Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > 2011 > November 2011 > News - November 2011
Occupy ‘astonishing opportunity for clergy’


3:30 P.M. EST Nov. 18, 2011

The Rev. Monica Corsaro (left), pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, talks with participants in an Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College. Corsaro is one of many clergy who has volunteered to serve as a chaplain to the movement, which opposes corporate corruption and greed. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
The Rev. Monica Corsaro (left), pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church,
talks with participants in an Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community
College. Corsaro is one of many clergy who has volunteered to serve as a chaplain to
the movement, which opposes corporate corruption and greed. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey. View in Photo Gallery

He saw it as an opportunity to be present as a pastor and a peacemaker and went appropriately garbed in his clerical robes, stole and cross. When confrontation threatened, he said he felt called to be a buffer between the police and the protesters marching through Seattle’s downtown.

By the end of the day Nov. 15, The Rev. Rich Lang, senior pastor at University Temple United Methodist Church, was one of the six people hit by police with pepper spray. Others included 84-year-old Dorli Rainey and a 19-year-old pregnant woman.

Disturbed by the night’s events, Lang wrote a pastoral lament the next morning, describing his experience and his anguish.

In the message, he questions some of his clergy colleagues for failing to recognize what he sees as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The [Occupy] movement needs clergy for pastoral care and chaplaincy,” he said. “In Seattle, the campers are very young. They are kids and young adults, most unemployed, most on the fringes of society. Clergy are needed to be peacemakers and chaplains. It’s an astonishing opportunity for clergy to be with these young souls, the kids and young adults who don’t frequent our churches.

The Rev. Rich Lang was pepper-sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Michael Lang.
The Rev. Rich Lang was pepper-sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Michael Lang.

“If we had a little more evangelism in us, this is a remarkable opportunity to share the gospel through our pastoral care,” he said. “The pulpit is now in the streets.”

The rewards are great, he said. “Every time I go [to the camps], I come back full. I’m astonished how bright these people are. This is an opportunity to build relationships and open conversations.”

The camps, he said, eventually will be torn down.

“This is a moment when the church can be present and perhaps gain a more intimate understanding of homelessness, how we can be useful in helping the homeless. The great irony of [the Occupy movement] is that it has been the homeless who have helped these kids learn to build communities.”

Experience, wisdom, perspective

The church has much to offer the Occupy movement, Lang said.

“We have experience, wisdom, a larger perspective of building partnerships and what it means to be a partner,” he said. “We can see certain things. The movement needs clergy to be present for everybody.

“We have a ministry here — and [the opportunity is] only going to last momentarily.”

Demonstrators wave at passing traffic as they hold signs at an Occupy Seattle demonstration.  A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
Demonstrators wave at passing traffic as they hold signs at an Occupy Seattle demonstration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.
View in Photo Gallery

It was that ministry that inspired Lang to don his clerical robes and stole and walk alongside the protesters on Nov. 15.

Lang said “there was tension in the air from the beginning” as the Occupy Seattle camp and supporters marched to the center of the city to express solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street activists evicted from Zucotti Park.

“The march was peaceful but loud,” he said. “The police were all on bikes, and throughout the march, I began to observe a breakdown of their own discipline. Police [were] ramming people with their bikes. There was no reason for it. Some police getting involved in jawboning people back and forth.

"Police are well-trained," he said. “They’re extraordinary. Part of the role of the police is to protect the marchers, citizenry and property, but there was a breakdown in their own discipline.”

As the protesters walked, Lang said he watched as a young woman and a police officer verbally provoked one another. The officer began bumping into her with his bike, Lang said, and she responded by using the little black flag symbolizing anarchy to swat his hand away. Lang watched as the officer grabbed the flag and pulling on it, inadvertently pulled down the young woman. When her friends stepped in to drag her away, a number of officers began spraying the crowd with pepper spray.

Walking between protesters

The crowd began to separate though Lang continued to walk between the protesters and police. As reported on Seattle news station KING5, Lang waved the marchers toward the sidewalk and moments later was hit with pepper spray.

“I felt the back of my alb being soaked down,” Lang said. “Finally, one officer stepped toward me and shot me full in the face.” Blinded, Lang was helped by a couple of the young protesters to the side of a nearby building.

For Lang, it was an instance of police provocation. “The police don’t need to bully the marchers. The marchers aren’t walking against the police. This [Occupy Seattle] has not been a violent movement; property has not been destroyed. There’s no precedent for the extreme reaction.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has apologized to those who were pepper-sprayed during the peaceful protest that day, telling The Associated Press he had called in Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and the command staff to review the actions.

