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Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?
Posted on Dec 5, 2011
By Chris Hedges
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 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:
It was the church in Latin America, especially in Central America 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. 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.
Square, Site wide
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