Monday, December 19, 2011

Lessons from Duarte Square: More on Trinity Wall Street

More about the OWS protest in Duarte Square, the property owned by Trinity Wall Street.

First, let's review the arrests. Retired Bp George Packard was the first over the fence in his purple cassock, and was arrested. His wife was not arrested, but was in a group standing in the street and assaulted by the police. We have now seen over and over again the disproportionate violence practiced by the police in dealing with nonviolent OWS protestors. Bp Packard writes,
This became an opportunity for individual and gratuitous violence by policemen. The simple arrests were done, why were they messing with these people? Which brings me to the melodrama of the day and the forecasts by our leaders. The only "force or arms" present on Saturday was not in (or at) the han ds of demonstrators....The cop who kneed my wife in the chest three times and threw her into other demonstrators was the same Officer who walked me harmlessly to the paddy wagon.
A police force that has lost respect for the people it supposedly protects is dangerous to Democracy. These acts were done on behalf of Trinity Wall Street, and by extension, TEC. I am waiting to hear "church officials" speak out loudly and with dismay about any acts of violence against non-violent protestors done on behalf of the church.
Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matt. 26:52)
Next, another protester, the Rev. John Merz calls out Trinity Wall Street (from The Lead):
Privately I must remark on the shocking dissonance between their professed support, their vast resources and power and the things they provided: leaving a drop in center open, allowing group meetings in other space literally a handful if not less of times, deleting posts on their blogs that enjoined them for basic relief of human needs (porta-potties). They never intended to connect, listen to and support this movement in any real way.It is a re hash of their 9/11 record and as many know all too well, locally in times of social crisis, they do the right thing only if self preservation (image) requires it and even then only haltingly.
From GoThereGuide
Ouch.  Trinity Wall Street has assets of over $10 Billion. And apparently, many of the Vestry are not even members of the Congregation:
[T]he vestry list reads as a who’s-who of the rich and powerful in New York, including Wall Street bankers, media and real estate executives, and in the most telling case, a former executive vice president of Brookfield Properties, the company that owns Zuccotti Park and pressured the city to evict the occupiers in the first place.
I think every church deals with the balancing act of investment for the future and protection of the institution, and action in the here-and-now. I'm sure some on one edge think that the church should sell everything, and "follow Him". But you won't effect much change as an itinerant, once you've spent the money. The other extreme might be what Trinity is doing--which appears to be pretty much the minimum, and protecting its massive assets. And in response to a protestor who says, "We have nothing, you have more, give it to us," one can understand to some extent. That's theft, right? Or Godless Communism? Or is it instead a voice demanding Biblical justice?   And how do you tell the difference?
But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
The challenge to the Church is to walk the balance, and it's a fine balance indeed. Because a beautiful church building with an endowment to maintain it is not a bad thing in and of itself. A  beautiful liturgical space that offers spiritual sanctuary  is not a bad thing.  Taking steps to protect it is not a bad thing either. The question surely comes about how much is needed, and whether or not "building the endowment" takes precedence over justice. Does it become about the money as an end, rather than a means?

Bishop Gene Robinson famously says something like this: "Pulling drowning people out of a river is a good thing. But it's even more important to go upstream and stop the person who's throwing them in the water." Similarly, feeding the hungry is a good thing. But it's even more important to stop the policies that are driving them to hunger. As an institution (and yes, one with beautiful buildings and endowments, and that's okay), TEC has a strong voice, large in influence and bigger than its numbers. It's time, surely to use that voice for prophecy. Even if it costs.

As one commenter on Bp Packard's blog wrote,
Upon seeing you in the crowd I was confused why a Bishop was among our ranks in full regalia, but when the stairs went up and I saw you climbing into the park, tears of joy started streaming down my face. I cannot describe the hope and inspiration you gave me in that moment.
And because I can, let's finish with one more Bible quote:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)


dr.primrose said...

