(Photo: Courtesy of Judson Memorial Church / Donna Schaper)
As Occupy Movements across the country experience police raids and evictions from public parks, Christians remain divided in their support of the movement.
Donna Schaper, senior minister for Judson Memorial Church in New York City, is supporting the cause, saying the “most important” appeal of the Occupy Wall Street movement is “the urgency it has for economic justice.”
“We are going to stay very involved; I think the movement is just beginning,” Schaper, who talked of possibly having a Christmas Eve service at Zuccotti Park, told The Christian Post.
“Christians have a wide-ranging consensus going back to Jesus that the poor are blessed.”
Judson Memorial Church plans to provide shelter for Occupy Wall Street protesters during the winter.
“Our sanctuaries are holy places that guarantee compassion, protection and the love of God. The non-violent Occupy movement needs to be both protected and expanded,” said Schaper in a Nov. 15 statement.
Religious groups, especially interfaith coalitions and mainline Protestant denominations, have involved themselves in the nationwide Occupy Movement.
At the Occupy Wall Street tent community at Zuccotti Park in New York, for example, one tent was reserved for prayer and meditation.
During the breakup of the Occupy Oakland demonstration, around a dozen of the 32 people arrested were religious leaders.
While Judson Memorial openly commits to advancing the cause of Occupy Wall Street, other New York churches are more cautious in their support.
The Rev. Jason Radmacher of John Street United Methodist Church told The Christian Post that he knew of some congregants who were part of Occupy Wall Street.
“We concluded that while our members should feel free to participate in protests … the congregation would not officially endorse the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said Radmacher.
“Moving forward, though, I think the movement should place less emphasis on occupying public space, and place more energy in articulating and advocating specific policies that can be debated, accepted, amended, or rejected.”
Catherine Ortiz, director of Marketing and Communications for Marble Collegiate Church, said that she was unaware of any of her congregation being involved in the Occupy Movement.
“The Occupy Movement has highlighted the need for a nationwide conversation on these issues,” said Ortiz to CP. “We are committed to continuing that conversation, as well as to caring for those in need and addressing the widening gap between rich and poor.”
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, believes the churches helping the Occupy Wall Street activists are advocating a “radically utopian” agenda.
“Should churches promote a specific political agenda, especially one focused on resentment and covetousness? Most Christians would say no,” Tooley told The Christian Post.
“OWS advocates a political agenda that is radically utopian and divorced from the realities of the world and human nature. Christians called to political engagement, in contrast, should be carefully realistic about the limits of political crusades in our fallen world.”
Tooley also said that when the Occupy Movement “passes, probably the leftist religionists who supported it will move on to the next trendy cause that vainly promises utopia in this world.”