Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Walls or Bridges: Connecting with Occupy Wall Street in Your City

Photo by JR Woodward

It’s been close to two weeks since I wrote my first post on the Occupy Wall Street movement. There was a lot of reaction to my blog entry, positive and negative, public and private, more than I expected.  Talking about faith and politics seems to create a visceral reaction in many people, which is why some say to avoid it.  I can’t.  These topics are too important to sweep under the carpet.

I thought about doing an entry entitled: “Would Jesus Be More at Home at Occupy Wall Street or ‘Your’ Church?”.  But instead of writing a prophetic piece, (which I may do in the future) I decided to write a more missional piece.

Wall or Bridge?

Wall or Bridge?
First, I want to ask you, when you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which metaphor – wall or bridge – best describes your attitude toward the #OWS movement and why? Do you find a wall erecting in your heart or does your heart empathize with them? Do you first think about your political ideology or is your first thought about the kingdom of God and what it means to be an agent of his kingdom at this time?

As I first started following #OWS before the mainstream news was covering, I knew I was going to be on the East Coast, so I made a point to get to liberty square.  I always prefer to get my information first hand, because all media is biased in one way or the other.  It was October 5th, the day where at least 10,000 plus marched.  I marched along with them, because it felt right and it gave me a good chance to connect with all kinds of people.

LT and I

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the people at Occupy Wall Street that I met in New York. The people I talked with were thoughtful, intelligent and really seemed to care about about the common good and giving everyone a voice. Bob Robinson has summed up the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement well. There are two primary concerns driving the movement.

Photo by JR Woodward

1. The protesters believe that the wealthiest 1% have an unjust advantage over the rest of the country’s population because they can influence the political process and tax laws with there pocketbooks. (Just yesterday yet another in depth study confirms how the rich are getting a lot richer in the last 30 years. The report is from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, as reported by the USA Today)

2. They believe that corporations have an imbalanced influence in Washington, unfairly getting favors in the legislative process and doing all they an to wipe out regulatory restrictions at the expense of the common good.

This video explains the heart of the movement well, giving at least four reasons for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

While the movement has articulated the problem, and while there is general agreement in regard to some solutions, like reinstating Glass-Steagall, auditing the Fed, reversing No. O08-205 by Amendment and Overhaul 1%/Corp Tax Code (as mentioned in the video and in a lot of my conversations), there isn’t full agreement on the remedy. Partly because you have people of all political stripes in the movement, from socialist, to anarchist to capitalist who are “seeking to save capitalism from crony capitalists“. Read this fascinating article – A Voice from the 1%.

I feel solidarity with the protesters in regard to the problem, but the solution isn’t socialism, nor unbridled capitalism, it is conversion to King Jesus and his kingdom ways. We, like Jesus, must understand God’s heart is big enough to help us love the 100%, yet stand with the poor and the oppressed, not just in USA, but in the world. How this translates into our democracy is the more difficult road we must travel.  But let me leave you with some ways to build bridges to the Occupy Wall Street movement in your city, some of which I might expand upon if I have time to continue this series.

10 Ways to Meaningfully Connect with Occupy Wall Street in Your City

1. Appreciate their heart for the common good
2. Appreciate their norm of peacemaking (when one violates this, the group corrects itself)
3. Affirm their prophetic voice
4. Affirm their shared leadership approach
5. Affirm their care for the poor and oppressed
6. Seek to Understand before being understood
7. Meaningfully connect in community as a community
8. Be a student of gospels and economics (reading all viewpoints)
9. Be a student in Political Theology (Theopolitical Imagination would be a good start)
10. Meaningfully dialogue about the remedy

7 Posts Worth Reading
1. A Devotion for WallStreet – by Shane Claiborne
2. The Powers That Be, the Gift of Enemies and #OccupyWallStreet – by Kurt Willems
3.  Is it time for Evangelicals to “Occupy Wall Street”? – by David Fitch
4.  The 1 Percent Has Nearly Tripled Its Share of America’s Income – by Cord Jefferson
5.  #OccupyCorinth – by Dan
6. Occupy Wall Street: Why do so many Christians want to dismiss this? – by Bob Robinson
7. Jesus at Occupy Wall Street: ‘I feel like I’ve been here before – by Lisa Miller

7 Responses to Walls or Bridges: Connecting with Occupy Wall Street in Your City

  1. Arlene says:

    I find this very interesting..not sure what I think yet as I am just gathering information..before I came to know Christ in my early 20’s, I was going to jump wholeheartedly into the organization Greenpeace and save the whales…yes I would have left school for that cause..I appreciate so much of the passion here & in your first posting on this …As a core part of my local faith community, I am hesitant to team up with my time, energy and resources as I am limited( aren’t we all?)… and as I age I feel focusing on the core things I am real real good at will give me the energy for the long haul…the more I spread out the less I can give to those things I really want to give my life to..Being gifted as an evangelist/storyteller it is easy for me to get pulled into good things that will certainly take away from the core of who I am….and I truly believe there are not enough people telling His story as it is….I don’t have all the answers to this and alot of stuff really…I never promise specific changes in peoples lives(their situations) as I share Christ but having a place in heaven and good tools for change( ex.the Holy Spirit forever with you when you invite Jesus into your living quarters)…I really don’t know what specifics people need in their life to come to know Christ, love Him wholehearted and then go on to help others do the same..this has been a good read..I love being intellectually challenged…and as you would say…peace

  2. RobS says:

    Hey JR, some good ideas and thoughts as always. And your skill in connecting with people in a variety of situations is awesome. For anyone who knows you a bit or a lot, it’s one of your strengths I would think.

