.    
Mike Evans | 3/27/2012 - 11:49am
It seems that too much of the Occupy movement's coverage in the media is all about confrontations with police, vandalism, chaotic gatherings and disturbances. Seldom does a reporter or editor sit down with local Occupy leaders and discuss the issues that provoke the demonstrations or the attitudes that prevail both for and against those issues. Instead this has become a shouting match between the status quo and those seeking radical, endemic change. The warming weather of spring and summer, the national nominating conventions, and the election cycle of November will undoubtedly bring forth many new Occupy activities. Hopefully, they will receive a fair hearing and not just more tabloid sensationalism. Also expect the social media and internet blogs and commentaries to explode exponentially - people will not remain meekly silent, even if everyone wishes to ignore them. Their plight is too evident, their voices cry out for justice, attention and common sense support.
J Cosgrove | 3/27/2012 - 10:46am
''in the interest of learning how to live responsibly, sanely, justly''


I have a comment/question.  Just how is the Occupy movement doing this?  I have seen nothing out of them and Mr. Beaudoin that leads to such a way of living.  Just as there was nothing in Marx's thousands of pages of writing that would lead to this outcome, what we have in the Occupy movement is a series of complaints with no way proffered to cure them.  Has Mr Beaudoin any suggestions that might accomplish living more responsibly, sanely and justly.  


Don't just wish for something, tell us how to get there.  Human beings react to incentives not pie in the sky rhetoric especially if all it is are a laundry list of complaints.  People have been doing that for centuries.
Vince Killoran | 3/27/2012 - 9:24am
Thanks to Tom Beaudoin for the Oakland report.

Re. "KM's" comment: I can report that our local OWS group is quite active in local agricultural efforts and peace & justice intitiatives. 
Stanley Kopacz | 3/27/2012 - 7:06am
The US political process, in its current form, is a complete farce, a sockpuppet show run by money for money.  The media is run by large corporations to predate our minds and our pocketbooks and bracket our thought patterns.  A pro-oligarchic supreme court, with their Citizens United decision has shifted power to an extent reminiscent of Rome's shift from republic to empire.  Wall Street pulled off the biggest financial scam in human history and no one is in jail.  The environment, and I mean air and drinking water is being ravaged for the sake of twilight Fred Flintstone burning technologies.  Global civilization is heading for a global collapse.  The only option left is street demonstrations.  A movement like OWS is the only alternative.  There are extreme elements, but not as extreme as the violent reactions of the police to peaceful protest.  The powerful status quo will broach no opposition to its power grab.  The extreme actions of a few do not deter me from supporting OWS in its basic effort to restore our country to a living democracy.  I applaud Tom Beaudoin's efforts,  As for the detractors, you frogs can sit in your pot of slowly heating water, and croak about the lack of prim and proper in OWS, if you want.  Don't worry, be happy.
Kevin Murphy | 3/27/2012 - 2:49am
So far, Occupy Wall Street's "big spring of events" has included pouring human waste on two lower Manhattan locations and, of course, the usual street disruptions and fighting with police.   Its members - and website - remind one of Soviet style apparatchiks, repeating the same, rehearsed, monolithic slogans.  They accept no responsibility for the turmoil caused by their actions, blaming it all on, of course, "police brutality."   OWS is a rogue organization accountable to noone which feels it has the right to do anything it deems necessary to achieve its vision of "social justice," and Mr. Beaudoin claims these individuals wish to live "responsibly, sanely, justly?"   How embarrasing.  He can discuss the movement with statements concerning the "plasticity of faith/religious/spiritual identities."    I went to the original Zucotti Park encampment and just walked through the current Union Square iteration.  It's the same old, same old.  Mr. Beaudoin has a dream of what he'd like OWS to be but, as the song says, "wishing won't make it so."