*Brands is a freelance writer living in eastern Upstate New York.

News media contact, Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn. (615)-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 28 comments

  • Tim Temple 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    As for Christians of the United Methodist denomination, we are not to judge those outside the body of Christ, but those inside the body of Christ (1 Cor.5:12-13).  Let the dead protest to the dead; you should follow Jesus who gave us the example of never protesting against the Roman occupation troops in Israel.  They did terrible atrocities against the conquered people and yet Jesus only said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  "He who says he abides in Him (Christ) ought to walk in the same manner in which He walked." (1 John 2:6)

    As for those in the United Methodist denomination whose highest object of devotion is Humanity, I call them idolators.  Our first object of devotion must be to God, His kingdom and His righteousness.  Many people wearing a collar with find themselves going to hell in the end.
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  • Andy Rubio 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Good call.  Loving Gods creation is probably the path to Hell.  If God is THAT jealous that we can have devotion to not just Him but ALSO his creation...well I don't know if that's the true God.
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  • FightEntropy 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    What a pity
    certain Methodist leaders align themselves with the Anarchist/Socialist agenda
    and then claim to represent the will of God. I don't recall Jesus protesting
    the Roman government in the streets of Jerusalem. His anger was directed at the
    Pharisees for their hypocrisy; kind of like some of the OWS protesters who
    curse Capitalism while they talk to each other on their IPhones. God calls us
    to be Holy and Righteous. How does that jive with defecating on police cars,
    destroying property and creating violence? Would you like to know where a lot
    of former Methodists are going when they leave the church? Yes, to the
    non-denominational churches that still believe in Scripture and bringing the
    Gospel of Christ to people struggling with earning a living and taking care of
    their families.

    hierarchy of the Methodist Church, with its emphasis on Social Justice, which is
    Group Justice, is destroying the church that Wesley founded. The resulting
    Class Warfare, promulgated by OWS and its supporters, is Marxist ideology and
    as such will only serve to hasten our destruction. Whatever happened to
    "Go and make disciples of all the world."?

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  • Rich Buckley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    In a conversation with a loved one after Thanksgiving Diner, the topic of the  Occupy Movement drew the following comment .... ".... but they (OWS) do not reach through to those who actually control the power to affect change"... in society. And therein describes the dilemma of leadership within the OWS.  How is change within society affected? What is the wisest role for OWS to pursue? (A) The broad, amorphous role of our collective moral and ethical conscience? Or  (B) "turn the movement into a list of specific legislative demands"? Isn't the latter the ultimate outcome desired by the former after all? The problem in morphing into (B) a specific list of demands, should be quite obvious.  Once you play your hand by showing all your cards (ala Michael Moore http://tinyurl.com/6ta2c3z) where does that leave you? It's a little presumptive to assume you have already registered an adequate effect on the levers of power that they anxiously await to do your bidding on bated breath. And if your list is in reality not a real list but a board-game move in the form of a gambit filled with  several pawns you intend to lose along the path to check the 1%-er's power, .... get real!  Economic changes of the order of magnitude the OWS Movement is seeking, require much more base-building. And you do not build a broad consensus of acceptance among a broad base with the sharp corners of a demand list. The Movement requires you the participant, to allow the Movement to mutate and evolve until it is so obvious those who actually control the power to affect change are moving into your camp.The single most important gift this country can give itself is to study the history of currency and realize that in reforming currency creation and money-supply within our banking systems, we can multiply the positive use of our money by an order of magnitude of nearly 2 times its current purchasing power in the building of real wealth.What difference does this make? It means the difference of addressing every issue raised so far in the Occupy Movement successfully.The problem is,  the subject of currency and banking reform is so distant from the average person's understanding, and is so complex by all its machinations that it seems outside anyone's ability to reform it, and yet its not. Every President that has looked closely at reforming our banking and currency system has been assassinated. Hmmmm. I wonder.There is still much to do:Be patient even as winter sets in.
    Listen to Ellen Brown - "Return the Privilege of Creating the National Money Supply to the People. (see November 15, 2011 post  http://tinyurl.com/3fa94u8)
    Learn how and why returning the national money supply to the people is both possible and important: 
    (Long Video) tinyurl.com/44d89sd  (History of world $-currency facts, including US) (Long Video) http://youtu.be/gV9A2IGShuk  (Long Video) The Enemy Within  (http://youtu.be/PNFOv_mbbLQ) real world controlling networks.
    The Hardest One of All: reach out and build bridges:
    even with the Tea Party (Chris Hedges reference that Tea Party reflects a Nazi-like structure notwithstanding) , by opening up their system to two-way communication flow bottom up, rather than its current top-down (ref. opening statement top of page http://tinyurl.com/3fa94u8 ). Especially with mainstream churches emphasizing and ecumenical nondenominational support: by seeking statements such as "We support OWS's core economic values" and "We support OWS's commitment to non-violence"by seeking background imagery of clergy, dressed in the vestments within your movement.In short choose path (A) over path (B)Pass the Love.. rich buckley  http://youtu.be/r_YOG3jMlV4
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  • Rich Buckley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    "This event  http://youtu.be/WmJmmnMkuEM   is
    powerfully symbolic. It is about contempt from those in power and the wanton
    use of force against the powerless." ... Michael Chorost, PhD  http://tinyurl.com/777zu9z   