    I’m still waiting to see where OWS will shake out. Their web site lists eleven demands now, and many I can empathize with, but many others are idealistic and I haven’t seen a workable solution put forth by *anyone* to really solve the problem. Web site: http://occupywallst.org/article/a-message-from-occupied-wall-street-day-five/ for example lists quite a few.

    Ending wealth inequality is a demand… truly, to eliminate capitalism or re-distribute every bit of value is likely a bit far-fetched I think. Ending joblessness is a demand..? Sounds great, I love it, but if a company cannot hire 50 people and stay afloat, they won’t hire 50 people just for fun.

    All in all, I think the solution (platform) is going to break the movement. At that time, some groups and level of support is going to fragment and break away.

    Right now we have seen support for OWS from Christians that empathize some themes that are championed in the Gospels. But also, we have seen support from the Communists, the Nazis, David Duke (the KKK supporter), and we’ve seen OWS (through national/local movements and counts) rack up thousands of arrests (>2500 per their Twitter feed) and statements such as “My political goal is the overthrow of the government” from spokesmen (quoted by NPR radio).

    Society and culture like to fix problems. I think churches like to think that problems will be fixed too if non-Christians start to look like Christians first… and that’s not going to happen. But to achieve some more positive societal results that OWS seeks is going to require a revival and changing of hearts that only can be achieved by Jesus.

    The Communists, Nazis, clansmen, overthrowers of government and the others are going to hope big, promise big, under deliver, and leave us wanting more. To have faith in their plans is futile.

    I wish them luck in their awareness raising but fear embracing their solution set.

  3. A.J. Swoboda says:


    I found this very helpful and engaging. The question I am asking now is how do we protest for the Kingdom of God in a community of faith? Missiologists Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost have discussed in a number of their texts how to create a community like this. The key is to begin with Christology, move to mission, and then develop ecclesiology (Christology-Mission-Ecclesiology). In Twitter-esque language, ecclesiology can only be built upon mission which is planted and must grow first and foremost in a story theology of Jesus. Jesus must be the, in the words of one, the “common story” of the church. Nothing else. Then, protest is possible.

    I wrote an article on this. Tell me your thoughts:



  4. JR Woodward says:


    You are right to discern if and how God would want you involved. Not every need is our calling, though I suspect for some of my readers, God might call them to be a bridge. But we all need to discern our call. As Frederick Buechner has said, our calling is where the worlds greatest need meets our greatest passion.

  5. JR Woodward says:


    Thanks for your thoughts. Your articulate the problems #ows is experiencing now and the future well. There picture of utopia is similar to Christ. But what we have to do is connect with them to help them see that it won’t come about by the power of the people, but a person (Christ) who works in a people for the sake of the world. Thus we need to become like a Jews to win the Jews, like those without the law to win those without the law, become like a protester but still under the law of love that Christ gives, so that we might reach them and all experience conversation and become a part of the one new humanity in Christ.

  6. RobS says:

    Good point. I think we need to empathize with some common ground items and see if the church can be a catalyst to bridge the 1% to the 99% even and help them all achieve some common goals together. Identifying on some topics is no problem.

    Honestly, and to an extent, there are protestors that I will not become like because they are espousing beliefs that are bordering too far on hate, political revolution (more than just law change), anti-semitism, or areas where Jesus would not endorse or support His followers.

    But can some of their message be redeemed and given glory in His sight? Certainly and those are noble to engage.

    In any regard, should they be forced to craft a formal policy, they will lose internal and external support as they’re forced to identify realistic public policy solutions. If they can find some reasonable moderate ground that (ethically) interworks in many systems now, they have a much better chance in seeing their changes stick. In some ways, I hope they force moderate dialogue, but I’m skeptical their smaller elements will promote (or allow) it.

  7. JR Woodward says:


    Of course, we must always be under the law of Christ, which is the law of love. I’ve seen a video that shows one person with anti-semitic attitude, but I don’t think that is the norm at all. In LA, the Jewish people are a part of the occupy movement, and they certainly aren’t against themselves. This seems to be more of an attempt to misrepresent what #ows is all about. Here is an article in the Jewish journal about Jewish involvement in Occupy LA: http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/jewish_groups_rally_in_sukkah_at_occupy_los_angeles_20111019/

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