Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Church

Over the past week, one particular image has made the rounds through my social network.  My corner of the twitterverse and my Facebook neighborhood is unsurprisingly inhabited by a fair number of progressive Christians, most of whom feel considerable solidarity towards the Occupy movement.  The image that's been passed along and shared by at least a dozen folks from within that self-selected group is apparently either a Keynote or a Powerpoint slide, converted into an image file.  OCCUPY CHURCH, it proclaims, followed by a list of demands.

It's got a slightly casual font, the requisite bullet points, and a picture of the inside of a very traditional church.   Somewhere, some leftist pastor talked this one out in front of a group, before pitching it out to their social network.  I considered reposting it on several occasions, but just couldn't bring myself to do it.  Why?  Because it's not quite where it needs to be if it is to be OCCUPY CHURCH.   It's not bad, mind you.  But it's not there yet.  Let me elucidate:

First, it's not got the lingo down.  Yeah, the language might warm the cockles of the hearts of progressives, but it's too generic and secular.  There's not a single thing in the entire list of demands that would identify this as being pertinent to faith in the Nazarene.  Yes, you can get to every single one of those principles from the teachings of Yeshua Ben Yahweh.   That's certainly how I get there.  But the slide itself seems oblivious to the context into which it needs to speak.  Change the picture and the word "church," and this could easily be the list of demands from the Governing Central Council of Occupy Boise.   That dog don't hunt, people.  If you want to speak into a faith context, then respect the language of that community, and the faith ethos that defines it.

Second, it's a list of demands.  As such, it comes across as disconnected from the community into which and for which it presumes to speak.   Honestly, it's a tich reminiscent of the Judean People's Front.  Sorry...that's the People's Front of Judea.  If you want to make demands of church, then, brothers and sisters, you first need to be church.   And if you are church, meaning you speak as a person who is living  into the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, then, dagnabbit, include yourself into those demands.  It's not an "I demand that you."  It's a "Christ demands that we."  If it isn't a "we?"  Then it's culturally imperialistic.

Third, if you're going to Occupy Church, then you need to be willing to get people into church.  The oldline pews in that slide are notably empty, eh?   That means...and I know this is a hard one for progressives...that you have to be evangelical about it.   Yes, EEE-van-Jell-ickle.  That word means good news, after all, and when Jesus talked good news, it was first and foremost to the poor, the struggling, and the disenfranchised.

You don't need to be a self-righteous, judgmental New Pharisee.  You don't need to spew fear and Hellfire and Brimstone at gays and women and Democrats.  But you do need to tell people about the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in such a way that they feel it's worth listening and joining in.  Otherwise, you're just blowing smoke.

So, in the interests of not just complaining and actually doing, I've reworked the slide a teensy bit.  That reworking is above.  The symbolically imperfect six bullet points have been replaced with a perfect seven.  The demands are the same, but inclusive and participatory, and clearly rooted in our sacred tradition.   References are included, because for many Jesus people, that's kind of important.   And it does talk about encouraging others to join in.  Because if you don't do that, you don't have a movement, now, do you?

Feel free to share it, if it works for ya.