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PORTSIDE  December 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Where Were You When They Crucified My Movement?

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Date:

Tue, 6 Dec 2011 22:58:28 -0500

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text/plain (244 lines)

Where Were You When They Crucified My Movement?

By Chris Hedges
Truthdig
December 5, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/where-were-you-when-they-crucified-my-movement/1323097443

[Chris Hedges gave an abbreviated version of this talk
Saturday morning in Liberty Square in New York City as part
of an appeal to Trinity Church [4] to turn over to the Occupy
Wall Street movement an empty lot, known as Duarte Square,
that the church owns at Canal Street and 6th Avenue. Occupy
Wall Street protesters, following the call, began a hunger
strike at the gates of the church-owned property. Three of
the demonstrators were arrested Sunday on charges of
trespassing, and three others took their places.]

 The Occupy movement is the force that will revitalize
 traditional Christianity in the United States or signal its
 moral, social and political irrelevance. The mainstream
 church, battered by declining numbers and a failure to
 defiantly condemn the crimes and cruelty of the corporate
 state, as well as a refusal to vigorously attack the
 charlatans of the Christian right, whose misuse of the
 Gospel to champion unfettered capitalism, bigotry and
 imperialism is heretical, has become a marginal force in the
 life of most Americans, especially the young. Outside the
 doors of churches, many of which have trouble filling a
 quarter of the pews on Sundays, struggles a movement, driven
 largely by young men and women, which has as its unofficial
 credo the Beatitudes:

 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
 heaven.

 Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.

 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they
 shall be satisfied.

 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

 Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons
 and daughters of God.

Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It was the church in Latin America, especially in Central
American and Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, which provided the
physical space, moral support and direction for the
opposition to dictatorship. It was the church in East Germany
that organized the peaceful opposition marches in Leipzig
that would bring down the communist regime in that country.
It was the church in Czechoslovakia, and its 90-year-old
cardinal, that blessed and defended the Velvet Revolution
[5]. It was the church, and especially the African-American
church, that made possible the civil rights movements. And it
is the church, especially Trinity Church in New York City
with its open park space at Canal and 6th, which can make
manifest its commitment to the Gospel and nonviolent social
change by permitting the Occupy movement to use this empty
space, just as churches in other cities that hold unused
physical space have a moral imperative to turn them over to
Occupy movements. If this nonviolent movement fails, it will
eventually be replaced by one that will employ violence. And
if it fails it will fail in part because good men and women,
especially those in the church, did nothing.

Where is the church now? Where are the clergy? Why do so many
church doors remain shut? Why do so many churches refuse to
carry out the central mandate of the Christian Gospel and
lift up the cross?

Some day they are going to have to answer the question:
"Where were you when they crucified my Lord?"

Let me tell you on this first Sunday in Advent, when we
celebrate hope, when we remember in the church how Mary and
Joseph left Nazareth for Bethlehem, why I am in Liberty
Square. I am here because I have tried, however imperfectly,
to live by the radical message of the Gospel. I am here
because I know that it is not what we say or profess but what
we do. I am here because I have seen in my many years
overseas as a foreign correspondent that great men and women
of moral probity arise in all cultures and all religions to
fight the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed. I am here
because I have seen that it is possible to be a Jew, a
Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu or an atheist and
carry the cross. The words are different but the self-
sacrifice and thirst for justice are the same. And these men
and women, who may not profess what I profess or believe what
I believe, are my brothers and sisters. And I stand with them
honoring and respecting our differences and finding hope and
strength and love in our common commitment.

