Faith and #OccupyWallStreet: "This is a Holy Spirit moment."
Speak, for your servant is listening
Remember the Bible story where God calls out to Samuel in the middle of the night and Samuel jumps out of bed and runs to Eli, saying "Here I am," because he doesn't recognize the voice of the Lord? And again, God calls Samuel and again Samuel runs to Eli because Eli is the only master he knows -- the word of the Lord has not yet been revealed to him.
It isn't until God calls a third time that Eli understands what is really going on and sends Samuel back to bed with instructions to answer the Lord directly. When God calls a fourth time, Samuel bravely responds: "Speak, for your servant is listening."
As the #OccupyWallStreet protests have continued to gain momentum around the country and around the globe in recent weeks, I have heard individual people and communities of faith asking two questions:
1) Is this a spiritual movement? and
2) What can communities of faith offer this movement?
The answers? Yes. And, lots.
Unlike some social movements of the past, #OccupyWallStreet was not birthed in a church meeting room. For whatever reason, churches in recent decades have sunken into the mires of complacency as far as issues of economic justice are concerned.
We have watched our brothers and sisters lose jobs and homes. We have watched the poor get poorer and the rich richer. Yet, when we hear the voice of the Lord crying out to us -- "Samuel, Samuel (My people, my people)" -- we run in other directions.
God called out and asked us to serve the interests of the destitute and outcast, as Jesus did, and instead we argued over scripture and narrowed our church doors. God called out and told us to overturn the tables of the money-changers, as Jesus did, and instead we worried about our own survival and growth. God called out and commissioned us to feed not just our own members but also the masses, as Jesus did, but our faith was not strong enough.
Today, God is calling out a fourth time. #OccupyWallStreet was not birthed by the church, but our scriptures tell us that it is certainly a spiritual movement.
Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening now.
Last week, I spoke on the phone with the Rev. Michael Ellick, associate minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, who has played an important role in my own spiritual formation. I asked him to tell me what faith communities should be doing to support #OccupyWallStreet and this is the gist of what he said:
We need to honor our scriptures and get back to the basics. We are not asking for anything radical, only for churches to return to the foundation upon which they were built. It is time for churches to be for the people, not people for the churches. Faith communities need to get out there with our own voices. We need to be in the streets.
Churches play the unique role of seeing the big picture. We can call out the values and virtues of the issues. Let's not just worry about the poor in our own communities, but the poor everywhere, the people everywhere who are struggling. We can't be private anymore. We must be living water for all people.
People everywhere are leaving their private spaces and gathering together -- that's already church. This is a Holy Spirit moment.
A few days after I spoke with Michael, faith leaders gathered at Judson to announce a multi-faith statement in support of the OccupyWallStreet protests. Since the statement was released, more than 235 clergy and faith communities have signed on. This statement is just one of many ways that the faithful are showing their support for the protests.
What will you do?
When Samuel finally responds to God, the Lord charges him with a difficult task.
The tasks ahead may not be easy for us either.
But here is my prayer:
When God calls, let us be the ones to call back: Lord, speak.
Anne Marie Roderick is an editorial assistant at Sojourners.