OT. An initiative to repeal Prop. has been released for the gathering of signatures by the California Secretary of State. The ballot language will provide:

1529. (11-0058)

Reinstates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Summary Date: 12/15/11 | Circulation Deadline: 05/14/12 | Signatures Required: 807,615

Proponent: Thomas B. Watson

Repeals the current provision in California's Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Provides that marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Clarifies that the initiative shall not be interpreted to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person to perform a marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Over the long run, this measure would likely have little fiscal impact on state and local governments.


The full text can be read here.

WV - "comin". Let's hope so!

dr.primrose said...

Oops. That should have been "Prop. 8"!

dr.primrose said...

OT again. Tying the knot boosts gay men's health, study finds.

"Straight men are already known to thrive after getting hitched, but the marriage effect might be just as strong for gay men's health.

"In fact, just the possibility of legalized marriage might make gay guys healthier, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Columbia University researchers looked at the health effects on gay men from legalized marriage, surveying 1,211 patients from a large Massachusetts health clinic focused on the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. The researchers examined the clinic's billing records 12 months before and 12 months after Massachusetts passed the law in 2004 allowing same-sex couples to get married.

"In just 12 months after the same-sex marriage law was enacted, doctor visits declined 13 percent and health care costs decreased 14 percent for gay men, compared to the year prior, the researchers found.

"Most of the decrease was in the number of visits men made for conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and sexually transmitted diseases, said the study's lead author Mark Hatzenbueler, a researcher at the School of Public Health at Columbia University. The boost in gay men’s health is likely connected to both the institution of marriage and also the societal changes associated with the new laws.

"'What we are saying is that when you legalize same-sex marriage it kind of changes the social environment around gays and lesbians,' Hatzenbueler said. 'And that reduces social stigma and stress that has downstream health consequences.'

"There weren't enough lesbians in the study to determine legalized marriage's impact on their health. But earlier research by the same researchers found that marriage impacts mental health similarly in gay men and women.

"The new study 'is adding to the growing body of evidence showing social, economic and health benefits of same-sex marriage,' Hatzenbueler said."



Counterlight said...

Splendid post, IT.

dr.primrose said...

Depressing N.Y. Times piece on where political contributions come from, the 1% of the 1% -- Deep Pockets, Deeply Political:


Last week, the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to making government “transparent and accountable,” issued a report, which said:

In the 2010 election cycle, 26,783 individuals (or slightly less than one in ten thousand Americans) each contributed more than $10,000 to federal political campaigns. Combined, these donors spent $774 million. That’s 24.3% of the total from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups. Together, they would fill only two-thirds of the 41,222 seats at Nationals Park, the baseball field two miles from the U.S. Capitol. When it comes to politics, they are “the one percent of the one percent.”

The report also pointed out that “overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists and lawyers” and that “a good number appear to be highly ideological.” In the 2010 election cycle, the report revealed, “the average one percent of one percenter spent $28,913, more than the median invdividual income of $26,364.”

But perhaps even more disturbing was this:

The community of donors giving more than $10,000 (in 2010 dollars) has more than quadrupled, from 6,456 in 1990 to 26,783 in 2010. In 1990, they accounted for 28.1% of all itemized (over $200) donations. By 2010, that number had risen to 44.1%. These donors are also accounting for an increasing number of all donations. And they’re giving more, too. In 1990, the average donation was $13,443. By 2010, it was more than double: $28,913.


A series of truly depressing graphs follows.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

IT--I am shamed by the fact that the atheist among us gets this, while most of the "Christians" do not.

Thank you for your indefatigable attempts to keep us honest and hold us accountable. I marvel at your persistence, as I am >thisclose< to just throwing in the towel....


JCF said...

But to what does one "throw in the towel"?

"Where else shall we go, Rabbi? You have the words of Eternal Life."

[I admit that 12 year-old Scotch has its appeal in this regard. ;-p]

As much as I love TEC (I truly, truly do!), I've never seen it as the be-all/end-all. (It's FULL of "tares"!) But, to paraphrase Churchill re democracy, it's the "worst institution---except for all the others".

IT said...

Thank you Doxy and Doug for your kind words.

