How does a Christian live in a power-mad world?
A world that, from the perspective of the Beatitudes, is upside down.
A world where the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer?
Where nature herself strains at her bonds: straining for release from the carbon blanket that presses against her too hotly, maddened by a thousand poison-filled wounds? Where thousands sit in furtive silence to create machines like the one on which I write, their hands gradually succumbing to a thousand repetitions, frozen and swollen?
What does it mean to be a Christian in a world that is crucifying the poor and the environment on the same cross?
Hear the prayers of the people. Hear, oh God, the prayers of the people.
What does it mean to be a Christian when we bail out our banking class with 400 billion dollars, yet allow those banks to kick Americans out of their homes? Homes that cost too much because of financial speculation on the housing market.
What does it mean to hear the prayers of the ordinary people?
What does it mean when dictators profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, one blood-soiled hand holding an AK-47, and the other clasped over a heart in which professes to be the temple of the living God?
Oh God, oh world, oh friend, hear the prayers of the people.
What does it mean to be a Christian when we drive to work each day in cars that pump out oil, to jobs where we are in charge of maximizing profit for multinational corporations, in a country that has made a pact with world-destroying forces so that we do not compromise our standard of living?
The smallest people in our economy are praying with their last coins.
Hear their prayers, oh God.
What does it mean to be a Christian when organizations such as The Family create a Jesus that does not hear the prayers of the poor? An organization that prays to the powerful in place of God? That participates in the global crucifixion of the poor by turning Jesus' cross into a social ladder for politicians to climb upwards, past the broken body of Christ? To cultivate relationships with dictators?
To cultivate the most powerful for political influence, to create an elite society for the elite, is that listening to the prayers of the people?
I ask you, was Jesus a political networker? Did he hobnob with the most powerful? Did he cultivate relationships with the dictators of his time, Herod and Pilate?
Our political class does not hear the prayers of the poor, they hear the "prayers" of corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. And they hear the prayers of Christians such as Doug Coe and The Family at the National Prayer Breakfast, because they offer connections, votes, and money.
This is not the way that Christians pray politically. If we are to take one political message from the entirety of the Scriptures it is that God hears the prayers of the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, and acts through the narrative of history both for the daily bread of the poor and to make right their conditions of oppression. And if we ourselves do not listen, we face the judgement of a God who does hear those prayers.
That's why we have created an alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast, on the morning of February second,, the People's Prayer Breakfast, where people of all faiths can both listen to and offer up the prayers of the poor. It's an event where all are welcome, but we especially invite those who are impoverished or work with impoverished people groups to come and bring their prayers. We will offer up the prayers of children in the form of artwork on the theme of "enough for everyone", first to God, and then to the attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast.
You see, we live in a world where there is already enough for everyone. It is us, our sins and sinful structures, that keep this disparity of wealth remaining. But God is waiting, just beyond the veil of our faithless actions, just outside the moment of history, and all it takes is for us to heed God's call to hear the prayers of the poor.
Jeremy John is an organizer for Occupy DC and OccupyDC's lay chaplaincy. He contributes to the Good Men Project, Geez, Sojourners, the Huffington Post and Red Letter Christians, blogging here. Jeremy builds websites for progressive social change at EchoDitto and in 2003, spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity while imprisoned.