Each year, the wealthy and powerful gather in Washington, D.C. for the National Prayer Breakfast, an invitation-only, $650-a-plate, networking opportunity started by a secretive conservative group called "The Family." The goal of the breakfast, according to The Family, is to recruit the powerful attendees into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can "meet Jesus man to man." Since its inception in 1953, every president has attended this annual event, and major military, corporate and faith leaders go each year.
But this year, on the second Thursday of February, as the 1% comes together to network and pray, an alternative, "People"s Prayer Breakfast" will commence across town at Church of the Pilgrims. Organized by a broad network of faith leaders, faith-based social justice advocates, members of the Occupy movement at K Street and Freedom Plaza, the gathering will issue a challenge to President Obama and all the participants at the National Prayer Breakfast to focus their conversations and prayers on the suffering of the 99%.
Not since the raising of the Golden Calf during the early Occupy Wall Street protests several months ago have faith communities taken a visible role in the Occupy movement. The People's Prayer Breakfast offers an opportunity to raise media visibility for the Occupy movement nationally, as well as unite mainline religious communities with Occupy's concern for the poor and economic justice. Participants will reflect, pray, and draw attention to the suffering and marginalization of millions of U.S. citizens languishing in economic distress, uncertainty and poverty.
The People's Prayer Breakfast's motto, "Enough for Everyone!" rings true to the majority of Americans according to a new report on economic inequalities in America released by the University of California at Santa Cruz. Researchers found that Americans are more egalitarian than we typically think, and are very concerned with unequal wealth distribution. A majority of Americans claim that a more ideal wealth distribution would be one in which the top 20 percent owned between 30 and 40 percent of the privately held wealth, which is a far cry from the 85 percent that the top 20 percent actually own.
In what many have criticized as a leaderless revolution, religious leaders and communities of faith offer an established leadership structure to Occupy. The leaders and organizers of the People's Prayer Breakfast hope to expand this model outside of Washington, D.C., similar to how the National Prayer Breakfast has expanded to dozens of cities nationwide. Rev. Brian Merritt, one of the founding members of Occupy Faith DC is participating in the alternative prayer breakfast, "because prayer is a sacred act that connects us to something greater than ourselves and moves us to action in transforming the world." Rev. Merritt, a Pastor in the Palisades Community Church will join dozens of other national faith leaders in declaring that, "prayer is not about bringing people into access to powerful people and giving the wealthy assurance that they should remain untroubled by those who hunger, cry, struggle and are left out by their actions."
The People's Prayer Breakfast will also gather and display hundreds of prayers from children around Washington, D.C. during the morning program. Faith leaders from around the country will be in attendance and endorsements from Dr. Cornel West and other nationally recognized faith leaders have already come in.