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Icons and Agitators: Maladjustment to the Way Things Are–UUSS Sermon for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday

Rev. Roger Jones, Acting Senior Minister

Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento

January 19, 2014

Hymns: #116, I’m on My Way; #155, Circle Round for Freedom; #1018, Come and Go With Me

Choir:  Hush!  Somebody’s Callin’ My Name

Piano:

Prelude:  Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Meditation:  Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Offertory:  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Postlude:   It Is Well with My Soul

 

Sermon

What fascinates me about the study of history is learning how the social advancements we consider to be normal, to be “the way things are,” did not come about easily.  To people who lived in the past, the achievements of equality and fairness that we take for granted were not assured or guaranteed.  Indeed, every step toward equality involved struggle and upheaval.

Should women have the right to vote and run for office?  Of course!  Few in public life would now say that’s a debatable question.  But until 1920, the road toward voting equality was messy and full of setbacks.  Some states allowed voting, others did not.  After the Senate approved the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and enough states ratified that amendment, voting equality became the way things are.  Twenty-five senators had voted no, but history moved on, passing them by.  Many women who had begun the struggle in the 1800s were dead by then. They had given themselves to a cause that would outlive them.  Success was not predictable or guaranteed.

Likewise, ending American slavery was not predictable or guaranteed.  Nor were any of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, of which Martin Luther King Jr. was the most prominent and inspiring leader.  But after we expand the circles of opportunity and freedom, it becomes easy to talk as if justice was obvious and success inevitable.

It is tempting to frame the history of a struggle for freedom in sweet words and warm images.  We can use the words of daring women and men not to urge us to achieve more, but merely to comfort ourselves, to make ourselves comfortable with the status quo.

We can use the words of heroic people only to honor them, while we avoid hearing them.

Martin Luther King worked against racism and segregation.  But he also preached against militarism and economic inequality.  According to scholar Michael Eric Dyson, in the later years of his brief life Dr. King’s views grew more radical.  Upsetting his colleagues and staff, Dr. King became one of the first high-profile leaders in America to oppose the American military involvement in Vietnam.  King highlighted the hypocrisy of suppressing freedoms in the name of protecting freedom.  We could not defend freedom by supporting rule by generals in Southeast Asia, he said.

Many politicians and the press ridiculed him for expressing his opinions about the war.  They questioned the ability of a southern black Baptist preacher to analyze international affairs (according to Dyson).  However, King had a Ph.D. from Boston University.  He had won the Nobel Peace Prize.  The historian Taylor Branch writes that King was the “the moral voice of America,” more than any office holder or elected leader.[i]   His opinions mattered, and he felt compelled to speak out.

His colleagues didn’t want his involvement with another controversy to dilute and distract from civil rights.  They feared he would alienate the Congress and President Lyndon Johnson, who had been a forceful supporter of the civil rights agenda.  Indeed, Johnson did feel betrayed by King’s opposition to the war, according to Dyson.[ii]

King’s response to his critics was this:  “I have worked too long now and too hard to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to turn back to the point of segregating my moral concern.” By articulating the linkages among types of injustice and oppression, he raised our discomfort, raised our national tension.

This was Dr. King’s gift and his role as a leader.  He could orchestrate a mix of tension and inspiration, the right blend of discomfort and conciliation.  To change, America needed challenge.  This took standing up and sticking his neck out.  That is a challenge that many of us can recall having in our own lives from time to time.  Dr. King did it for all our lives, for our common life and the common good.  Many times, Dr. King said:  “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”  Such words, and his commitment to them, unsettle my comfort with the way things are.

Since his assassination in 1968, Dr. King has been turned from a strategist and an agitator into an icon. Leaders from all across the political spectrum and the range of religions now salute Martin Luther King.  It’s easier to honor someone who’s dead.  You don’t have to listen to him for real.   Leaders from across the spectrum make their own assertions about what Dr. King wanted for our society and what he would want.  This is what you can do with icons. With real people who carry out real movements for change, you have to wrestle.  They make us uncomfortable.  They unsettle our adjustment to the way things are.

We may be comfortable imagining Dr. King and his challenges to the America of 50 years ago, but what would his challenges be for us today?  What tension and what inspiration would he bring to us?

