(Photo: REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson)
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, the reporter whose story about his unlikely relationship with a homeless schizophrenic bassist inspired the film "The Soloist," camped out overnight with the Occupy Wall Street L.A. crowd earlier this week.
Although the Times building is almost directly on the opposite side of the street from L.A. City Hall where about 200 occupiers have been spending the night for nearly two weeks, Lopez told The Christian Post that he wanted to get a better grasp on what Occupy Wall Street was all about.
“I pitched a tent Monday night in a neighborhood of the angry, the disaffected and the disillusioned,” Lopez began in his column, headlined “A festival, a rebellion, an awakening.” Later, in his column, he referred to the occupiers as a “collection of disaffected souls.”
Asked why he chose to spend the night, he said, “I wanted to know who was out there and why, and by spending the whole night, get a better sense of the vibe. Pundits and others seem to be judging Occupy from a distance, which is fairly useless. I wanted to be in it.”
Crowds of varying sizes occupying cities and town squares around the country seem to be part of leaderless movement with many complaints, say some observers. Many are having a hard time deciphering what message OWS is trying to give.
However, a statement that has emerged from protesters is the proclamation that "corporate greed and corrupt politics" must be stopped.
“The occupiers have been knocked for not having a clear message, and they've been called the tea party of the left. But I wasn't quite willing to write them all off because they weren't able to speak in sound bites,” Lopez writes in his column. “And after an evening of observation and conversation, I can tell you this:
“Occupy L.A. is a festival, a rebellion, an awakening, complete with a mess tent, economics classes, a silk screen printing shop, live music, a pumpkin patch and passionate conversation.
"OK, it's also a place to party on city property while the police, at least so far, look on benignly, and contact highs are easy to come by.”
While columnists are trying for a better angle, politicians and faith leaders are increasingly being watched closely as to what they say about the occupiers.
"My opinion is that obviously the people involved in these protests are deeply concerned, as we all are, about the state of our nation and world, but they seem to be unwilling to separate the good from the bad," Christian publisher the Rev. Paul T. McCain told CP recently.
"Sweeping condemnations of corporations, by which the very fabric of our society functions and produces so much good, for so many around the world, is short-sighted and counter-productive," McCain said.
There are other leaders in the Christian community chiming in on the question of how believers should respond.
“There is no biblical substance to the opinions of those participating in Occupy Wall Street. If we were to look at ‘what would Jesus do,’ I personally don’t believe Jesus would be picketing,” said Christian speaker and evangelist Jay Lowder. “He would instead be addressing more important things than the government’s role in the wealth of our nation.”
“If you look in the Bible, nowhere will you see Jesus or Paul, who is one of the greatest models of Christianity, taking a stand against the Roman policies or procedures, despite there being great injustice in their day,” Lowder said.
Still, others like Lopez, seem to be more sympathetic to the actions of the protesters.
“Not everyone out there has an equal amount of knowledge about political and economic affairs, but everyone seems to be interested in taking a stand,” Lopez told CP. “The general sense among people is that things are greatly out of whack, with an ever-greater concentration of wealth among an elite few at the expense of everyone else, and demonstrators are united by a desire for economic and social justice.”
“I admire them for speaking up rather than sitting at home checking e-mail or watching television,” he added. “Next time, though, I’d move to the north lawn, where I later learned it’s considered much quieter at night.”