Thursday, September 20, 2012

The critical question


Soledad Barrio of Noche Flamenca

I join Teddy on the steps. He shares stories of his weekend. The OWS gathering in Foley Square.  Well organized. Together. Seeing friends from back in the day. Well, September, that is. Lots of musical groups. All around good vibe. I share stories of my morning. Getting to Zucotti by 7 am. Cut off, surrounded by steel barricades. The lines of police in full riot gear. We gather by the Suvero sculpture. The Red Cube. 

Bishop George Packard
Chris Hedges
My clergy friends from Occupy Faith joined by Veterans for Peace. Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, resplendent in purple robes, is himself at home with both groups. A bronze and silver star from Vietnam. Chaplain in Iraq in the Gulf War. Commander of all military chaplains. That was his diocese.  First one arrested in the action at Trinity Wall Street last December. He is, as journalist Chris Hedges calls him the Peoples’ Bishop. Hedges too is here and speaks. Of how the Stamp Act rebellion preceded the American Revolution. And the Russian uprising of 1905 preceded  the Russian Revolution of 1917. So the Occupy movement sets the stage for the end of  the current global economy of domination and control. 

There’s the mic checks. The personal testimonies. I think of speaking. Don’t. Standing by Pastor Donna from Judson. A practice sit down. And then we begin. The goal is to disrupt, if not shut down, business as usual at Wall Street. The police, with a clearly thought out strategy,  initiate and create  the confrontation too early. The Bishop is arrested.Too soon.  Along with our communications person. Not good. As the press literally presses in, pushing protestors  behind them, Pastor Donna and I feel the crush of the crowd and need to step out. 
Pastor Michael Ellick speaking to Pastor Donna Schaper of Judson Memoiral

What follows is an ongoing cat and mouse game between a shifting, swirling Peoples’ Wall and the police.  Assemble. Sit. Resist. Arrests.Scatter. Regather. Can’t even tell how many are there. I last awhile. Decide to go. Not my day to be arrested. I have been there. Have been a body. Enough for today. I tell Teddy it was good to see people in the streets again.But it was not the same. Slogans felt a little forced. Not quite that galvanizing sense of urgency from before.  And some people just live to get abused and arrested. That’s what I share with Teddy. 

Martin comes out frantic. Last day of rehearsal before opening night at the Joyce. Needs hours more time. Offers to pay. I tease him, only a little, and agree. Mariola talks with me about the arrangements and when do I want my comps? Disappointed tomorrow and Wednesday not possible.

A young man comes in, looking around. I find him at the piano. He’s from out of town. Here for a visit. I listen to him play.

Hugo arrives with food. Tonight, rice and beans and a beef stew. Our Bible study group will enjoy the food. As will occupiers. And dancers too.

Tonight we pass the halfway point of Mark. At the gentile city of Caesarea Phillipi, we find the critical question. First, Jesus asks, who do people say that I am? And Peter answers, John the of the prophets... IE, the one who picked up the mantle of John’s movement, or the forerunner to the Messiah, or....

Then here it is, But who do you say that I am? And Peter says, You are the Messiah...

Jesus reponds by telling them to keep silent. And then speaks of the Son of Man who must suffer, be rejected, be killed...but also rise again... And Peter gets upset and rebukes him and Jesus responds with Get behind me Satan. Well alright, then. What’s going on here?

First, what does Peter mean? By the Messiah, he’s looking for a national liberation project. One where Jesus will lead his people, his nation to overthrow the Roman occupiers. Will restore the Davidic kingdom.

Jesus rejects that. Calls himself the Human One, coming from Daniel’s apocalyptic vision  in the midst of horrendous persecution and oppression under  the Syrian Antiochus Epiphanus.The Human One comes from the midst of people, humanity. Jesus is saying that this is not a national project. Some of our own people are the enemy. Some of our own people oppress us. And some who are not our people are our alies, our people. It’s a new way to cut it. Not Romans vs. Jews, but the Romans and the ruling class collaborators against the marginalized and poor regardless of nationality or ethnicity. In other words, it’s a rejection of identity politics in favor of a class based coalition. Satan is the tempter. Of course it is tempting to Jesus, the man, the human one, to imagine himself the new Davidic king. But that was not his call. 

He references the culture of shame vs. honor. The cross, used by Rome for political subversives, to make a public spectacle of resistors, hung naked in public. To follow Jesus is to risk that fate. But there will be a judgment. And Jesus' going to the cross will break the power of dominion. There is nothing more that can be done to him. That is what some will see, the kingdom of God, come with power. 

So that is the question that stands at  the center. The fulcrum, as Ched Meyer puts it. Who do you say that I am?  On the answer to that question hangs everything.

We finish our conversation. The sounds of gritos and pounding, flashing feet continue to rise through the floor. 


The house is eerily quiet without our flamenceros. Tonight is opening night. 

Jane and I meet at our Starbucks annex to discuss yesterday’s Occupy anniversary and my participation in one of her salons and possible work with a consultant friend of hers to discern our best ways of working together.  And the ways in which we have been mentors to each other. A joint holiday project. I walk back to the church to close out the day.

A Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower has been left on the steps. 

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