In King’s last years, he addressed poverty and economic injustice.  He launched the Poor People’s Campaign and argued for another March on Washington, like the one in the summer of 1963, but one lifting up economic injustice and poverty.  Men on King’s staff opposed this campaign—and they were all men on his staff.  They feared it would be a disaster, generating only the resistance of Congress and the anger of President Johnson.

According to Michael Eric Dyson, in 1966, King admitted that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had failed to improve the condition of poor blacks.  He said that progress had been “limited mainly to the Negro middle-class” (Dyson, 87).  With his Poor People’s Campaign, King endeavored to focus on the need to lift all people out of degrading poverty, including all black people.

He saw people as connected, no matter our identity and life circumstances.  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is how he said it.  “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

In private, Dr. King told colleagues that he believed America must move toward democratic socialism. However, in public he did not use the term socialism.  The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had waged a campaign to discredit the movement by smearing Dr. King as a Communist sympathizer.        King did not have Communist sympathies or alliances.  Communist regimes were anti-democratic, and Communist theory was anti-religious.  King said:  “I didn’t get my inspiration from Karl Marx.  I got it from a man named Jesus.”  He said that Jesus was “anointed to heal the broken hearted” and to deal with the problems of the poor, and those in captivity” (Dyson, 130).  In this spirit, King called for job creation programs, for full employment and for a guaranteed minimum income.

Dr. King said that full-time work should yield a person enough money to support a family.  In the years since 1980, for most of this nation’s people, income and wealth have stagnated, even shrunk when you consider the eroding effects of inflation.  Wealth has been concentrated more and more in the hands of a smaller percentage of people at the very top.  Two years ago, the Occupy Wall Street Movement brought to public attention the idea of the 99% and the 1%.  At the top, the 1%, are those who have gained by the shifting structures of economic policy, international trade agreements, tax breaks, and lax regulation in the financial services industry.[iii]

Meanwhile, for a growing mass of people, it has become harder to support a family on full-time work, even if two parents work full-time.

If Dr. King were alive right now, perhaps he would embrace campaigns for better funding of public schools and a restoration in financial aid for college.   Perhaps he would lead campaigns for a single-payer health care system available to all and for a higher minimum wage.  In pursuit of economic fairness, he might advocate for regulation of the financial services industry, and a reform of crop subsidies to move away from industrial agriculture and toward smaller, sustainable farms.  Perhaps he would speak for these goals, but I can’t be sure.

Such goals have come to seem less radical in these times, as ordinary American have grown more desperate, and as more working people feel the loss of economic security, and the loss of food security.  I am sure Dr. King would have would have made us uncomfortable.  He would have turned up the tension that political leaders feel about these issues.  Maybe he would call for more subsidized housing for low-income families and more mental health care for the lost souls wandering and sleeping on the streets.  He said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

If he were speaking to most of us right now, would he ask us if we need all the square footage many of us enjoy in our homes?  Would he challenge us for having a car of our own and the petroleum to run it, given what oil extraction does to local and global environments, not to mention to indigenous tribal communities who live near oil wells?  Would he ask us if we couldn’t still do okay financially without investing in portfolios that grow by pushing down worker’s wages and benefits, and by tearing down rain forests for beef grazing?

In India, Martin Luther King met with Mohandas K. Gandhi, to learn about the “soul force” of nonviolent resistance, which had been a tool of the Indian Freedom Struggle.  King saw dissent and rivalries among Gandhi’s inner circle, something he would find among his own leaders and staff members at home.  And he saw the massive poverty of people sleeping on the streets in Calcutta, hungry children and begging parents and elders.

Ten years ago I traveled in India, during a sabbatical for five weeks.  In cities around the country, I saw masses of barely housed and homeless and hungry people.  Many were begging, but some only were sitting in the heat, exhausted.  I even saw some of them weeping.  What came to my mind on my journey was the idea that most Indians seemed to accept this as normal, inevitable, the way things are.  There will always be destitute people around you.  Your task is to learn how to refuse the destitute, walk around them, ignore them.  The task of one who is not hurting in that way is to do anything except ask why such hurt persists.   If this is the way things are, you need not imagine how to change the system or why.  I could be wrong about Indian social attitudes—I bet I am wrong—but it made me think about us.