    Chorost's notion is perhaps way out in front of most of the rest of us.

    If there is a yin and yang,
    Michael sees the Sunrise of
    the female aspect (the anima emerging
    within the male psyche), the Sunrise of
    the yin, a dawning of the New Age.


    The energy cycles of life do seem to be
    accelerating. The Yin aspect may be in full manifestation within just months --
    who knows, perhaps days, perhaps now, as you are readying these very words. I
    sense Michael's premise is therefore correct as an identified
    "tipping-point" in human affairs. This tipping-point is manifesting
    itself in many areas all at once, as a rapidly expanding, prevenient grace
    swirling among individuated souls. The conscious decision for OWS-NY to
    "resist not evil" by remaining non-violent, by the crowds at UC-Davis
    chanting "Shame" instead of pelting the police with anything handy,
    by the replacement of rage with a loss of fear and a shared understanding for
    the dialogue of peace.... by the tolerance and publication of these comments,  by the tepid but vital entry of mainstream
    clergy http://tinyurl.com/7jtnz3t  to
    sort through the chaos and acknowledge the core economic principals and support
    of nonviolence for change.
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  • Rich Buckley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What Might Help Temper Police/Sheriff Response:It seems to me there would be a tempering effect on Police responses if our clergy announced their intentions publicly to appeared on OWS protest scene in easily identified separate groups (not in the front lines)  in some obvious, easily identifiable ecumenical fashion.  The religious response should be to emphasis:---Non-violence,
    ---The Core economic message of OWS -- much as Seattle has. This will give other pastors courage to engage similarly.
    ---Ecumenical in nature, 
    ---Back ground presence,
    ---Supporting  Constitutional Freedom to protest.The pastoral volunteers should issue follow-up comments, daily, in the effort of keeping the movement non-violent and not be reluctant to criticize OWS activities, as will as police strategies. We need currency reforms much as Abe Lincoln and several Presidents were working to set in place right before they were each assassinated. For OWS to succeed, main stream religion will need to be seen engaged in deliberating its purposes with focus most likely on $-currency reforms,  tinyurl.com/44d89sd.  We can change the way currency and money lenders work. There are many Constitutional ways to do it which would pay off the National Debt, and not create runaway inflation.
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  • MarkWest1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The UMC chaplain at UC Davis, Kristin Stoneking, has written on Facebook a fascinating recounting of her role in getting the UC chancellor out of the building on Saturday night. Another example of creative ministry, like that of Rich Lang.
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  • MarkWest1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The Church Council of Greater Seattle issued this statement:

    The Church Council of Greater Seattle affirms the core economic message and
    nonviolent purpose of the Occupy Seattle movement. Pastors, ministers, clergy –
    friends of the Church Council – have been touched by the depth of thought,
    commitment to democratic process and resiliency of spirit of the occupiers. We
    applaud the ongoing interfaith presence at the Occupy sites and the inclusive
    initiative for the offering of prayers, silent meditation, counsel and material
    support.The Occupy movement rightly draws attention to the growing,
    scandalous disparities of income and wealth in our country. The Occupy
    experience involves sacrifice, courage and simplicity, all of which underline
    the message that a different way for our economy is possible.For these
    reasons, the Church Council:• Affirms that the growing movement of
    peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world
    in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power bears witness in
    the biblical tradition of Jesus against the sinful inequities in society;
    and,• Calls upon its members to be faithful witnesses in the tradition
    of Jesus to unjust economic inequities in society.One aspect of concern
    of this unfolding movement is for the safety, health and well-being of all
    involved in this public presence. The practice of peaceful assembly has been a
    significant attribute of the Occupy Seattle movement. This makes the accounts of
    the indiscriminate use of pepper spray toward marching occupiers – including
    toward clergy trying to maintain a nonviolent atmosphere – distressing. We
    appreciate Mayor McGinn’s apology to the Occupy movement and his call for a
    thorough review of the circumstances surrounding these police actions. We are
    hopeful that lessons learned after the WTO protests twelve years ago this month
    do not have to be relearned presently.We are enriched by the Occupy
    movement. The steadfast public presence of these men and women serve as an
    invitation for all of us - wherever our geographic neighborhood or location - to
    embody the notion that the measure of an economy is what it does to people, what
    it does for people and how those most impacted take part in the decisions that
    will affect them. It is up to us to be faithful and to be active in the weaving
    of an equitable and sustainable economic

