The Occupy movements and the role of religion.
As the Occupy movement’s response to economic inequity gained traction globally and in San Francisco, a groundswell of support by religious leaders, congregations and faith-based organizations emerged. This broad-based interfaith coalition calls itself “San Francisco Interfaith Allies with Occupy.”
The San Francisco Interfaith Council, our host organization, has been sought out to help provide resources from the faith communities. They were contacted by the mayor’s office to help provide alternative resources for the Occupiers, and as a result, when the Allies formed, the SFIC wanted to be sure that they were living up to their mission (Speak on behalf of no one, give voice to all) by being of resource to them as well.
Our supervisor at the San Francisco Interfaith Council, Michael Pappas, recalls a comment that he heard when at the General Assembly. A molecular biologist, a supporter of Occupy San Francisco, stood up and told Michael “We’re glad you’re here. We’ve been thirsting spirituality.”
Hearing that story brings up our own questions of the role that spirituality and religion play in civic movements. What is the difference between spirituality and religion? What do people need at times of nonviolent protest and civil unrest? Is there a response that faith communities should make together, or should they allow each individual to respond in kind? Should spirituality or religion play a role in civil movements at all?
When we think of religious communities, many don’t often think about their involvement in civil rights movements, immigration reform, and, as we’ve seen in Sierra Leone, their role in providing health care.
Religious communities are not solely concerned with living out ancient traditions and practices. As religious people, social issues of the day become our problems, whether you are on the religious right, religious left, or somewhere in the middle. We cannot separate our spiritual calls to righteousness from the injustices that we see in society.