I see people begging for money at street intersections around here, holding cardboard signs.  I see more of them at more corners than I did just a year ago.

In thinking about India, I’m thinking about the person I saw Friday night at my apartment building in a sleeping bag, lying in the car port by the dumpster.   I’m doubtful that a handout of money would change such a situation.  But I wonder how normal we have let it become that so many people live on the street.  Is this now the way things are?  Is the choice now merely whether to give a dollar, or smile, or look the other way?

Is the question no longer, how did we let this happen?  Is the question now just whether to call the cops or the landlord so the person can be rousted from beside our dumpster, and find another dumpster to sleep near?

In May of 1966, Dr. King addressed the ministers and lay delegates of the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Association, meeting in Florida.   Every year the General Assembly holds a major lecture, the Ware Lecture, and he gave this lecture in 1966.[iv]

He called on our congregations to assert the basic sinfulness of racial segregation, refute the idea of racial superiority, and engage in action on legislation to expand the circles of equality and fairness.

And he cautioned us against the “myth… of exaggerated progress,” the idea that we’ve arrived.   He said:  “We should be proud of the steps we’ve made…. On the other hand, we must realize that the plant of freedom is only a bud and not yet a flower.”   He said we cannot stop with the way things are.

He spoke about the psychological term or label of a maladjusted personality.  He said:  “I must say to you this evening, my friends, there are some things in our nation and our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted….  I call upon … all people of good will to be maladjusted to those things until the good society is realized.”

He listed the problems of life in America to which he wished we could remain maladjusted.   He said:   “I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

King’s life, and the deeds of so many people in the struggle for civil rights, unsettled a country that had adjusted to the way things are, as if it was always how things were going to be.

His words and life and the movement he led continue to challenge us to pay attention, take steps toward healing, stretch ourselves and let ourselves feel discomfort and maladjustment/ for the sake of a better world.

King said that life’s most urgent and persistent question is, “What are you doing for others?”  His legacy is the legacy of standing up for others, and standing up with others.

This legacy should discomfort us, and unsettle us, but it shouldn’t paralyze us.  His words and deeds should not freeze us in a sense of smallness or shyness or shame.  We should hear his words as the call to community, the call to standing up with others.

Part of the King legacy is the fact that today many organizers, leaders, volunteers and advocates of all generations are doing this work, bringing attention to unfair and unsustainable conditions.

I give thanks for those who give of their time in service, their treasure in generosity, and their courage and hope toward a better country and a better world.  I give thanks for those who dedicate their lives to the needs of others and those who risk their lives for the betterment of all of us, everywhere.

May the deeds of all those who struggle, serve, hope and give of themselves give us the courage not to get too adjusted to the way things are.  May their deeds challenge us.

May they awaken us into attention, imagination, action and courage.  So may it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes


[i] Branch, Taylor. The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

[ii] Dyson, Michael Eric.  I May Not Get there with YouThe True Martin Luther King, Jr.  New York:  Free Press, 2000.

[iii] See more analysis and stirring comment in columns by Chris Hedges on truthdig.com.

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Occupy the Common Good: How Can We Keep from Singing?..–.. UU Sermon

November 27, 2011

Unitarian Universalist Society, Sacramento, CA

                        * * *

Justice will not be served until

those who are unaffected

are as outraged as those who are.

                        —Benjamin Franklin

                        * * *

Hymns:  We Sing Now Together (67), Spirit of Life/Fuente de Amor (123), My Life Flows on in Endless Song (108).   Reading:  “The Limits of Tyrants,” by Frederick Douglass (579).  All in Singing the Living TraditionMusic:  A. Dvorak, Sonatina Op. 100, for violin & piano, 3 movements.

***

Sermon

Our scripture reading today comes from the Constitution of the United States of America.  The First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  Here ends the reading.

Last spring a friend of mine began telling everyone of his dismay about the growth of income inequality over the past three decades.  The middle class has shrunk.  Tax rates favor the rich, changes in trade policy and labor laws have taken jobs and made low-wage workers vulnerable.  Hunger and homelessness have grown. Public education is in trouble.   Considering the devastation to communities, families and children, he said, “I don’t understand, why people are not taking to the streets.”   Just a few months later, people did take to the streets.

In the summer, a 69-year-old Canadian man, writing on the web site adbusters.org, proposed “a leaderless people powered movement for democracy.”

