At lunch today, my friend wanted to talk about how I would vote in the upcoming election. She’s particularly politically savvy. I’m not the type of person that hesitates to share my viewpoints. I just haven’t considered it. Not yet. So, we talked about the signs around town which led to a conversation about the occupation in Lincoln Park in our city of Portland, Maine.
She had heard that those camped out in the park were preparing to camp through the winter months. They’re trying to secure resources to occupy throughout the cold winter. It’s supposed to accumulate 6 inches tomorrow. So now I’m worried. This lunchtime conversation leapt from thoughtful conversation to my complete concern about these people crazy enough to camp out all winter long. So, I was honest. I feel like I should be out there. But I don’t want to give up the comfort of my bed. It’s kinda the antithesis of the movement. So I feel like a bad progressive. My friend kindly laughed. I know, she said before she continued. But I think the whole city is with them. We just don’t want to choose their tactics.
This is where it gets interesting, right? Because we’re two women that have read Saul Alinsky. We’ve organized in the old model. We know very well that you start with the cause. You start with the issue. You organize around the issue. Except that doesn’t seem to be what these kids are doing. Don’t be offended by that. Please. The movement is led by people younger than me. I get to call them kids with full respect because I just became the old school. Crap. On Tuesday night, I sat in a web event where I heard Diana Butler Bass offer the most fantastic insight possible to this reality. It’s all in her new book due out in February entitled Christianity After Religion. The biggest takeaway from this conversation to me is that these occupations embody a new way of engagement where the starting point is not the issue — but gathering as a community. It’s that first act of trying to figure out how to be together with a group of people that is transforming how people are trying to change the world. It’s not the same starting point that my lunch companion and I learned. The starting point is no longer the issue. It’s relationships. This dumbfounds me. It makes me think of the new monastic movement. It makes me want to read Bass’ new book. In the political landscape where we’re torn apart by issues, there are actually people that are trying to figure out new ways of building community — and that means throwing out most of the norms that we’ve assumed need to be there. Or at least some of them. I’m not going to camp out tonight or tomorrow or anytime soon — but I am so excited about how these occupations are changing our conversations about politics, church and the world. I am reminded that I don’t have the answers but I’m more than ready to lead into the next reality. And right now, the only way that I can lead is to be open toward the change that is happening in this time and this place. I know that good will come. I can feel it.