Rev. Billy: Blessed Are You Who Rise From Your Chairs and Face the World
In this particularly fraught holiday season, Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping have returned to New York to preach against our shoot-and-buy, state-sanctioned religion of extreme shopping and argue that we have become "not witnesses to the world (but) consumers of it." In recent years, the good Reverend - aka activist and performance artist Bill Talen - has broadened his social criticism to tackle not just consumerist culture but its connections to racism, police brutality, climate change and global capitalism, with corresponding actions at the Ferguson protests, Monsanto, Starbucks and Wal Mart. Last week, he did a gig at New York's Joe's Pub where he invited a dozen homeless New Yorkers, including kids, to share their stories of life on the street and urge audience members to, “Talk to us, don’t talk about us.”
On Black Friday, he also turned up at Macy's, his old stomping ground, to blast a retail culture that's become "a bizarre deathtrap" of racial and economic inequities. Working in affiliation with campaigns like Buy Nothing Day and Not One Dime, a nationwide economic boycott focused on racial justice that highlights the $1.1 trillion buying power of African-Americans, Rev. Billy blasts the "national fundamentalist religion" reflected in last year's call in Ferguson of, "Hands up, don't shop." He describes an America "living in a gated community...a militarized zone, with false information about the world glowing on screens on our walls...the climate rattling the windows and the families knocking on our door." Especially at Thanksgiving, he sees a people "chewing together in the eye of the storm," trying to ignore the awful realities of Trump, ISIS, Exxon, Putin, Chicago, Goldman Sachs and 60 million immigrants seeking shelter. "We gather around the steaming food, our chairs pointed inward, trying not to notice what is behind us," he says. "Our thanksgiving tells us: it is time to rise from our chair, turn around and face the world, and take action."