Occupy Wall Street started on September 17, but it had a small and slow start.  However, a week later protestors marched from New York’s Zuccotti Park to Union Square, and 87 of them were arrested.  The resulting attention jump-started the movement. It has spread to 900 cities and four continents.  Adbusters’ website, and postings from local Occupy encampments, say the movement’s goal–and its vow–is to “end the monied corruption of our democracy.”

Bear with me for just a few numbers. Since 1982, the share of this country’s income held by the top 1 percent of our population has more than doubled.  This top tier takes in one quarter of all income.  “The top 1 percent of Americans holds 39 percent of the nations’ wealth…. [In the United States], the top 10 percent of the people hold more than 70 percent of the wealth, and the bottom 50 percent hold 2 percent of the wealth.”

In the words of Gary Dorrien, a minister and professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary, “Thirty years of stagnant wages and accelerating inequality offered an opening for a populist movement demanding a full-employment economy and a curtailment of Wall Street’s speculation and gouging.”   Dorrien explains the “99 percent” slogan of Occupy Wall Street.  The point, he says, “is that the top 1 percent plays by a different set of rules and has made fantastic gains while everyone else falls behind.”[i]

As we’ve heard from billionaire investor Warren Buffet, middle-income families often pay a larger share of their personal income as taxes of all kinds than those at the higher tiers of the income ladder.  Tax breaks, capital-gains rates, complex deductions, and a ceiling on Social Security taxes all favor those whose incomes come from investments.  They disadvantage those who get most of their income from working.

In Berkeley, Davis and other cities that are home to state-supported universities, students protest the steep hikes in fees and tuition costs of the past several years.   College costs have risen several times faster than working family incomes have risen.  More and more, college operations are financed by not by tax dollars, but with student debt.

Two Fridays ago in the middle of campus at the University of California, Davis, several young protestors are sitting in the quad, arms linked together, guarding their Occupy encampment.  Campus police approach in riot gear, with batons and rifles.  The campus chancellor has sent them to dismantle the encampment, “for the health and safety of the whole campus.”[ii]

More students arrive and stand in a large circle, drawn there by phone calls, texts and other electronic messages.  As university police approach with bottles of red-pepper spray, friends call out, “Cover your eyes!  Cover your nose and mouth.”  One person cries out from the crowd, pleading with a protestor to get up and get away.  The larger circle chants, “The whole world is watching!”  It has indeed been watching—thanks to videos on YouTube.  You can hear a middle-aged woman scream to the police, “These are children!  These are children.”  You see the police lieutenant approach.  He walks up and down the line, making big red clouds with his big red bottle.  He sprays the seated students around the head, in the face.  Chants rise up from the growing crowd:  “Shame on you, shame on you!”  It’s horrific, sickening scene.

Afterward, a young man calls out, with a hoarse voice:  “You don’t have to do this.  You don’t have to do this, officer.  I swallowed pepper spray because of you.  I didn’t bring any pepper spray.  I brought no weapons.  We have no weapons.  Shame on you!”  The police arrest 10 of the protestors, and back away in a group, holding their rifles along their chests.

This movement has been sparked by frustration and fear about what kind of nation we are becoming.  Now it is fueled by outrage, growing solidarity, and passion for healing and restoring the common good of our country and our communities.  This is a movement about the moral issues that shape our common life.

William J. McDonough, formerly CEO of a large bank in Chicago, spoke about executive compensation to a group of that city’s business leaders:

“ ‘In 1980, the average large company chief executive officer made 40 times more than the average employee in his or her firm.’ [Twenty years later] the multiple had risen to at least 400 times [the average salary]….  In other words, [in] 20 years the multiple [of] CEO pay went up by 1,000 percent. ‘There is no economic theory, however farfetched, which can justify that increase,’ McDonough.  ‘It is also grotesquely immoral.’”[iii]

Such inequity and immorality is perhaps as old as humanity.  It’s certainly as old as the Bible.  Over seven centuries before Christ, the Hebrew Prophet Amos attacked elite society’s dishonor of God’s law and the oppression of the poor.  From Amos, chapter 2:  “They sell honest people for money, and the needy are sold for the price of sandals.  They smear the poor in the dirt, and push aside those who are helpless.”[iv]

Since the early 1980s, on average, working people’s wages have stagnated, and investment incomes have skyrocketed.  Except for those who invested their savings in the place where they live.  In the past three years, the recession has wiped out eight trillion dollars of home values.  Countless people have lost their homes due to foreclosures.  Even some who rent have been evicted because they didn’t know that their landlords were going through foreclosures, and banks were reclaiming the rental properties.

