I've had occassion to speak out publicly for Occupy. Here are two instances. The first, "It Is Night," was at an Advent/Chanukkah rally on Union Square in support of workers at the Hyatt Grant. The second, "I'm Occupying Wall Street West Because....," was at a January 18 press conference anticipating Wall Street West's January 20 action in the Financial District.
IT IS NIGHT
It is night. It is dark.
No, you say, look around you…the night is full of bright lights…lights that sparkle off the diamonds in the jewelry store across the street, lights that flow from the wall of glass that is Macy's, lights that shout of merriment from the noisy lobby of the St. Francis, lights that shine from the tree behind me…a tree that beckons here not to the Christ we Christians wait for each Advent, but to the consumerism that crowds out Christ from the season and from our hearts.
Oh, the lights are bright round Union Square, but they are artificial lights – artificial lights we have created to hide the darkness…and mask our fear of the darkness we know is deepening around us.
Let me tell you about that darkness – darkness that we would not look at – darkness as near as the Tenderloin, only blocks away up Geary…or closer still in the recesses of our hearts.
Let me tell you about the darkness I've encountered among the newly homeless in the alleys off Polk Gulch, among the teenage runaways on Haight, in the faces of hardworking people in my suburban church who've just lost a job, in the smug faces of those who would strip Martha and Lorena Reyes of their dignity and livelihood, in vigils outside a detention center where migrants await deportation because there's no room at the inn, in the harassment by the powers-that-be of the earnest young people of Occupy who would make it right…and in crying myself to sleep these Advent nights at the silence of our churches.
This…this…is the very heart of darkness.
But we Christians are a people of hope. We have been given a promise and we await confidently its fulfillment. That is what Advent is all about. We are not disheartened by the darkness. Nor are we distracted by the feeble, artificial light around us here on Union Square. For our eyes are on the true light that darkness cannot overcome and which will enlighten everyone. That is what Christmas is all about.
As we gather here tonight, there are only five more days…five more days, not to shop, but to put down the shopping bags and reflect about the promise of Christmas…a promise of justice, peace, and love…and what we're called to do to usher in such a world. It's worth waiting for. It's worth working for.
As we do, I wish you Shalom, Saleem, Peace, a blessed Advent, and a very Merry Christmas.
I'M OCCUPYING WALL STREET WEST BECAUSE....
I'm occupying Wall Street West with San Francisco Interfaith Allies of Occupy, because I believe in that cry "No justice! No peace! It is a plea not for the mere absence of violence - the silent, complacent peace of the graveyard. It is, rather, a call to the peace of Shalom that rests on justice and that insists on shared well-being in community.
For too long now that sense of justice and shared well-being has eluded us. We've experienced forty years of endless war and suffered the consequence of decades of rampant greed that have produced a Great Recession in an America we hardly recognize any more.
As people of faith, we must now speak truth to power – be it on Wall Street in Lafayette Park, or on Nob Hill. As people of faith, we must stand in solidarity with those in Occupy who seek a more equitable society. As people of faith, we must help shape solutions consistent with our values of justice, equality, and solidarity. We must not shy from the political fray, for both politics and religion concern themselves with how we relate to one another, how we will shape our societies. And good politics, like good religion, seeks to shape a just society.
That's what I seek by being here. Join us!