In one of my recent hip-hop theology class sessions we held a passionate and engaging discussion on Black Liberation Theology and the construction of God, Power, Sacrifice, Revolution and misrepresentation. I appreciated the involvement and engagement with such sensitive matters. We began the work of deconstructing how God gets appropriated with a particular group within a societal hierarchy and thereby render those on the underside helpless and hopeless. I realized that so many people are conditioned by oppressive infrastructures that exist that we have come to fear alternative realities – even if the current reality is counterproductive.
Clearly our country’s unbridled capitalism has come to benefit a small percentage of all people while subjugating the masses to poverty, inadequate education, paralyzing health conditions and other social calamities. The rising tide of 1% does not float the boats of the other 99%. Our current economic structure has not trickled down to benefit the least of these, rather, it has taken more from the least and given more to the powerful and privileged.
In spite of this reality so many of us are convinced it is merely a matter of personnel and not political philosophy. Add to this the way in which religion has been incorporated into the equation and begun to embrace a Wal-Mart ethic and ideology which supports and recreates the oppressive economic practices in the name of “prosperity” and you have a molotov cocktail of ministerial calamity. Whenever religion is tied to power (and vastly ALL power – except the power of LOVE is oppressive) it tilts God towards the powerful and away from the powerless – sustaining the social hierarchy. When this occurs the only redemptive measure is for the bottom percentile to become enraged, empowered and engaged enough to stem the tide and try to balance the scale.
I believe this is the spirit of the Occupy Movement. Regardless of the critique of its lack of specificity and the demonization by those on the right, I believe this movement is centered in love for ALL humanity, equality and justice. In many ways I believe this is a God movement. In the strength and spirit of love, God is associated with the most vulnerable in a given society (AKA the Power-Less or the bottom percentile) and thereby redeems the people AS A WHOLE. I believe that God is standing with those who have been moved into a civil protest response to the injustice that they (and those whom they know and love) have experienced.
The truth is those who FEAR alternative realities (which the Occupy Movement is trying to usher in) are usually those who benefit (or will benefit) the most from the current power structure. Therefore, I suggest that the core of the clash between the Occupy Movement and the top 1% is a battle between FEAR and LOVE. And I believe that LOVE and FEAR cannot co-exist. In fact, “…perfect love cast out fear…”
This is why WE (even many of those who are within the representation of the powerful) LOVE the occupy movement… It is inculcated with LOVE and FEARLESSNESS!!! Therefore, in the spirit of love… I’m headed to OCCUPY MEMPHIS – and beyond! Not just Downtown Civic Square, but everywhere I stand – as a pastor, professor, parent, partner in marriage/ministry and prophet, I stand in the name of the LOVE that casts out FEAR!
1 John 4:18 (NRSV) – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”