Some of you, or those you love, have been hit–losing a home, losing a job, feeling confused and uncertain about the future.  In every community, desperation lives just under the surface of our shared interactions.  Many people are “under water,” which means they owe more on a mortgage loan than their house is worth—lots more.

Two couples I know made the painful decision to walk away from the houses they had loved and lived in, and which they had bought at the top of a market, when loans were plentiful and “collateralized debt obligations” seemed only a boring phrase of jargon and not a house of cards.  Of course, some needed to walk away in order to move away to the only place they could get a job.  Others, facing their own guilty feelings and a surely ruined credit score, decided to scale back expenses, get out from under mortgages that would never end, and go into default on their loans.

A necessary part of our money-driven political system is a propaganda machine.  Run by many, and accepted by many more, for the benefit of a few, this machine tries to hide the growing injustice.   It fills political discussions with myths and falsehoods.  Here is the biggest myth:  the idea that our economy is just a self-created, self-generating entity, just a force of nature, which we must learn to live with and obey.  In fact, an economy is a structure that we build, shape and change.  The Greek root for the word economy means household, or household management. 

We shape our common household by the common choices we make about our financial and commodity markets, laws dealing with labor, property and incorporation; and by our business, personal and government spending decisions.  We shape our household by policies dealing with commerce, foreign trade, energy, natural resources, health care financing, transportation, pensions and Social Security, and educational and vocational training institutions.  We structure our economy through regulations of investment and banking systems (or the dismantling of those regulations).

In other words, the mess we are in today didn’t just happen.  Laws, court rulings and policies allowed it to happen.  The progress and prosperity we experienced from the 1940s to the 1970s didn’t just happen.  The emergence of a large middle class didn’t just happen.  People decided to make it happen.

The frenzy, the frauds and the convoluted real-estate financing bubble of the past decade or two have led us to the widespread upheaval known as the Great Recession.  It’s an outrage—and it has led people to take to the streets and college campus quadrangles.  Fear of this outrage—fear of this eye-opening, pro-democracy movement—leads authorities in some places to unjust suppression and even violence.  Mass outrage is understandable.  Perhaps it’s a necessary ingredient for our common courage.  Yet we must resist the temptation to demonize or dehumanize police officers, and well-off people, even politicians.  Demonizing undermines the principle that all people have dignity and worth.  It undermines the value–and the reality–that we are all in this together.

A few ministerial colleagues in the East Bay have been to Occupy Oakland, including the march to the Port of Oakland.  In contradiction of the depictions of Occupy Oakland by at least one of the Bay Area’s daily papers, my friends reported a festive atmosphere, with people of all ages, ethnicities, and occupations walking together.  One friend chatted with police officers as they waited in line together to use the porta-potty toilets.

Yesterday, on my noon visit to Occupy Sacramento at Cesar Chavez Park, I spoke to a retired woman standing at the corner of 10th and I streets, by City Hall.  She was holding her home-made sign.  She belongs to an Episcopal church in a suburb.  Beside her was another sign listing this region’s Congressional representatives and U. S. senators, and urging us to contact them and insist on change, insist on justice and fairness.

After that conversation I crossed over to the Occupy encampment and spoke with two women at the information table.  They told me about the General Assembly, open to everyone, every day at 5:30 p.m, except for Tuesdays, when they attend Sacramento City Council meetings.

After wishing them well, and thanking them for being there, I went up to three police officers on bikes in the middle of the park, near the fountain. “How’s it going?”  I asked.  One officer answered:  “Lackluster.”  With only a few of the daytime-only tents and information tables in the background, he said that the big crowds of earlier days are not so regular now in Sacramento.  When there’s a big national event, more people will come out here.  He said that if I go to Facebook and look up Occupy Sacramento, I can keep informed and then come to the park for special events.  Before heading home, I said, “Thank you for being here.”

