Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jesus Would Have Been Born in the Camp

Occupy Wall Street. Occupy London. Occupy Harvard. Occupy your school. Occupy your office. Occupy everything.

Occupy Christmas? Yes, Jesus would have been born in the camp.

On October 27, the Rev. Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, spoke about his resignation because of his objection to the use of force to evict the protesters of Occupy London Stock Exchange, who have camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

He said, “What the camp does is challenge the church with the problem of the incarnation – that you have God who is grand and almighty, who gets born in a stable. St Paul was a tent maker. If you tried to recreate where Jesus would have been born, for me I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp.”

Even if Jesus was not born in the camp, he would certainly join the Occupy movement, for he was part of Occupy the Temple of his day.


Jesus and the Disciples in an Occupy Drum Circle by Sudeep Johnson
When I saw this picture with the article on The Huffington Post, I began to laugh. Yes, Jesus and the moneychangers. How could we have forgotten?

Don’t the conservatives always ask, “What would Jesus do?” Tell them, Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables and drove them from sacred ground. As Richard Eskow said, “It’s hard to describe Jesus’ action against the moneychangers in today’s terms without calling it ‘Occupy the Temple.’”

Now the police and officials have raided the tent-cities in the U.S. The once vibrant encampment at Dewey Square in Boston is no more. When you pass through it today, the ground has been resodded and you would have not guessed that some 100 tents were there just over two weeks ago.

So this is it? Not quite.

I went to the general assembly at the Boston Common the night after the campsite was raided at 5 a.m. on December 10 to support the Occupiers. The Dewey Square camp was the longest continuous campsite in the U.S.—for 72 days. It was a peaceful demonstration and yet the authorities would not allow it to continue. 

But the Occupy movement was never about seizing public lands and establishing tent-cities. In this new Occupy 2.0, the movement depends on community and grassroots support. In Boston, St. Paul’s Cathedral was the first to open their sanctuary for the Occupiers to meet on December 13. Dean Jep Streit said that the church is not taking sides, but wants to provide a space for the important conversations for economic justice to continue.

In England, Occupy London Stock Exchange continues to camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. They will remain there until January 11, 2012, when the High Court makes its decision on eviction. The camp now has about 150 tents.

Asked in Radio Times what Jesus would do in response to the Occupy group, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said he would be there “sharing the risks, asking the long and hard questions.”

At the Christ Church Cathedral at St. Louis, Missouri, the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, USA, also made connection between Jesus and the Occupy movement. She said in her sermon “I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers. . . The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks.  Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.”

Churches in the U.S. have long been involved in social movements: anti-slavery, temperance, women’s liberation, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender liberation. On this Christmas day, I hope churches will provide hospitality for this movement to continue.