Doxy, one chooses one's fights. It's easy for me to tell a church what to do when I don't really belong to it (although I have had some fascinating conversations with my IRL clergy friends of late as to whether I am actually considered an Episcopalian despite not being a CHristian... ;-)

SEriously, this relates to my previous post-but-one, in which I claimed the mantel of outsider. Easy to state an opinion when it's not my church, not my property, and not my problem.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

JCF--one throws in the towel on "organized religion."

Everywhere I turn, the "church" and "Christians" are basically pissing on everything I read in the Gospels.

I see Christians represented in the news and I am appalled at what I read, because I see little or nothing of God in what they say and do. Including those of my own "tribe." (I'm looking at YOU ++KJS, +Sisk, ++Tutu, and Cooper+.)

And then I see all the petty things that Dear Friend deals with in the course of being a parish priest--people with their noses out of joint over the stupidest things--and I wonder how the message of Jesus (love God, love your neighbor, don't judge, take care of the poor and the weak) has become so corrupted and how people have gotten the idea that church is there to validate their good feelings about themselves, rather than challenge them? (FTR, I have heard Dear Friend preach some pretty challenging sermons--and every time he does, people threaten to leave.)

At some point, it is a matter of integrity for me. Do I believe the Gospels or not? And if I do not find the expression of the Gospels in the wider church, what do I do with that realization?

I have long said I do not believe that one can be a Christian by oneself--and I think I still believe that. So what does it say that I see more of Christ in OWS than I do in church?

I am not saying it has to be that way for YOU or for anyone else--but I am increasingly disgusted by the disconnect. I acknowledge the hypocrisy of my own life--a life that is comfortable in material things and full of privilege--and I have pledged to continue the hard work of remaking my life to reflect what I hear in Jesus' call. Right now, the church is not helping me do that--and by these recent actions, I feel that it is actively working against that call.

If it doesn't feel that way to you, fine. But it does to me--and it is breaking my heart, and calling into question my commitment to "the church," if not my commitment to God.


JCF said...

This is a difficult conversation.

I'm tempted to say "but the Church, like OWS, is Just People."

...and then I become aware I start to sound like Mitt Romney! ("Corporations are people, my friend")

When talking about any human organization, it's proper to ask what it's organized FOR. It certainly MAY be true that OWS is organized FOR a more Gospel-like end than is the Church (Lord have mercy!)

But when I hear someone talking up a NEW organization, and talking down an OLD one, I wonder if there isn't just some of the old "infatuation of the new" at work here? [Reason why long-time marrieds often stray!]

I hope for, pray for, and have stood with (IRL) Occupy. I support those who Occupied Duarte Square. But I try not to forget that on EITHER "side of the fence" (literally or metaphorically) there are sinners who sin (myself being evidence Numero Uno). I can't flee my sinful self by leaving one side of the fence for the other (Kyrie eleison!). And I need a community for accountability (as well as support!).

Hang in there, {{{Doxy}}}.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

JCF--First of all, OWS isn't an "organization."

Second,I am not infatuated with OWS, and I am not "straying" with it. I support what those who started occupying are trying to do--but I'm not interested in "trading" the church for OWS.

My point is that the church is supposedly organized for the glory of God and to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. I have long said that the church is imperfect because it is full of imperfect people--I don't expect perfection.

What I DO expect is for organizations to attempt to fulfill their missions. Our mission as Christians is to follow Jesus--to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are doing a piss-poor job of it, as far as I can tell...and I'm really tired of watching us fail.

I'm tired of the church comforting the comfortable. I'm tired of the church sitting silently by, while the social safety net is demolished. I'm tired of the church telling the marginalized to "stand in a crucified place." I am tired of the church valuing its survival over the Gospel.

I am REALLY tired of people telling me why I have to accept things I find unacceptable. Because of the need to "compromise." Because of the need to "wait for others to catch up." Because of....the fact that so many of us are absolutely unwilling to examine--much less give up--our unearned privilege, so that others might have a decent life.

Mostly I am tired.


IT said...

