Why are all the Seattle Methodist clergy getting beaten up in the Seattle Occupy movement?
Some of you have been following the Seattle occupiers. First there was the Rev. Rich Lang, a United Methodist Pastor who was pepper-sprayed in an attempt to keep protesters safe and nonviolent.
Then yesterday, a young Rev. John Helmire, also a United Methodist Pastor found himself beaten, thrown into jail and denied water and food for encouraging Occupy Seattle protesters to “keep the peace, keep the peace.”
Frankly, it seems like these well-meaning clergy might have better spent their time teaching the Seattle Police Department how to keep the peace.
I could write a lot about Rich – I know him pretty well. I have sung at events he has organized and share my music at his church. I knew he would be in the thick of this. I don’t know John, but my guess is, he went into the streets for a similar purpose to Rich and other clergy: to be a support to protesters and help them stay nonviolent. Who better do we have as a model than Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Are there more Methodist clergy per capita in Seattle? Or are they just good at getting into trouble?
More importantly, where are the other denominations? Where are the Presbyterian clergy? Home writing sermons and planning Christmas Eve services?
Don’t think I am not sympathetic. I coordinated a Christmas Pageant in the midst of all of this. And I know that the demands of parish life can be strenuous, particularly this time of year. I also know that few justice-minded clergy are willing to get out of their golf shoes when the rubber hits the road.
Many clergy have lost something important as they serve their communities. I think they may have lost their belief that they have the power to really change anything. Or to make a difference anywhere but from behind the pulpit or comforting a family as they watch their loved one pass.
Let me say this loud and clear. We don’t want you to get beaten up, but we need you to say something. We need you to give a damn. And we need you to lead us to the best of ourselves – a light in the community, a force for nonviolence, an opening up to find a “peace that passeth all understanding.” It won’t happen unless we take it to the streets. I know I am not the only one wondering this, am I?