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  • Rich Buckley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    A movement as large as OWS I sense, will only succeed in maintaining non-violence, love, and compassion and lead successfully to needed reforms if the movement has the presence of our mainstream churches not trying to coop the movement as its own, but demonstrating through its presence a commitment to  non-violent resistance and non-violent protest. Government officials and Washington's elected ultimately will only yield to needed reforms as its perception of the movement becomes mainstream by the sheer presence of mainstream religious iconography such as religious figures in official garb placidly lending a spirit of Godliness to the movement, as contrasted to active leadership which should remain in the hands of the "Occupiers." ..... Pass the Love.
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  • pastorjay1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    This is EXACTLY what the UMC and all Methodists should be involved in. This is the type of work for Social Justice that John Wesley, as well as Jesus Christ advocated-supporting the needs of the least, the last, and the lost, aka the 99%,  against the greed and power of the powers and principalities, aka the 1%.
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  • Joseph Bailey 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    The UMC and no Methodist should have anything to do with Occupy.  It is not Christian, not concerned about the Great Commission, and is as polar opposite of the UMC as night is to day.  The Conference as a whole and those individually are beyond misguided to even remotely think that associating with the Occupy Movement is anything called of God or doing the Lord's work.
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  • LeeH 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    You tell 'em Joe!!!  If Christ had been against Wall Street, he would have overthrown the moneychangers tables...  Oh yeah, he did.
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  • Andy Rubio 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    The Occupy Movement calls for unity against the Empire (I do believe Jesus was similar to that), calls to protect individuals and stand up to the rich and powerful (I know Jesus spoke of that) and calls for NONVIOLENT ACTION instead of full-blown riots against the injustices of the world.  If that doesn't fit the Christian religion, then I'd like to take my baptism back.
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  • JuleD 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I don't remember Jesus holding signs or shouting about His stance.  If I am correct, Jesus said, "Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's."  The Empire??  This isn't Star-Wars.
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  • Andy Rubio 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Oh that's right, he didn't shout about his stance..HE FLIPPED THE TABLES AT THE TEMPLE.  Saying Jesus wasn't an activist is idiotic.  Why did the Empire kill him? Because he was a threat!  And you don't become a threat to the leaders of an entire civilization by only preaching about love.
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  • theospilot 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Take it back.   A good percentage of these folks are mentally ill.  God bless them but supporting this foolishness under the guise of "Christian compassion" or some other left wing jargon is...well baloney.
    Maybe a lot of my fellow clergy would rather be "community activists" like someone else once was and I guess still is rather than a real follower of Wesley.  I would recommend reading or rereading his 52 Standard sermons, Articles of Religion and Confessions of Faith to see where our focus should be.
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  • MarkWest1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Powerful witness. Thanks for being present, Rev. Lang, at the messy edge of society, of working for understanding and non-violence in the midst of tension, for reminding us that the whole world is our parish. You make me proud to be a United Methodist.
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  • Steve Vornov 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I also wonder if Tea Party supporters have Internet sites where United Methodist share their deep feelings.  United Methodists are on both sides of this issue.
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  • Steve Vornov 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Have any UM clergy ever ministered at a Tea Party rally? I have never been to Tea Party rally but I'd be surprised if the events were Methodist clergy free.
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  • Rich Buckley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Here:     http://tinyurl.com/3fa94u8       I try to edit out the noise of chaos in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and watch for the light of God's truth during times of strife, change, and confrontations. I filter this through a Methodist - conservative upbringing, in context of values learned more through personal experience than through any church dogma. Here are some video clip summaries and running opinions as I experience the day to day emotions. I will post these informative summaries on the upper part of this page as I encounter them. Proper credit should go to other sites and reporters both liberal and conservative.  When I have time I will try and credit them properly. Most come fromExopermacuture, not all -- the comments are my own and may differ considerably from the sources from which they are borrowed. After many weeks of questioning the official website of my birth-church, the UMC, it has finally begun just yesterday (11-10-2011) to "mention" the obvious relationships among the leaderless OWS struggle and the professed tenets of the UMC mainstream religion. An important observation is that writers and clergy relying only on mainstream media coverage will discover that most of the news channels misrepresent OWS and pretend there exist no OWS goals (or report only radical perspectives fringed within this important movement) and that only chaos reigns supreme. My observations report far different interpretations. Clergy need to know that peaceful reform through constitutional means especially in a serious dialogue on currency market reformation is not only possible but history indicates, quite workable in much earlier American experiences. There is a tendency of all major groups, labor groups - unions, political parties of all stripes, and now religious groups, to want to absorb the OWS movement  ((similar to what is happening to the Tea Party (in which I hold much in common) and the Tea Party's hard right takeover by self-asserted power nodes inside the Tea Party that seem to constantly orchestrate the Tea Party's direction through dominance of information direction-flow, top down, i.e, you might easily get yourself on a Tea Party mailing list, but don't expect to gain access to the list yourself and participate in the information flow back to its self-perpetuating power-nodes funding the top-down emerging Tea Party structure)).  The current Tea Party business model of course would be fatal to the OWS-New York movement as each major group has factions within itself that view non-members to itself suspiciously at best.  OWS information has so far always flowed both ways freely. And therein lies an immense qualitative structural difference with the Tea Party and to our preservation of liberty so far nobly maintained by OWS.   In my humble opinion OWS best summary of its agenda is presented in the videos I've posted on this daily summary: To relist the best videos in order of clarity and usefulness for a quick introduction to the OWS-New York movement, they are posted here:  http://tinyurl.com/3fa94u8
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  • Irene DeMaris 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    As a young Methodist... Rich and Monica are a breath of much needed fresh air. They are meeting people where they are. They are reaching the elusive Gen Y that has mostly left the Methodist church. They are being the blessed peacemakers. They are being Christians.

