Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Task of the Theologian in the time of Occupy Wall Street
The task of the theologian in the time of Occupy Wall Street is to continue to raise the question of ultimate concern—what does it mean to be human?  Fourteen million human beings in the United States are grappling with the most basic of human considerations—food and shelter—forcing an often aloof profession to deepen its vocational calling.   Nuanced and at times interesting debates about the nature of god and the church are drowned out by the groans of hungry disheartened and disinherited folks.

What must emerge from this crumbling empire and recalcitrant academy obsessed with specialization is the organic theologian.   Appropriating Antonio Gramsci’s organic intellectual, the organic theologian is a scholar who cultivates strong roots in their community, working to maintain links between theology and local struggles connecting to the people and their experiences. She uses her position to articulate discourses for helping communities and congregations develop new modes of being and organizing. The organic theologian does not exist outside of history but rather assesses and articulate moments when the divine is breaking into history through social movements.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has sprouted upon an unique contemporary landscape.  The three branches of United States government are thoroughly controlled and supported by corporate interest.  The current administration has received 16 million dollars in contributions from the securities and investment industry and appointed veterans of that same industry who facilitated the deregulation which culminated in a world wide economic crisis.   Through international trade agreements and bank bailouts, Congress has served the interest of Wall Street.   The Citizen United ruling of the Supreme Court afforded corporations the same rights has human beings thereby unleashing an ungodly amount of contributions to political campaigns. (President Obama is scheduled to raise one billion dollars for his re-election campaign.)  The media—the fourth estate—created to serve as the informative caretaker of the democracy—extols the virtues of the wealthy , demonizes the poor and those who protest on their behalf.   And the dominant theological project in United States declares that wealth is a sign of favor from god.

In this thorny political and theological terrain, Occupy Wall Street Movement has come to the public discourse in search of not only policies but meaning.   The organic theologian must consider these holy acts as signs and wonders in the last days of the empire.   The incarnation of the Occupy movements serves a reminder of the embodied sacrifice that is Jesus of Nazareth.  “Can anything good come out of the Occupy Movement?” is the question of pundit and politician alike.   The greater question for the organic theologian is “What does it mean to human in the decaying democracy?”  “How do we honor “the body and blood”of those arrested and beaten by the police?”  “What is the measure of our reasonable service?”