J15 Pray-in

Please Join the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate in
“A Pray-in for the Climate” in front of the White House
January 15, 2013
The 84th Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

11:00 am - Gathering at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (1313 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC)
12:00 pm - Religious Procession to the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW)
12:30 pm - Prayerful Vigil - Asking that the President and the nation find the strength and wisdom to steer us away from the Climate Cliff

Please note: Some participants may feel called to risk arrest by non-violently disregarding the conventional regulations and assuming positions of prayer in the area near the White House fence.

For more info: interfaithactiononclimatechange.org
Download full letter


Call To Action: A Pray-in For the Climate We are facing a Climate Cliff, and we are calling upon religious and spiritual leaders, other believers and all people of good will to join us to address its danger by participating in “A Pray-in for the Climate” in front of the White House on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

Super-storm Sandy, the drastic droughts in our corn country, record-breaking Arctic ice melt, and unheard-of floods in Vermont, let alone disasters in Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Africa, all warn us: the disruption of our planet will not wait for our “normal” political paralysis to end.

We are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose 84th birthday we celebrate on January 15th:

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ’Too late’.”

08. January 2013 by Paul.Russell
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How Occupy Got Religion

by Nathan Schneider

A year ago around this time, Occupy Wall Street was celebrating Advent — the season when Christians anticipate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. In front of Trinity Church, right at the top of Wall Street along Broadway, Occupiers set up a little model tent with the statuettes of a nativity scene inside: Mary, Joseph and the Christ child in a manger, surrounded by animals. In the back, an angel held a tiny cardboard sign with a verse from Luke’s Gospel: “There was no room for them in the inn.” The reason for these activists’ interest in the liturgical calendar, of course, was the movement’s ongoing effort to convince Trinity to start acting less like a real estate corporation and more like a church, and to let the movement use a vacant property that Trinity owns.

[Read more.]

02. January 2013 by Paul.Russell
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Update from the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate

We are facing a Climate Cliff, and we need you – our religious and spiritual leaders, other believers and all people of good will – to join us in addressing its danger by participating in “A Pray-in for the Climate” in front of the White House on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, following the agenda listed below.
To date, the religious and faith leaders who have agreed to be with us include:


  •          Rev. Richard CizikPresident of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
  •          Rev. Bob Edgar, CEO, Common Cause; Former head of National Council of the Churches
  •          Rev. Michael Ellik, Judson Memorial Church, NYC; Occupy Faith/Occupy Sandy
  •          Green Hevra, community members
  •          Rev. Philip Lawson, Pastor Emeritus, Easter Hill UMC Church, Oakland, CA; National Council of Elders
  •          Rev. John MerzRector, Ascension Episcopal Church Brooklyn, NY; Occupy Faith/Occupy Sand
  •          Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Social Justice Organizing Program,  Re-constructionist Rabbinical College
  •          Nipponzan Nyohoji Buddhist Community
  •          Jacqui Patterson, NAACP – Director, Climate Justice Initiative
  •          Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  •          Dr. Rajwant Singh, Sikh Council on Religion and Education
  •          Father Louie Vitale OFM, Franciscan Friar, Co-founder Nevada Desert Experience
  •          Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President, HipHop Caucus, Washington, DC

In addition, the following are among the individuals and organizations endorsing this action:


  •          Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK
  •          Dr. James Hansen
  •          Interreligious Eco-Justice Network of CT
  •          Chief Oren Lyons, Faith keeper, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation
  •          People of the Onondaga Nation
  •          Bill McKibben
  •          National Council of the Elders
The Shalom CenterJanuary 15th marks the 84th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose profound words speak directly to us as we witness the devastating effects of climate change:


We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:  ’Too late’.”


Fifty years ago, our country faced a crisis of racial inequality in America that posed a basic threat to justice and democracy. Religious communities and others acted, and we made a difference.


