When the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped this fall in Zuccotti Park, a privately-owned space a block away from Trinity Church (Episcopal) in lower Manhattan, the church provided the protesters with substantial logistical and moral support: meeting space, bathrooms, electricity, food, blankets, pastoral care. The protesters were drawing attention to an important subject, economic inequality, and Trinity believed they had a moral right to be in Zuccotti Park, even though the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, said the park could not safely accommodate them and wanted them to go. Now that the police have evicted them, the protesters wish to camp in Duarte Square, a nearby park owned by Trinity Church itself. The church, however, refuses – on the ground that Duarte Square cannot safely accommodate them. This has led to complaints from other churches that Trinity is being hypocritical and unchristian, but Trinity has its supporters, too, including most of the Episcopal hierarchy, who say other churches shouldn’t throw stones. “It’s cheap grace,” one Episcopal leader complained to the New York Times. “It’s great to defend the rights of protesters in someone else’s backyard.” A point on which the owners of Zuccotti Park also had occasion to reflect.
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution, an interesting piece on the presence of religion in the Occupy Wall Street movement. As you might expect, the movement has kept its distance from organized religion — these are not people who are fond of institutions — but at least some of the protests have embraced an inclusive, interfaith sort of spirituality. At Boston’s OWS site, for example, there’s a “Spiritual Space” tent with a statue of Buddha, a picture of Jesus, and a sign pointing toward Mecca. Is this just a bit too fuzzy, or a reflection of higher consciousness? Read and decide for yourself. — MLM