I can feel the temptation to focus my wrath on particular politicians, or cops or security guards, but when I give into this temptation, I take energy and focus away from the systemic changes we need:  changes in our campaign financing systems and changes on a Supreme Court whose majority has ruled that corporations are people, with the same rights to making campaign contributions as real people.

As I watched videos of the police pepper-spraying on the Davis campus, I couldn’t imagine myself sitting there, staying seated as the assault began.  After the spraying, an officer tried to lift a student by the arms.  The boy went limp.  In that same situation, I feel, I would have struck out at the officer—out of anger and pain.  This student didn’t move.  Surely in agony, those protestors displayed the kind of discipline—and the kind of dignity—that I have seen in news footage from the American Civil Rights movement, the freedom struggle in India, the cause to end Apartheid laws in segregated South Africa, and recent scenes from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and places all over the globe.

Another video takes place after the assault, with students confronting the officers. You can see confusion in the faces and movements of the officers.  I have a tense fear that one will fire his rifle at the yelling crowd.  One man—a Unitarian Universalist young adult and Religious Education volunteer in his church and in our district– calls for a “mike check.”  This term refers to a practice of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In lieu of using amplification, the crowd repeats each phrase after the speaker says it.

He calls for a mike check, and the crowd quiets.  He shouts, and they repeat:  “We are willing to give you… a brief moment of peace…, so you may take your weapons… and our friends… and turn and leave…  You can go.  Please do not come back.”   The rows of campus officers begin to back away, holding their rifles across their chests.  A few students walk toward them, some yelling with glee.  I worry that the police will react with more violence.  They keep going.  Students cheer at their moral victory.  They chant:  “Whose University?  Our university!  Whose quad?  Our quad!”  This is a tension-filled 10-minute video.

It remains to be seen what kinds of changes Occupy Wall Street will initiate or deliver.  It is a self-proclaimed “leaderless movement.”  It’s not another political campaign or progressive organization—there are plenty of those already.  It is a populist movement that deliberates, makes demands, and engenders new conversations all over the land.

It gives me hope.  I’m glad people are talking about economic democracy again, finally.  I am inspired at the courage of the protestors.  They may be leaderless, but they are disciplined and committed to the principles of democracy and non-violence.  And with such discipline, everyone can be a leader.

Another Davis video was taken the next day, after dark.  It follows campus Chancellor Linda Katehi as she walks from her office to her SUV, with an escort by her side.   Seated on both sides of the walkway are students, all the way down.  You can see them from scattered flashlights, and from press photographers’ flashes.   For three long minutes you hear only the click of the chancellor’s shoes on the concrete, and the snap of cameras.  The students stay silent in their witness of her departure.  A few reporters ask her questions, and she responds, but the students remain silent.  Are you afraid of the students, one asks.   “No,” she says quietly, “no.”

None of those protestors is dangerous. They have no weapons.  Well, they are a danger to the way things are, to the status quo and to our complacency about the decline of the common good in this country.  Their courage speaks volumes.  As this kind of courage becomes more common, change becomes visible.  Change becomes visible, and it becomes real.

For me, the message of Occupy Wall Street is that we are all in this together.  We have more in common than we used to think we do.  We have each other in common.  Your wellbeing is tied up in mine.  My wellbeing is tied up in yours.  You are my common good, and I am yours. The 99 percent is my common good, and the 1 percent as well.  100 percent of us.

We the people are the common good.  That’s how the U. S. Constitution begins:  “We the people….” We are all in this together.  Amen.


[i] Gary Dorrien, “The Case Against Wall Street,” in Christian Century, November 15, 2011, p. 22.  Most of the article is available only to subscribers, but you can read an interview with the writer at http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2011-10/savvy-occupiers

[ii] “The Latest from UC Davis,” on Alas!  A Blog, November 27, 2011.  This posting includes a “frustrated student’s” annotation of/response to the chancellor;s letter after the police action.  It also includes videos of the pepper spraying and the two episodes mentioned at the end of the sermon.  See http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2011/11/22/the-latest-from-uc-davis/ – more-14503

[iii] John M. Buchanan, “Gross Inequity,” in Christian Century, November 15, 2011, p. 3.

[iv] Amos 2.6-8.  Contemporary English Version. Biblegateway.com.