Today’s deepest crisis is the danger facing the web of life upon our planet, including the human race – especially the poorest and most vulnerable.  We are particularly concerned about the effects on local communities and our planetary future of destructive, extreme energy extraction: mountaintop removal, fracking, Arctic and deep sea offshore oil drilling, and tar sands mining.


Out of our moral commitment to protect and heal God’s Creation, our religious communities need to be calling for a set of first-step changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by committing the President and Congress to vigorous action.


The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate - a collaborative initiative of religious leaders, groups and individuals that came together in 2011 in response to the pressing need for more visible, unified, prophetic action to address the climate crisis – is issuing such a call for January 15th, and has organized the following activities:


11:00 am* – Gathering for everyone at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
(1313 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC)


12:00 pm – Religious Procession to the White House 
(1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW)


12:30 pm – Prayerful Vigil in front of the White House - Asking that the President and the nation find the strength and wisdom to steer us away from the Climate Cliff
Please note:  Some participants may feel called to risk arrest by nonviolently disregarding the conventional regulations and assuming positions of prayer in the area near the White House fence.
As they do so, others of us will create a powerful circle of prayer in support of those engaging in dignified, nonviolent civil disobedience.

To our President and Congress we will address the prophetic words of Dr. King spoken at another moment of crisis: “This is a time to break the silence!”  And we will call on them to break the silence by taking necessary actions, such as these:


1. Permanently refuse permits for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, because tar-oil is among the most dangerous of the planet-heating forms of carbon


2. Call a National Summit Conference on the Climate Crisis that includes leaders of business, labor, academia, religious communities, governmental officialdom, science, and other relevant bodies


3. Publicly support and advocate for a carbon fee that will generate hundreds of billions of dollars, with provisions to ensure that working families and the poor are not harmed by higher carbon prices; for an end to subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries; and for substantial subsidies for research, development, and use of renewable, sustainable and jobs-creating clean energy sources.


We hope you will join us on January 15th, and ask that you visit our website: www.interfaithactiononclimatechange.org to register your support and/or plan to participate.  Please also feel free to contact us at cynthiaharris4930@gmail.com, or by calling 202-288-8788 if you have any questions or concerns.


With blessings of shalom, salaam, pax, paz, peace,


Members of the IMAC Steering Committee


  • Rev. Tom Carr, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hartford, CT, Interreligious Eco Justice Network, CT
  • Rev. Terry Ellen, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in the National Capital Region
  • Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Cynthia Harris, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate
  • Dr. Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Fr. Paul Mayer, Climate Crisis Coalition
  • Ibrahim Ramey, Muslim American Freedom Society
  • Karen Scott, Center for Liberty of Conscience
  • Lise Van Susteren, MD, Advisory Board, Center for Health and the Global Environment,  NWF
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia, Pa.


*NOTE:  Instruction and training for those planning to engage in non-violent civil disobedience at the White House will be offered on 1/15/13 at 10:00 am at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, (1313 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC) prior to the 11:00 am Gathering there.

02. January 2013 by Paul.Russell
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Interfaith Call to Action on Climate Change

Join the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate in a “A Pray-In for the Climate” in front of the White House on January 15, 2013, the 84th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. See Letter of Invitation

As people of faith and spirituality we are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change ravaging our planet, and we are compelled by our traditions and collective conscience to take action together on this deeply moral challenge. Therefore, we call for interfaith actions across the USA to awaken our nation’s elected officials, as well as all civic and business leaders and households, to the urgent need for immediate and effective action to address the climate emergency.

As a first step, we call on our leaders to enact policies that dramatically reduce wasted energy and significantly shift our power supplies from oil, coal and natural gas to wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. We must equitably phase-out all fossil fuel subsidies. We also call on our leaders to enact policies to help people here and abroad prepare for and withstand the terrible impacts of climate change that are already occurring and that will grow much worse in the years ahead.

We are compelled to heed Martin Luther King Jr’s call to appreciate the “fierce urgency of now” and his warning that “in this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.” 

