Friday, November 18, 2011

So what really IS the occupy movement?

I work with High School students and it shocked me last Wednesday to joke with a few of them and say, "yeah, so now you will start your own occupy movement.  Ha ha  ha  . . . . ha . . . . . .  ahem"

Blank stares.

They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about - they had heard nothing at all about what the occupy movement was.  I am extremely non-political - I like a little about what everyone is saying so I don't line up on one side or another . . . but this was interesting.  They had no idea what was going on in the world.

Which made me think - what do people know about this phenomenon?  I don't mean politically, if you want to hear political jargon this blog isn't going to help you.  I am more interested in where  this came from and where it is going.

My personal understanding on this goes like this . . .

About 45 years ago Communist leaders in eastern Europe enacted a series of reforms called "The Prague Spring."  It represented a thawing of the rigid structures of Communism to allow more personal and political freedoms.  It filtered through academia and the arts and began a movement among students.  The Soviets responded with force in the fall.

Fast-forward to 2010 and in December last year students and workers in the Arab world began protesting the absolutist structures in their own countries.  They called it the "Arab Spring" in a nod to the demonstrations of the Prague Spring.  When you hear "Arab world" think Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan among others.  Essentially the entire northern tier of Africa and the fertile crescent.  Unemployment in these countries was high and resentment over government inaction led to protests.  Demonstrations there have brought in regime change in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia with major reforms in several other countries.  Syria is currently in trouble with the Arab league because of how aggressive they are being with protestors. 

So anyhow - seeing what was happening in the Arab world, political organizers sent the message through primarily social networks that similar demonstrations can be used to effect change here in America.  Citing the number of people out of work while leaders of corporations are getting 'bailed out,' organizers of a similar kind of movement decided to 'occupy' the centers of privilege that have ignored the vast majority of people in the US (the oft-quoted 99%).  Leaders of a Canadian magazine purchased the domain for the occupy website in early June.  Then in July the same magazine called for an organized protest for September 17th.  They wanted about 20,000 people to take up residence in the Wall Street section of New York City.

Participation in September was more in the neighborhood of 1,000 but the movement began to gather steam in early October as media began running stories of run-ins with police.  The movement purposefully has stayed away from a centralized message and structure so as not to imitate the very thing it is protesting.  The Occupy movement encompasses people who are upset with capitalism, upset with the treatment with women, angry over joblessness and homelessness, irritation with proposed 'austerity' measures and dozens of other messages.

Last weekend most of the Occupy movements were evicted by their host cities citing social and sanitary problems that were taking place at the encampments.  Most Occupy participants have now vowed to take the protest out of the encampments and into the streets.

As an example of this new phase, I was in Philly yesterday and heard that the Occupy movement was going to march up Market Street and demonstrate near 30th Street station to show people that the place needs to be renovated and that people need jobs.  At least they told commuters where to not drive . . .

So there you have it - a hopefully impartial account of where it has come from and where it may be going.

Personally, I don't think we can solve our own problems.  I know that sounds so cynical, but our humanity is like blight.  Our humanity is the one thing that continues to inhibit our ability to treat the ailments that are caused by our humanity.   We need something outside of ourselves and our politics to lift us out of the mess we are in.  You don't treat blight with sanitized blight.  We need something or someone outside this thing we call humanity to lead us out of the mess we are in.  I mean, that is why Jesus came to begin with . . .

. . .  and why He'll come again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Mom Dated Joe Paterno

It is true.  My mother dated Joe Paterno.  It was back in the 50's - she went to school there between 1952 and 1956.  He was a young assistant with Rip Engle at the time.  I think I remember her saying that they went to see a boxing match and grabbed some sandwiches.  It wasn't love at first sight - she said he was kind of goofy.

I think it is a good thing it didn't work out.  I would be considerably shorter and have a bigger nose.  Although I would have pretty decent seats for games - tough trade-off.

I mention this because of all the controversy swirling in the recent events surrounding Joe's retirement.  How sad that one person's sin has so much consequence.

Do you think that Paterno's assistant coach thought through all of this when he planned to commit these horrible acts?  Was it a fair trade in his mind?  Could you imagine saying, "I will trade my integrity, all the accolades I have been given, the lives of these young boys, their families and their psychological well-being as well as the reputation of my school and close associates so that I can indulge in my desires?"

And see, that is the power of sin.  Sin is such a churchy word.  It gets mocked in some circles and portrayed as a word that isn't worthy of our sophisticated current understanding of the human psyche.  Baloney.  It is the perfect word for something like this - a deep desire that keeps taking more and more real estate in your soul until it has to be acted upon regardless of the consequences.  Sin is sin because it puts me first.  We are all capable of what happened here - and we are all in need of something outside of ourselves to fix what is wrong.

So the man that my mom dated is still the same guy, but now he has a blemish on his record because of the selfishness of one man (and perhaps even the selfishness of Paterno himself).  It reminds me of a quote that a friend of mine once said: "sin makes you stay more than you wanted to stay and pay more than you want to pay."  And not just for you - but for those around you as well.  Just ask Joe Paterno.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Yesterday I was thinking about this and I wonder if I have come to a writable thought.

All of us have questions about the nature of faith and whether what we believe is true or not.  When these questions continue in our minds without some sort of action, they begin to rot and lead to decay of what we believe.  This decay leads to indecision and we become paralyzed internally - not wanting to admit that we don't have the certainty that we may have once had but not wanting to admit that things have changed.

So we look for inspiration from apologists to tell us that what we believe is worth following.

But all of this is on the outside.  These are questions that deal with whether "it" is true as if our beliefs are something that we attach ourselves to.  Is is possible that this kind of faith is no good to us because it is always evaluated.  Like a judge we are always sifting through the evidence.

Isn't the true believer internalizing the faith?  Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within us.  We act on what we believe and so it becomes true in our lives.  It becomes the truth because of how it changes us.  The reality of the Gospel is not "did it happen" but rather "is it happening inside of me?"  I mean did Jesus really do what He did so that I can comfortably put my trust in Him?  Or did He come to this earth so that I too might die to myself.

The greatest apologetic for the faith might just be how much it changes me from the inside-out.  Which, when you think of it, is much harder to put your mind around.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Adam and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So I was thinking.

What if the current fog of uncertainty that we walk through plays out because of the garden of Eden.  I mean, it was Adam and Eve who chose to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A strange name for a fruit tree.  As best I understand it, the tree is emblematic of a route to understanding that bypasses a relationship with one's maker.  Instead of going to the maker, one can have their own understanding.  This is a problem if good decisions are made in the context of a relationship with one's maker.

So, I haven't had a lot of time to soak on this . . . but, what if that is what is being played out among us today?  What if we continue to make this decision in our time?  Is it possible that God purposefully hides Himself as a way to encourage us to choose Him (completely on our own will) - so that by 'finding' Him (in the context of a relationship) we reverse the course of the events in the garden?

Just some thoughts . . . would love to hear yours.