Our Daily Links: Knee-Slapper Edition

So guess what, Occupy Wall Streeters!  Your lucky day!  Jim Wallis has invited you in from the cold!  I totally can’t tell if Wallis is making a funny parody of all the inaccurate media coverage of the movement or if he actually thinks the people on the streets are pathetic orphans.

So let’s invite them to our Thanksgiving dinners all across the country, and have “table fellowship,” because that’s what church people do!

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OWS Reads

Our founding editor, Jeff Sharlet, has two new articles out on the Occupy Movement:  at Bookforum and at Rolling Stone. Here’s an excerpt from the former:

I’m not sure when I first felt that joy, but I know when I named it for what it was: one night lying on a sleeping pad beneath a thin blanket, hemmed in by my just-met friend Austin, a teacher of autistic children who leaves the park for work every day at 7:30 AM, and his girlfriend and her girlfriend, reading my newly acquired copy of The Pagan Rabbi by the yellow sodium light of the city’s permanent illumination. Purists call that light pollution, but filtering through the feathery leaves of Zuccotti Park’s honey locust trees, it was lovely. More than lovely; bathed in its amber glow I felt like one of five hundred little Christs, if by “Christ” you’ll allow me to refer not to divinity itself but to one of its more wholly human representations, Andres Serrano’s 1987 photograph Piss Christ. Appreciating what’s happening in Zuccotti Park requires a mental shift akin to the one necessary to see Piss Christ—an image of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s own urine—as not blasphemous but beautiful. And I don’t mean ideologically beautiful—a baroque idea one admires for the complexity of its inversions. I mean gorgeous, breathtaking and breath-giving at the same time.

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Sanctifying Wall Street

Amy Levin: Time for an update on #religion at #occupywallstreet? This week, Sarah Posner mediated a roundtable discussion with Religion Dispatches regular contributors highlighting particular religious moments of the occupy movement. Anthea Butler tells Posner says that Occupy Atlanta’s refusal to let civil rights protestor and Congressman John Lewis speak was a reflection of OWS “becoming slaves to the ‘process'” rather than accepting inspiration. The civil rights movement, like OWS, didn’t have a “complete consensus” either, and it was inspiration, not process, that sustained endurance.

Posner then questions Nathan Schneider about the role of self-identified religious groups in the movement like the Protest Chaplains and Occupy Judaism. Posner asks whether or not these groups are necessary for the success of OWS, or if religious activists are engaged in the movement in order to “reimagine the role of their respective religious traditions in contemporary political activism.” Schneider responds that the “ordinary trappings” of religion, like rituals and ceremonies, are needed in the movement; religious groups will only be able to get so far toward their own goals inside the “self-consciously non-hierarchical, revolutionary, and disruptive” environment of OWS. Continue Reading →

Practice, Theology and Identity at #OWS

Courtney Bender writes at The Scoop:

We could even say that occupiers’ refusal to give uncomplicated answers to the question of whether their motivations are rooted mainly in religious, secular, economic or political identities holds up a useful mirror to the very messy, complicated social and economic morass that they critique. This is another way of saying that sussing out religion in Occupy Wall Street might be  easier through attention to the origins and effects of the impulses playing out in groups that identify with the phenomenon. To the ways that they draw upon or resonate with atmospheric connections among religion, capitalism andAmerican identity.

If Wall Street is an “abstraction,” as one astute observer has put it, and the question of “how to occupy an abstraction” is being worked out as we watch, then we should ask how spirituality, one of the greatest American abstractions, is present in this working-out. It is reasonable to expect that occupiers will turn to the largely uncategorized trove of practice, theology and identity that we have often dismissed as the “spiritual”–and which might turn out to have deeper political dimensions than anyone knew.

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In Praise of Capital

Amy Levin:  Marching down Lafayette yesterday, surrounded by hundreds of #occupywallstreet protesters, I experienced what many in my shoes might call a “secular spirituality,” as we ritually chanted in exhilarated unison. “We are the 99%”–or as my cohorts and I chanted it, “you are the 99%”–occupied the streetasstage, sending our message with powerful frequency to hundreds of passerbys. The 99% is powerful; sheer numbers matter – but chant only works insofar as the 99% become self-aware of their own 99% identity. The power then becomes contingent on a type of identification, a recognition of the self within a greater shared collectivity. Isn’t this how some define religion? Continue Reading →