Our Call is:  To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).  We must hold forth a brighter vision for our human future within the community of creation as we seek commitment to a set of clear, widely held moral principles.First, it is morally wrong to unjustifiably cause human suffering and death. Human-induced climate change is correlated with storms, floods, droughts, crop failures, diseases, and water and food shortages, as well as associated breakdowns in political, economic, social and ecological systems. These breakdowns compromise human security and are already harming and killing people here and abroad. The greatest impacts are falling on low-income people, communities of color, Indigenous peoples, and others who have contributed little to climate change. We have a moral obligation to rapidly reduce our carbon pollution to minimize these disproportionate impacts.

The second principle is to honor our moral obligation for equity and justice. The shift to a sustainable, energy efficient and renewable energy economy can create millions of good jobs and support healthy families and communities. We must ensure that this shift is a ‘just transition’ that protects the most vulnerable among us and prepares all of us for the impacts of a changing climate. It should spread the investments in solutions and the benefits of new approaches equitably, enable whole industries to make the changes needed, provide adequate resources for workers and communities adversely affected by the shift, and ensure that all Americans have a democratic voice in how those decisions are made.

The third guiding moral principle is to protect the Earth, which is the source of all life. Virtually all the world’s religious and spiritual traditions proclaim that we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and all of its creatures and processes. To disrupt the climate that is the cornerstone of all life and to squander the extraordinary abundance of life, diversity, and beauty of the planet is a moral failure of the first order.

Our capacity for repentance and forgiveness inspires hope in a future where we can recover from the errors of our past, repair the damage we have done and share in the act of healing the Earth. May we rely on the guidance of our faith traditions and spiritual teachings to find the power to act with courage and conviction to create a brighter, more secure and sustainable future for all of us, our children and all future generations.

19. December 2012 by Paul.Russell
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Footage from Press Conference: Sandy Relief Work Not Enough

07. December 2012 by Paul.Russell
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Press Release: Faith Leaders Demand Alternative Housing, Post-Sandy

For Immediate Release

Tuesday December 4, 2012

Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, 347-982-1677 (English & Spanish)
Rev. John Mertz, 718-930-1268 (English)
Luis Casco, 347-207-4113 (English & Spanish)


WHERE: Home of Mayor Bloomberg – 17 East 79th Street, Manhattan NYC


WHO: Faith leaders working with Occupy Sandy victims will be joined by community organizers and community members of affected areas to make an urgent plea to the Mayor to immediately provide housing solutions to those displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

WHAT: Without the housing alternatives that the mayor ought to have provided by now many victims have had no choice but to stay in their devastated and mold-infested homes. As a result many are getting terribly sick from these conditions. The lack of housing coupled with the misinformation of the dangers of living with mold are putting these vulnerable communities at greater risk than necessary.

“The Katrina ghost is being resuscitated by the slow response of the city and lack of guidance and vision for the Federal Government. It is clear to me that as we, people of faith, have responded in opening our Churches, synagogues, and other sacred spaces and it is long overdue that the government and those who have accumulated and have the resources, in their care, need to step up. It is a crisis and we need our structures in place to adapt and work for the most vulnerable among us,” Rev. Ruiz, who has worked along Occupy Sandy’s hub at St. Jacobi’s Lutheran Church, stated. These devastated communities are encountering completely avoidable challenges due to the lack of alternative housing making much more difficult the task of rebuilding.

We are living in a mold infested community,” said resident Luis Casco, “One of my neighbors is a 67 year old woman who cannot run her daycare any longer and has a respiratory disease and is living in mold.”

“We are people, not animals, we should not be living in these horrible conditions.” added Casco.

Rev. Caliendo, who works as a chaplain for the nurses, added “one of the most important factors in this entire situation is that the Rockaways was an under-served community the storm has decimated all services, the most important medical services. Over the last couple of days I along with mental health professionals are working to organize mental health support in the churches. Although a group of concerned doctors, nurses and advocates have been on conference calls with the mayor’s office, no progress has been made to aid and deliver resources needed to avert the crisis”.

