Column: Occupy Movement and the Church

Column: Occupy Movement and the Church

Recently the media has reported on an increasing show of church support for the Occupy Movement. This increase comes against the backdrop of evictions of Occupy protesters encamped in city parks and squares across the United States.

For several months protestors have gathered to draw attention to corporate greed and the excesses of the so-called 1 percent, a reference to the nation's elite, who protesters say have disproportionate influence over the rest of the country, resulting in inequality and social injustice.

The Christian faith teaches us that Jesus was an advocate for the poor and against social injustice. He had a special sense of mission to poor and oppressed people. At the beginning of his ministry, often referred to as Jesus' mission statement, Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

I’ve always wondered why the church was not more visible in the Occupy Movement. I’ve always felt that such a movement should have originated from the church. Perhaps church involvement has been slow because the Occupy movement has been criticized for its lack of focus.

I am inspired by the fact that a group of African-American church leaders announced last month their intention to join ranks with the Occupy Movement in the nation's capital, bolstering what some consider a mutual message of condemning income inequality and social injustice.

The Rev. Graylan S. Hagler, Senior Organizing Pastor for Community of ALL People United Church of Christ (CAPUCC) in Reston, is actively involved in the Occupy Movement in Washington, D.C. He is a part of about a dozen Christian activists who have started an ecumenical "Occupy Church" at Washington's Occupy K Street encampment in downtown Washington. The Occupy Church holds a prayer service every Saturday at noon and is trying to establish a full-time, rotating chaplaincy for the occupiers.

In addition to spiritual ministry and space to assemble and sleep, religious communities have provided the Occupy Movement with material support such as food, clothing, tents, blankets and heaters.

And at the public radio station WPFW (89.3 FM), the Rev. Graylan S. Hagler used his airtime Monday to note the similarities between the Occupy Wall Street movement and those who camped in "Resurrection City," in the shadows of the Washington Monument, after King was slain.

Rev. Hagler has been involved in social activism for nearly 30 years and is always challenging the congregation’s members to look for opportunities to respond to the call of social justice in the local community and throughout the world.

The recent statement made by Republican Primary Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney regarding his lack of concern for the poor is offensive and should be a beaconing call for all humanitarian to stand up and join in the movement against poverty whether it be with the Occupy Movement or any of the other organizations involved in the fight against economic injustices.

My question to the Reston and Fairfax County Community is: Do you care about the poor or do you think the poor is taken care by the "safety net." If you care, what are you doing to make a difference?

CAPUCC worships every Sunday at 4 p.m. at 1615 Washington Plaza, Washington Plaza Baptist Church lower level.