This week in New York, we watched wounds delivered to human bodies and to the freedom of assembly. Mostly young protestors were evicted from Zuccotti Park, their belongings tossed into trash compactors and destroyed. Some were sprayed or batoned; some were arrested with reporters. We watched congregations like Judson Memorial Church, The Riverside Church and the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew open their doors to house the occupiers while they regroup. At Middle Collegiate Church on Tuesday, we kept watch over 15 weary and cold young people as they slept on blankets shipped in from Moveon.org. Homeless for six years, a young man named Isaac said, "I want a world where people share what we have, and take care of each other." This is a simple demand, like ending the war, paying decent wages or integrating the schools.
We watched many actions on Nov. 17, including mostly peaceful demonstrating, punctuated with outbursts of violence. A young woman was pulled by her hair, then her backpack, out of the crowd and into custody. We watched as protestors pushed through barricades to march on the Brooklyn Bridge, clashing with police. We saw the wounds of a handcuffed 20-year-old named Brian -- a bloody forehead and a dazed look in his eyes.
The violence makes my stomach flip, and makes me want to shield my eyes.
Gandhi once said that poverty is the worst kind of violence.
Poverty, homelessness, hunger, high unemployment and insufficient wages -- these conditions are the violent results of an economic system that is crippled with unbridled greed and corruption. This violence has rippled around the globe. This violence makes my stomach flip, but I refuse to shield my eyes.
In our own nation, 49.1 million Americans, or 16 percent, live below the poverty line. This means an individual lives on less than $11,139 and a family of four on less than $22,314. More than 16 million of the poor are children.
Just when I feel overwhelmed with the violence of poverty, I find inspiration and instigation in the picture of God's Economy in Christian scriptures. Communities share what they have in common so that everyone's needs are met. A child's snack somehow becomes food for thousands. A rich man throws a party and invites the poor, the sick and the homeless. A stranger picks up a wounded man on the road, takes him to an inn so he can get well, and pays for his lodging.
Simply put, in God's Economy, everyone has enough. Some people may have more than enough, and not everyone has the same, but everyone has enough. Enough to eat. A place to sleep. Meaningful work. Affordable health care. A living wage. An affordable college and a job when they graduate. Everyone has enough.
Christians meet at least once a week to worship. In the Book of Isaiah, the worship God desires most is that we care for each other. When we do that, the text says, our light will shine like the dawn. And we get a new name, "Repairers of Broken Places."
I love that name!
With our new name comes responsibility. Our economy is broken, and the violence of poverty is the result. I am calling on people of faith to open our eyes and look this violence squarely in the face. We might find it impolitic to talk about money and poverty and accountability in our houses of worship, but Jesus spoke plenty in parables about money; there are hundreds of scriptures that address money. And again, the bottom line is this: in God's Reign, in God's Economy, everyone has enough.
However we name God, or even if we don't believe in God, this simple edict is script for our lives. If we heed it, it compels us go to the polls and vote for those who share this value. It calls us to open our congregations to feed the poor and create shelter for the homeless. It guides us to create partnerships and organize to push for a living wage. It invites us work to eradicate homelessness in partnerships with the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing and New Alternatives and to support the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It inspires us to cook for the older lady upstairs, and donate money and time to soup kitchens. We need to have conversations about economic justice, about Occupy Wall Street, and about our own role in ending the violence of poverty. On Nov. 19 at 1:30 p.m., bestselling author Marianne Williamson will have such a conversation at Middle Collegiate Church.
I want us to get preoccupied with economic justice. I don't think we can rest until everyone has enough.