Community members and faith leaders demand that the Mayor answer the immediate need for housing. Denying them this human right means that the mayor is failing in his duties and undermining the tremendous efforts these communities are making to recover.

04. December 2012 by Paul.Russell
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Announcement: Hurricane Sandy

Emergency Meeting on Thursday, 10am at Judson (and info session on Saturday in Zuccotti, see below.)

Hello all – we realize this is extremely short notice and that this is frustrating for some, but this is the nature of the evolving situation with Sandy recovery.

We will be holding an emergency information meeting this Thursday (12/6) at 10a at Judson Memorial Church (enter at 239 Thompson Street and look for the Garden Room) to update faith leaders with the evolving recovery situation.  As can be expected, there are far too many people living in houses with dangerous mold, and we will need to take a stand to have Bloomberg and city agencies recognize this and take action.

Occupy Radical Christian LivingSat. Dec. 8 Come to Trinity Wall Street at 12:30p.m. for an extension of Trinity Institute’s conference on Radical Christian Living. Gather at 12:30 in front of Trinity Wall Street  for leafleting, singing and engaging with faith leaders involved with Occupy Sandy, Strike Debt, A People’s Investigation and more. [Facebook page]


Our voices are so needed right now as advocates for the unfortunate unseen forgotten souls of the Zone A areas.

The Rockaways are in dire circumstances, there are still those without heat or hot water.  Those who do have water; it is contaminated with sea water.   We have seen reports of intestinal difficulties as a result.   There is a growing medical tragedy occurring as it past crisis; there is a problem with Tetanus, hypothermia as well as serious neglected chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetics, etc.   Adding to that there a serious problem of  food insecurity  The mayor’s office stopped serving hot food to survivors; instead being supplied by various organizations of military or disaster food rations.  These rations exasperate the health of those with chronic health conditions.  There are many times that patients were referred to the mobile clinics the Mayor’s office allegedly has in the Rockaways, but they could not be found.  People are walking around completely traumatized, children are being bussed to other schools which contributes to the growing distress.  Healthcare professionals warn that the aftermath of the crisis leaves New Yorkers vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, mold and dust, and clean-up hazards.  Thousands of New Yorkers – in Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island – are still trapped in their homes with urgent and unattended medical needs.

Folks are too afraid to leave their homes especially in high rises as looting as been occurring.  Those who are in SROs have shuttered themselves in because the minute they leave their residence, the landlords evict them, tossing all their belongings on the street locking them out.  Residents are living in hazardous mold conditions and to date NO city representative has addressed this issue.  Those who do work have an added 1 hour to their commute because transportation is at minimal.

One of the most important factors in this entire situation is that the Rockaway was an under-served community the storm has decimated all services, the most important medical services.  Over the last couple of days I along with mental health professionals are working to organize mental health support in the churches.  Although a group of concerned doctors, nurses and advocates have been on conference calls with the mayor’s office, no progress has been made to aid and deliver resources needed to avert the crisis.

The NSNYA nurses will be soon coming out with a press release on their assessment of the situation
I hope you can spread the word and gather support of the interfaith community.

In Kindness,

Reverend Mary

03. December 2012 by Paul.Russell
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Raise the Minimum Wage – Media Coverage

Miembros de diferentes grupos religiosos se reunen en Manhattan para ofrecer una comida por la celebración de Acción de Gracias. Al mismo tiempo que lanzan una campaña parahacer un llamado al increment del sueldo mínimo en el estado de Nueva York. Por ahora,el sueldo mínimo es de $7.25.

Capital Tonight: Cuomo’s Left Flank Problems Nothing New

Capitol Confidential: Minimum Wage Supporters Push On, Session or Not

Times Union: Give Workers the Just Wages They Deserve

AP (WSJ, CNBC, CBS): NY Advocates Set Minimum Wage Rally

WNYT: Demand for Minimum Wage Increase in New York

Politics on the Hudson: Anti-Hunger Groups Want Minimum Wage Increase in Special Session

NCPR: Hunger Advocates Push for Minimum Wage Increase

Democrat & Chronicle: Special Session to Raise New York’s Minimum Wage Unlikely

NY Daily News: Groups’ Push for Minimum Wage Increase Falling on Deaf Ears in Albany

20. November 2012 by Paul.Russell
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Raise the Minimum Wage in New York State, Press Conference

What: Prayer vigil and press conference calling for a raise in the minimum wage
Date: Monday, November 19
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
296 Ninth Avenue (at 28th Street), Manhattan

What can you do?