    This isn't a rally. Occupy is a movement. Yes, bad things happen, but bad things happen everywhere (and the church isn't excluded from this). Learn more, go to your nearest Occupy and listen. Hear the pain and the hurt... and minister towards those people like Jesus would have done.

    Most people reading this article are apart of the 99% in America. Are you tired of all the injustice around us? Let's fill our posts with grace and love... and support for those struggling with those issues.
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  • SoldierForChrist 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    I don't remember the UMC clergy taking the opportunity to pastor the Tea-Party rallies. Maybe next time UMNS could run a story like this and post links like was done here to encourge Tea-Party support.
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  • bill 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Actually, I knew some who attended.  I don't know if they "organized" a presence but I know they were there.
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  • SoldierForChrist 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    ‎"Fox News has accused the Occupy movement of being an attempt to bring socialism into power. Lord, we can only hope." Bill Mefford, UMC, General Board of Church and Society (Bill Mefford Facebook wall Nov. 17, 2011)
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  • pastortims 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    While I commend my fellow clergy, Rev. Lang, in being present, I must also be critical of the situation. Anyone with any common sense knows that these Occupy events are potentially explosive situations. The rapes, murders, drug abuse, violence, etc. which have marked these events are clear evidence the events are anything but peaceful. It's naive at the least and just plain muddle-headed at the worst to imagine these events would remain peaceful. The police do what they can to keep the events from getting out of control. The individuals at these Occupy events need to realize they have now overstayed their welcome. Yes, they have a right to speak out and peacefully assemble but they do not have the right to take over public property, create health hazards and potentially dangerous situations, not to mention how many small businesses they have either negatively impacted or put out of business by their continued militancy. As clergy, as a church, I think we could do more to deal with the real issues by urging these individuals to go home and start working on solutions. They've made their point; now let's work on solving the issues.
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  • dmackey 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    While it is true that some bad things have happened at a few occupations  (far fewer than some reports seem to suggest), those few events should not be used to characterize or demonize the entire effort.  Overall they have bee very peaceful, creating supportive communities.  I recently came across a very good piece from "the Council of Elders" a collection of leaders frm many social movements, which expresses the hopes for the movement and underscores why many of us support the effort-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... .
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  • Occupythechurch 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Even if I suppose you're clergy I can't believe your claims of 'rapes, murders, drug abuse, violence. etc' as characterizing these Occupy events.  I follow the news often and most of those instances you mentioned were totally unrelated to nor caused by participants of the Occupy events.  They're not taking public property, you can go there too if you want to because you also partly own the parks.  What you glaringly omitted are the accusations of greed and selfishness exhibited by the rich and powerful in this country, a slap in the face of the Christ who famously confronted the rich man who couldn't share much less leave his wealth behind.
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  • Oldgriffin 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    So were the Civil Rights marches in the 1960s.  That time was no different.  This movement lacks leadership.
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