#OccupyWallStreet: The Faith Factor

By Cathleen Falsani 10-06-2011

Photo by Tim King

Slowly but surely, as media coverage of the #OccupyWallStreet demonstrations in New York and across the country continues to grow, attention is turning toward what the spiritual/religious/faith elements are to the larger political/social/cultural story.

One of the best pieces I've read so far on the subject comes from Courtney Bender, a professor of religion at Columbia University, writing for "The Scoop" media and religion blog at the University of Southern California.

In her post, "Preoccupations: Spirituality and the #OccupyWallStreet Movement," Bender takes some members of the media to task for asking lousy questions or missing the story entirely.

She writes:

While there has not been much media interest in probing the religious dimensions of Occupy Wall Street, the few article that have ventured in this direction generally rely on one of two well-worn storylines. The first looks for the involvement of mainstream liberal religious groups and finds it lacking. Raising the "where are the clergy?" question should not stand in for asking "where are the religious people?" but it does. Harking back to coverage of the civil rights era and other religiously inspired political movements, this angle suggests that without the involvement of institutional religious organizations, there is no "real" religion at the occupation....

Journalists could see for themselves, if they would set aside their assumptions about what religion is supposed to look like. Asking whether Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping are authentic, whether Cornel West is acting opportunistically, whether the participants in the meditation circle "flash mob" or the marchers whose signs read "Jesus was the 99%" are acting independently or as "religious" adherents are wrongheaded questions. Both Reverend Billy and the flash mob meditators revel in the complicated interplay of sincerity and parody, of identification and non-identification, to make their points.

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.

Read Bender's stellar post in its entirety HERE.

'Occupy Wall Street' Joined by Christian Protest Group

The Protest Chaplains, a Boston-based Christian protest group, joined New York's "Occupy Wall Street" movement last month. One of the few religious groups present, they witnessed an outpouring of support and a ripple affect of astonishing acts resulted from their presence at the "Occupy" protests.

The group arrived in NYC Sept. 17 decked out in white robes and publicly chanting prayer.

"What we did was simple," Marisa Egerstrom told The Christian Post Tuesday.

Egerstrom, one of the founding organizer's of the group said, " We sang and chanted simple songs. We didn't have a chance to do anything else. People stopped and turned around. It was something beautiful in the midst of protest chants."

Composed of Harvard Divinity School students, members of the Episcopal Diocese of Mass., and many other local churches and faith groups, the Protest Chaplains draw strength from rituals of prayer, song, meditation and devotion.

Their website says, "We're not out to evangelize anyone

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