At $7.25 per hour, New York’s minimum wage remains decades out of date.

With growing numbers of New Yorkers relying on low-wage jobs to survive––too many workers in New York City do not earn enough to afford basic expenses, forcing many New Yorker’s with full-time jobs to rely on the city’s soup kitchens and shelters for meals each day.  Many were hit hard by Sandy.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we are reminded that charity is not enough.  As we give food to the hungry, we must also ask why people go hungry.

The New York State Assembly has already approved a proposal that would raise New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour and index it to keep pace with inflation.  More than one million workers would see their wages rise as a result. The leadership of the New York State Senate has balked at approving a modest $1.25 per hour increase in the state minimum wage.

Now, Albany lawmakers are reported to be considering a salary bump to make themselves the highest paid legislators in the country––such a raise would amount to more than the annual salary of a full-time minimum-wage earner.

Please join faith leaders, low-wage workers, and community members to urge the New York state legislature to serve “the least among us,” not just themselves.

Eighty percent of New York voters support raising the minimum wage. Let’s show our solidarity with New York’s lowest income earners.

19. November 2012 by Paul.Russell
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What’s Next in Faith Based Community Organizing: A Rolling Jubilee

Originally published at Justice UNBOUND

Occupy Faith and part­ners are launch­ing a Rolling Jubilee, a people’s bailout to help elim­i­nate debt—and make a stand in the face of our moral cri­sis of money, debt, and power. Rolling Jubilee may sig­nal an impor­tant, and long needed, shift in how we do faith-based com­mu­nity orga­niz­ing: one that might save not only the peo­ple, but also the church.

 By Donna Schaper, Senior Min­is­ter at Jud­son Memo­r­ial Church, NYC

strike debtWHY A SHIFT?
Faith Based Com­mu­nity orga­niz­ing has a fine history—from Gamaliel through the Jere­miah Project, through Brook­lyn United, on to PICO and more than I couldn’t pos­si­bly name or remem­ber. Appre­ci­a­tion is the most appro­pri­ate atti­tude and stance. Appre­ci­a­tion can also deepen and lead to a shift in strat­egy, and that is what is hap­pen­ing now in many parts of the country.

The time famine has inten­si­fied for many clergy and for their dwin­dling con­gre­ga­tions, mak­ing it imper­a­tive to switch direc­tion. The old orga­niz­ing model had churches bring­ing their inter­nal parish strength to exter­nal com­mu­nity action. This model wrongly equated the strength of con­gre­ga­tions with the “num­ber” of peo­ple in the pews who could be con­vinced to hold a protest sign. Now, it is time for a model that embod­ies mutu­al­ity. We clergy and con­gre­ga­tions need the community’s help. We need the community’s energy to assist parishes so that parishes may assist com­mu­ni­ties. We need the outer to touch the inner. That shift in direc­tion is hap­pen­ing of neces­sity, due to the extra­or­di­nary pres­sures on parish clergy. It could also hap­pen by design and improve us all. One Cana­dian min­is­ter said, “The churches saved the arts dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, today the arts need to save the churches.” This com­ment resem­bles the direc­tion we might desire instead of rue.

I came to this real­iza­tion slowly, with some resis­tance. I often felt “used” by the rent-a-collar approach of many com­mu­nity and labor orga­ni­za­tions. I often felt I had some­thing dif­fer­ent to give than what they wanted. They wanted “my” peo­ple in their picket lines. They wanted num­bers. I increas­ingly had decreas­ing num­bers, espe­cially of ded­i­cated peo­ple, most of whom knew their own time famine, while work­ing three jobs, rais­ing chil­dren, and try­ing to keep their mort­gage pay­ments above water. I real­ized that to be of use I had to get the num­bers of peo­ple up in “my” pews before I got them “up” in their picket lines.