Go readFr Michael Sniffen's blog here:

And I don't think you can read that without feeling hope. Yes, the Institution of TEC includes TWS vestry and the wellpaid the Rev Cooper, and can disappoint.

And there is Michael Sniffen, and Bp Packard.

If I were you, I'd be pretty chuffed that the institution produces Michael Sniffens and George Packards. They are idealists to be proud of.

Do you concede the Institution to the Coopers? I hope not.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

IT--I have read Fr. Sniffen's blog. He's amazing. So is Bishop Packard.

So is my spouse and most of the other clergy I know.

As far as the institution have to remember I'm married to a priest. That both ties me to the institution, and gives me access to a side of it that most people--mercifully--never see.

IT said...

Ah, the seedy underbelly...but every institution has one, why should the church be any different? Institutions are just groups of people, and people are, as you well know, deeply imperfect and disappointing beings, weak and venal and selfish and cruel.

Which means finding that rare diamond among the coal is cause to lift it and celebrate it and place it in the light.


JCF said...

the seedy underbelly...but every institution has one, why should the church be any different?

And why should OWS?

[Remember, I *am* a supporter---have demonstrated in support]

God bless OWS *and* the Church (and boy, do both NEED blessings! ;-/)

stanchaz said...

Re Occupy & Trinity Church: You don’t need to be Christian, or even religious, to understand -and embrace- the idea that "Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." But many of the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this. They have closed their eyes to what the word "society" should really mean, and what it can mean. But due to Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING. Instead of demanding m-o-r-e budget cuts -to be borne by the middle class and poor- we are FINALLY focusing on the shameful bleeding that the poor and middle class has endured, for all too long. Instead of talking about even m-o-r-e cuts in the taxes of millionaires....we are now talking about fairness and justice - about an economy and a political system that is increasingly run for the rich, and by the rich. Instead of talking about LESS government, we are talking about a government that WORKS FOR ALL OF US, not just a favored few. Thank you OWS, for reminding us that people -ordinary working people- really DO matter, and for helping open our eyes to what’s going on in this country, and why. The attempt by OWS to occupy Duarte Square (the empty lot owned by Trinity Church) is much more than a plea for sanctuary. For like Zuccotti Park, it’s an attempt to carve out a protected space, a living conscience for the city, amid the repression. A a city where control-freaks would sweep us under the rug, and out of the way. In a city where they would pen us in, and try to permit us to death. In a city that tells us to “move on, move on”..... you don’t belong, you don’t count, you don’t have a right to be here...don’t assemble, don’t block the street, don’t trespass, don’t EXIST! They would deny us, deny our lives, deny our very futures. IF WE LET THEM. But OWS responds, both in word and in DEED: it says we’ve had ENOUGH - we BELONG, we STAND our ground, and we DO matter! This IS our land, and we want it BACK! The word OCCUPY...says it all! That’s why OWS has captured our imagination. That’s why a living breathing OCCUPIED public space is important for OWS. Like Lady Liberty’s never extinguished torch that burns in our harbor, OWS needs to have a concrete, persistent, in-your-face presence.. continually remind us of what we’ve lost, of what we are, and what we can be; a protected place to affirm, illuminate, defy...and inspire. Trinity Church, with its oft-proclaimed ideals (and its huge land holdings), should look deep into its collective soul, do the right thing, and help OWS secure a sanctuary. Not merely a space of refuge, but an enclave of hope, of non-violent change, and compassion. And dare I say: a space of love - love of country, love of your fellow man and woman, love for the poor and oppressed. Can thoughtful Christians argue with these simple Christian / these simple HUMAN values? For if Christ were physically with us today, as He was 2000 years ago, He would be among the FIRST to climb those fences, and occupy Trinity’s Duarte Square. Of this I am certain. Let us hope and pray and plea...that Trinity Church -and others- hear the call, and respond. For the old ways are not working. Find a quiet place somewhere, and consider this: Each of us has only one brief roll of the dice....and many choices. The time has come to risk...and to act. If not now...then when? If not you, then....who? You DO have the power my friend....and the choice IS yours. Don’t let your hopes and dreams die: LIVE YOUR IDEALS!