Friday, October 28, 2011

Reform More Than Wall Street!

This Reformation week, I've been thinking about the ways Luther's actions would have been different if he lived today. Certainly, the political climate of the Occupy Movements have a similar populist gile that mimics the unrest of Luther's day. I imagine the reformation mobs that marched to abby's and churches to burn them down and distribute their riches to the poor, are similar to the longings of many angry marchers who head towards banks.

Thankfully, today's marchers are a lot more nonviolent and less likely to get themselves murdered if their top leaders flip-flop or align with political leaders, as Luther often needed to do in order to keep his head and neck attached.

Certainly the Pope and his theologians were as good at spinning bad press as Republicans are at convincing those desperately in need of health care that when the get it it will be a bad thing.

In my previous blog, I have argued that we should occupy churches and give power to the moral voices we want to have a national voice in our country's future. But, I wonder if optimism can cause Reformation if it lacks the sharp tongued venomous anger that Luther claimed as his vice.

Hatred and violence worked for our Lutheran origin, but I believe it cannot work today. At least here, from my privileged place as an employed Pastor in San Francisco, I must acknowledge that I'm nowhere near desperate enough to reform myself or the church in the ways Luther did.

That was Luther's to do.

My work is with the homeless and others living in poverty. My voice is heard by many and I hope it's because I see a vision of a more just world and deeply believe that if I do my part and you do yours we can be the society our neighbors deserve and at times desperately depend on.

As much as we may desire that others pay their fair share (whether it's bankers or seniors and those with disabilities), in the end it is up to us to roll up our sleeves, dust off our check books and feed people every time they are hungry.

Today our reformation is more likely to involve donations, cleaning dishes and toilets and loving everyone (without excuse) then it is to involve marching or pillaging.

So join me in the spirit of the Reformation and do at least one useful thing for the world, whether it's watching the kids of tired parents or raking someone's leaves - the new Reformation is one of compassion and care without an expectation that money needs to be exchanged for such things. Isn't that the heart of the historical Reformation anyway?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Feeding God's Children

My earliest memory of food is of a bowl of Jell-O being thrown across the kitchen, landing on the wall and sliding down the wallpaper. My alcoholic father was having a violent fight with my mother and yelling something about how we should have had dinner at the table, oblivious to the fact that his rage had made it impossible for us to sit and eat.

My parents’ divorce was inevitable. Then, like many single mother families in the ‘80s, my mother, brother and I joined the long lines of women and children receiving large blocks of government cheese and powdered milk.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy St Aidan's

As protests brew across the world, yesterday they raged in 900 cities, I've wondered if I should join the protests. You'd think it would be an easy choice, since I work with the chronically homeless and have dedicated my ministry to working with those living in poverty.

I love the idea of the people who have always been the majority taking back their voice and holding those in political power accountable.

I've done a lot of studying of nonviolence theory, so I'm proud when people find nonviolent ways to bring attention to important issues.

But, something about the protests have been unsettling to me. While I cheer on those street retreating and creating mass conversations in the streets, I can't help but remember that my mother is a banker and has been all her life.

In fact, she worked at the same bank since she was 18 and just retired a few months ago. As a working mother, she struggled to keep daily bread on our table. She managed the tellers at several branches of a South Dakota bank that went national. The reality is that our family was not the 1%.

As I see the images of the protests in front of banks I remember that my mothers desk and those on the lowest rungs of the banks payrolls are the ones sitting in earshot of the protests.

I also remember that the effectiveness of the civil rights protests and sit-ins came from their ability to dramaticize the injustices that existed, to force private terror to be publicly scrutinized or to clog the wheels of unjust laws by filling the jails so no one else could get arrested.

I wonder if the protests are dramatizing a solution? I also notice that we are in a precocious time when the world is listening to the protectors, but no individual voices have emerged as the leaders of a more benevolent future.

So I suggest, that we call for a shift in the countries moral compass. When we bring a mass of people to a location we give it power. But is Wall Street where we want our change to come from?

I call us to put our butts where our mouths are. Let's fill the spaces we want the world to see as the moral compass of our communities. And in those spaces, let's demand that those leaders speak for us and get voice in the halls of congress and at the CEO meetings where the 1% can actually be found.

What if the churches, Temples, zen centers and other places we wanted our ethical center to come from were as full as the streets?

This is our moment. Let us give to Wall Street what is Wall Street's. Keep your upside down wealth systems. Let us be people bringing a new understanding of love, hope and prosperity to the world.

So join me in occupying St Aidan's, herchurch, Christ Church, Inglesia Santa Maria y Marta and St. Francis. Lets fill the pews and the offering plates and reset our compasses. Whose with me?

Location:San Francisco