Plus, what I really had to give was not num­bers but spir­i­tual sup­port. Orga­niz­ers seemed to feel so burnt out, so despair­ing, so use­lessly util­i­tar­ian. They wanted some­thing from me and my peo­ple that we couldn’t give—when all the while, what we had in resources to com­bat despair, they ignored. They wanted a con­trac­tual arrange­ment, and what I had was covenan­tal. Now when orga­niz­ers knock on my door to have yet another “one on one”, I tell them to come to church. I invite them to wor­ship. I ask about the state of their soul. I don’t promise to pro­duce numbers.

To explain this shift in direc­tion, let me illus­trate with a project that is com­ing out of Occupy Faith. We are devel­op­ing a tran­si­tional project, one that goes inter­nal and exter­nal dynam­i­cally, rather than going from one false polar­ity (inner to outer) to another (outer to inner). We want to change how con­gre­ga­tions and com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions get real power—a change which will help with the time famine and the hous­ing famine and the hope famine. We are call­ing it a “Rolling Jubilee.”


A jubilee is a bib­li­cal prac­tice of can­cel­la­tion of debt on behalf of just pros­per­ity for all, includ­ing the soil. It is rest from mak­ing money and gain­ing power—on behalf of human com­mu­nity. It is a new kind of faith based com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tion, in which we Roll the Bib­li­cal Jubilee, that auto­matic and nor­mal for­give­ness of debtand in which faith based orga­niz­ing returns to its base in faith. It doesn’t stop orga­niz­ing so much as it deep­ens the rea­sons that we must orga­nize. We turn toward the urgency of the suf­fer­ing of our peo­ple, in order to release our great hope in each other and in bib­li­cal power. We start with questions.

Did you know that debt can­cel­la­tion is the bib­li­cal norm, not excep­tion? Does your faith feel fraud­u­lent as you live in a polit­i­cal econ­omy that enjoys debt and its abuse? Check out Deuteron­omy 13, or 5; and Exo­dus 20, 21, or 23. Find out what Mus­lims and other inter­faith part­ners think about debt. Or, lis­ten to Jesus in Luke 7, 11, or 16; or Matthew 6 or 18. You will dis­cover why you feel so much like a stranger in a strange land. From that alien­ation you will con­nect to oth­ers, many of whom feel sim­i­larly alien­ated. In your con­nec­tion, power will emerge.

The rolling jubilee is a cam­paign that buys debt for pen­nies on the dol­lar and does away with it. It is a release from the shame of being in debt. Many are ashamed of their stu­dent debt. Even more are ashamed that their mort­gages are under water or that they have credit card debt they can’t pos­si­bly pay. What peo­ple don’t real­ize is that many national banks (as opposed to some local banks and credit unions) make out well by this shame. They make it look like it is our “fault” that we aren’t rich or famous, all the while gain­ing inter­est on the government’s debt and our per­sonal debt, while wag­ging their fin­gers in absurd lev­els of shame and blame.

The time famine comes from inter­nal­ized cap­i­tal­ism. We’ve sim­ply been doing what “every­body does,” valu­ing what “every­body val­ues.” Instead of blame, for­give­ness is a good place to start. Way too much of faith based com­mu­nity orga­niz­ing has an ought to attached to it. Rolling the jubilee is amay. You may for­give your­self for inter­nal­iz­ing cap­i­tal­ism. This spir­i­tual repen­tance becomes a per­mis­sion (out of which grows an inter­nal­ized ought or com­mit­ment) to enter our dif­fi­culty with hope and con­vic­tion, not with shame or blame.

