What’s Next for Occupy

Nativity tent occupation

A nativity scene occupies the yard of Trinity Chirch, which initially supported Occupy Wall Street but later barred protesters from camping on church-owned land. Creative Commons/Poster Boy

Everybody wants to know what is next for the Occupy movement, and no one knows. Nor may we. Nor will we. Nor should we.

What Occupy has done is reinvigorate the art of the surprise, the craft of worship and ritual, the soul force in activism. It has changed the conversation and occupied the holiday tables of America. What will be said at Seders and Easter dinners? What will be said on the Fourth of July? The genie is out of the bottle. A kind of truth is being spoken—clumsily and consistently.

Occupy has unseated the pragmatic from its throne and replaced it with a mighty emptiness. That emptiness is as pregnant as any womb before fertilization, any wound before its healing, any glass before its filling. During the week before Christmas, on the fourth night of Chanukah, forty or so faith leaders gathered on three days’ notice. One faith leader from Occupy D.C. said, “It was like I was liquefied and poured out.” Our introductory go-around was to tell each other what we were like before Occupy and what we are like now. The theme was: I was politically depressed. Now I am spiritually and politically awakened. I used to be a pacifist. Now I am an occupier. I used to be unemployed. Now I have work to do.

Pragmatism is a very good thing in a prophet. And it is not enough. We have been flattened by our own pragmatism. We have been spiritually deadened and issue-organized into smithereens. The mizraim come to mind. The mizraim are the set of boundaries and pigeonholes that separate you from the whole and narrow you into their narrow way. What, you aren’t fighting for abortion while fighting for tenants’ rights, while being anti-racist and multi-faith all at the same time? Instead of being liquefied and poured out, pragmatic, issue-oriented prophecy has hardened us into parts and their partiality. Pragmatic organizing made us worry about what we weren’t doing while managing by objective what we were doing.

Occupy—with its glance at all issues, deep enough to see their roots—has radicalized us. Radical is the drilling to the center of the problem. ...

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Donna Schaper has been Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church for five years. Her life goal is to animate spiritual capacity for public ministry.

Source Citation

Schaper, Donna. 2012. "What's Next for Occupy." Tikkun 27(2): 24.

tags: Activism, Spiritual Politics   
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