Occupy Religion

I’m excited about the recently published book, Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude, which is a collaborative project by Joerg Rieger and Kwok Pui-lan.  If you think it sounds like this book proposes a theology that draws on the concept of “the multitude” articulated by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, you’re right.  Furthermore, the concept of the multitude in this book also draws on the biblical idea of “ochlos,” which refers to a mass or crowd of people (i.e., the crowds that would listen to the parables of Jesus). 

It’s a good book with plenty of good news.  It shakes up the tenacious yet increasingly irrelevant views of religion coming from modern liberalism.  It rethinks the place of faith in the secular space of the public sphere, and it enjoins theology to overcome structures of domination and facilitate planetary transformation. 

“Occupy religion” does not mean using force or other means to take over religious institutions and structures, holy sites, worshipping spaces, or religious goods, but rather indicates the conceptualization of a democratic and participatory space for religious life, broadly conceived, and active engagement to make this a reality.  It challenges rigid boundaries between the sacred and the profane, as well as between the professional religious elites and the masses, and thus transforms narrow notions of religion as private or other-worldly.  “Occupy religion” aims to demystify and debunk religious doctrines and social teachings that provide both religious sanction and justification for economic and social inequality.  It critiques religious institutions and structures that silence, discriminate, and marginalize people because of class, race, gender, and sexuality, and thus hand the power to the 1 percent.  “Occupy religion” call religious communities to account and asks them to engage critically in transforming the world to make it just for all and sustainable for the environment. (p. 5)

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2 responses to “Occupy Religion

  • Adam

    Great! I believe the revitalization of religion within a secular context can bridge the gap between the often divided educated/non-educated, professional/working-class, liberal/conservative to build a global ethics from the groung up – like any growing thing… to make planetary health not only a scientific enterprise but also a religious affiliation, love. The legacies that institutional religions carry are broad, deep… they are needed.

    • sam

      Needed indeed! I guess the real twist comes when we realize that secularity is itself a religious phenomenon. Talk about bridging the gap…it’s all divine kenosis.

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