New direc­tions for faith based orga­niz­ing fun­da­men­tally dis­avow the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of com­ing to a meet­ing, of “show­ing up”, of “being counted.” We hope most that our peo­ple will be relieved of shame on behalf of some­thing like free­dom. From that free­dom we believe they will uproot inter­nal­ized cap­i­tal­ism, first in their own souls, then in their con­gre­ga­tional life, then in their com­mu­ni­ties. Few can afford to go to any more meet­ings or read any more emails or make any more phone calls. Inter­nally “tilted” com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tion does not require a lot of meet­ings that no one can man­age to get to. They are richly demo­c­ra­tic and open sourced. They involve the viral and the pos­si­ble by ask­ing us to engage our friends and fam­i­lies, not peo­ple we don’t know or can’t know.

Story telling is the essen­tial and impor­tant first step. Tell your story of money, power, and debt. Tell your story of repen­tance too. Were you so ashamed that you lost your job that you didn’t tell any­body? Who are your peo­ple and what is the story of your people’s jour­ney through the lands of money, debt, and power? Do you have stu­dent debt? Do you have despair about what it bought you or can buy you? Are you under­wa­ter in your mort­gage? Have you found a way out of shame about not being rich, in a land where that is the 11th commandment?

Tell your story, when­ever, wher­ever, how­ever you can. Engage the peo­ple around you. Lis­ten to their story. Think of the pop­u­lar NPR ‘Story Corps” and you will see where this is going. A national web site—a People’s Inves­ti­ga­tion of Money, Debt and Power—is now up.

While telling sto­ries, don’t ask your faith leader to attend another meet­ing. Ask him or her to lead sto­ry­telling in your con­gre­ga­tion and to link your sto­ries to oth­ers. We imag­ine a great con­scious­ness rais­ing expe­ri­ence, where aha moments go viral. “I thought I was the only one in this con­gre­ga­tion with crush­ing debt.” Aha, I am not. “I thought I was the only per­son who thought I was bad for not being suc­cess­ful.” Aha, I am not. “I thought I was the only per­son who knew that the sys­tem was rigged and that money in pol­i­tics had destroyed the Amer­i­can dream and the dreamers.”

Of course, sto­ry­telling alone is not going to cre­ate the kind of change we seek, but it’s a good place to start—and it will reframe how we gather. Sure, we will still have to meet, put feet to the ground, and do the hard work of orga­niz­ing. But because of this focus on spir­i­tual need and sto­ry­telling… because of a reframed the­o­log­i­cal and per­sonal under­stand­ing of the “why”… and because of new strate­gies to attend to people’s busy, crowded, and exhausted lives… this kind of orga­niz­ing, we hope, will be life and energy-giving.

As a next step, begin an inter­nal con­ver­sa­tion about how your parish invests its monies. Divest from the big banks and put your congregation’s money into credit unions. Join up with oth­ers who will do the same—but don’t do so until the sto­ries have seeped into the spir­its of your peo­ple. Don’t just bring your pas­tors to meet­ings. Bring people’s sto­ries to them and release the power of recog­ni­tion. Raise the con­scious­ness and com­bat the great lone­li­ness of sham­ing sto­ries and their mul­ti­ply­ing impo­tence. Or cre­ate a micro-lending fund with some of your congregation’s monies. Exper­i­ment with local solu­tions to a stag­nant, death rely­ing econ­omy. Or buy out some debt. Banks do it all the time—only they sell it and make more money on it. Why not take $5000, or raise $5000, and buy out some debt and can­cel it?

What the national banks need to do is make money on our debt. What we need to do, then, is to make power on our resources: the (spir­i­tual, sto­ry­telling, col­lec­tive) power to change the very bank­ing sys­tem and the eco­nomic struc­tures that per­pet­u­ate unac­cept­able profit mar­gins and the exploita­tion of the most vul­ner­a­ble. It’s called Jubilee and it’s the way our Abra­hamic for­bears man­aged their fields. Faith based com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions today have to tackle the enor­mous spir­i­tual prob­lems we face. Then we will be strong enough to take a crack at the mate­r­ial ones as well.

16. November 2012 by Paul.Russell
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