At times like these I hear the voices of the saints who went
before us. The suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who announced
that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God, and the
suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton [6], who said, "The moment
we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell
the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are
silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and
life no longer flow into our souls." Or Henry David Thoreau,
who told us we should be men and women first and subjects
afterward, that we should cultivate a respect not for the law
but for what is right. And Frederick Douglass, who warned us:
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it
never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit
to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and
wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will
continue till they are resisted with either words or blows,
or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the
endurance of those whom they oppress." And the great 19th
century populist Mary Elizabeth Lease [7], who thundered:
"Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government
of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a
government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall
Street. The great common people of this country are slaves,
and monopoly is the master." And Gen. Smedley Butler [8], who
said that after 33 years and four months in the Marine Corps
he had come to understand that he had been nothing more than
a gangster for capitalism, making Mexico safe for American
oil interests, making Haiti and Cuba safe for banks and
pacifying the Dominican Republic for sugar companies. War, he
said, is a racket in which newly dominated countries are
exploited by the financial elites and Wall Street while the
citizens foot the bill and sacrifice their young men and
women on the battlefield for corporate greed. Or Eugene V.
Debs, the socialist presidential candidate, who in 1912
pulled almost a million votes, or 6 percent, and who was sent
to prison by Woodrow Wilson for opposing the First World War,
and who told the world: "While there is a lower class, I am
in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and
while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." And Rabbi
Abraham Heschel, who when he was criticized for walking with
Martin Luther King on the Sabbath in Selma answered:"I pray
with my feet" and who quoted Samuel Johnson, who said: "the
opposite of good is not evil. The opposite of good is
indifference." And Rosa Parks, who defied the segregated bus
system and said "the only tired I was, was tired of giving
in." And Philip Berrigan, who said: "If enough Christians
follow the Gospel, they can bring any state to its knees."

And the poet Langston Hughes, who wrote:

    What happens to a dream deferred? 
    Does it dry up 
    Like a raisin in the sun? 
    Or fester like a sore - 
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat? 
    Or crust and sugar over-
    Like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags 
    Like a heavy load. 
    Or does it explode?

And Martin Luther King, who said: "On some positions,
cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks
the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is
it popular?’ And there comes a time when a true follower of
Jesus Christ must take a stand that’s neither safe nor
politic nor popular but he must take a stand because it is
right."

Where were you when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there to halt the genocide of Native Americans? Were
you there when Sitting Bull died on the cross? Were you there
to halt the enslavement of African-Americans? Were you there
to halt the mobs that terrorized black men, women and even
children with lynching during Jim Crow? Were you there when
they persecuted union organizers and Joe Hill died on the
cross? Were you there to halt the incarceration of Japanese-
Americans in World War II? Were you there to halt Bull
Connor’s dogs as they were unleashed on civil rights marchers
in Birmingham? Were you there when Martin Luther King died
upon the cross? Were you there when Malcolm X died on the
cross? Were you there to halt the hate crimes, discrimination
and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who
are transgender? Were you there when Matthew Shepard [9] died
on the cross? Were you there to halt the abuse and at times
slavery of workers in the farmlands of this country? Were you
there to halt the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent
Vietnamese during the war in Vietnam or hundreds of thousands
of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan? Were you there to halt
Israel’s saturation bombing of Lebanon and Gaza? Were you
there when Rachel Corrie [10] died on the cross? Were you
there to halt the corporate forces that have left working men
and women and the poor in this country bereft of a
sustainable income, hope and dignity? Were you there to share
your food with your neighbor in Liberty Square? Were you
there to become homeless with them?

Where were you when they crucified my Lord?

I know where I was.

Here.

With you.

Links:
 [1] http://www.truth-out.org/print/9997
 [2] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail/9997
 [3] http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/where_were_you_when_they_crucified_my_movement_20111205/
 [4] http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/
 [5] http://archiv.radio.cz/history/history15.html
 [6] http://www.biography.com/people/elizabeth-cady-stanton-9492182
 [7] http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/mary-elizabeth-lease/12128
 [8] http://rationalrevolution.net/war/major_general_smedley_butler_usm.htm
 [9] http://www.matthewshepard.org/our-story
 [10] http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/rachel
 [11] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail
 [12] http://www.truth-out.org/content/chris-hedges
 [13] http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6694/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=2160
 [14] https://members.truth-out.org/donate
 

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