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The Christian Spirit Rests with Occupy Protestors

Occupy Portland

I went directly from the events that occurred on the night of Nov. 12 and early Sunday morning the 13th at Occupy Portland to the pulpit of Ainsworth United Church of Christ to repeat what I have said over and over again since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

Supporting Occupy America is a Christian act born out of the call we have received to help build-up the Beloved Community. Our churches should seize this movement as a new Great Awakening and once again preach a Social Gospel that lifts up the common good of all and firmly rejects prosperity theology and other movements in our churches that have allowed us to ignore the fundamental principles of biblical justice.

Christians are called to lift up the "least of these," and there is no better time to heed that command. As the richest get tax breaks, as poverty grows and as unemployment remains high, we are faced with a spiritual crisis in which we are asked to look into the faces of our brothers and sisters and see the face of God and to act accordingly. The decision by city officials to clear out Occupy Portland -- for "health and safety" reasons -- only accomplished the goal of allowing our city to ignore the ills we face by hiding the problem. The downtown business community might be happy and members might open their wallets to support the political aspirations of those who did their work, but no real good was done because no real problems were solved.

As one of the nearly 25 clergy who spent Saturday night at Occupy Portland, I was deeply touched by the deep commitment to nonviolence demonstrated by the protesters. I have to say the same for the Portland police. Until Sunday morning, they acted with restraint and honor. Even now, with tension high because of political decisions, I have witnessed the vast majority of the police -- like the demonstrators -- acting out of love for their city. I continue to call on all sides to engage in nonviolence. Anything else is a betrayal of our highest ideals as a people, regardless of faith or station in life.

But this movement doesn't call for a police response. The growing number of people experiencing homelessness and mental illness at Occupy Portland demonstrated the need for this national Occupy Wall Street movement, and instead of searching high and low for ways to escape the realities of that movement, our political leaders should be fully embracing it and providing leadership. Portland cannot solve its social ills without a national response, but at the same time our political leaders seem to lack the will or imagination to do anything to make a true dent locally in the growing problems we face.

We are in a moment of crisis. Our economy is broken, families are suffering and the political system is unable to provide the responses we need. So far only the Occupy Wall Street movement, many of them young people, has provided the leadership to inspire our nation to actually deal with our difficulties.

Jesus went and occupied Jerusalem. Martin Luther King Jr. went and occupied Memphis. I am convinced that today the Christian spirit rests with those who occupy sites across the United States, including Occupy Portland.

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