Occupy Spirituality by Matthew Fox and Adam Bucko
The Occupy movement as this book indicates is an intergenerational movement of activists that advocate for peace and justice in the local and global arena. Adam Bucko, a man who ‘has devoted his life to helping homeless teenagers and cofounded Reciprocity Foundation’ partners with writer and theologian, Matthew Fox in their new book, Occupy Spirituality. What takes place is a conversation of give and take between a radical theologian and an activist that are both concerned with matters of justice from within a sacred perspective. As the Introduction reveals, “Ultimately, this book is about spirituality – a Radical Spirituality for a Radical Generation already known for its courage” (xxii).
Matthew hints at part of the main tenant which holds together the Occupy movement; spiritual democracy. He writes, “Moving from a hierarchical and top-down dynamics to circle dynamics…Main Street is about circles – people look each other in the eye there on a daily basis; Wall Street is about ladders; it is very top-down” (13). There is a grass roots feel to this description that justice is best served through the cause of the many working together without an agenda or demonstrative authority. Often, this kind of work for justice involves each person finding their true calling and gifts, serving alongside the disenfranchised and going after one’s passion rather than a six-figure paycheck. The spiritual democracy part relates the equality of the great religious teachers such as Jesus, Kabir, Ramakrishna, and Gandhi to influence people for the good and for justice (14). This movement takes its cue from those who are “spiritual but not religious” that permeates the culture of young people (ages 18-29). What is puzzling to me is that in the Foreword of the book there is a statement that says both Adam and Matthew ‘share a passionate love for the Christ,’ (xvi), yet there is little if any mention of how the church relates to this passion in and around the Occupy movement.
The main highlight for me was both Adam and Matthew telling their stories along their spiritual journeys. Matthew makes a moving point in writing, “…there never was a prophet who was not a social artist; “moral imagination” is what is at stake, after all, in waking people up out of their slumber into alternative possibilities for living” (70). The creativity of art in all its various forms fuels the moral imagination to see how the world might be different. In his own journey through studying under Pere Chenu, he saw that music and poetry radically affected the way he viewed meditation and issues of justice. For Adam, he began to work in a large organization that helped get people off the streets, people trapped in the sex trade industry. His experience led him to Taz Tagore, a woman who had also had a profound experience in a homeless youth shelter. From this point, they formed the Reciprocity Foundation which is geared toward providing homeless youth with a better life, including learning about vocation and their true calling (47-49). There are deeper issues with homeless youth than just short-term housing and employment, and Adam saw to it that these youth were equipped to answer the larger questions of life.
This book is filled with examples of people bringing life-giving justice to situations that wreak of despair and hate. The spirituality in it is far from one that I want to follow being an evangelical Christian, but I really appreciated the way these authors offered up a platform for justice that could encompass many people and many faith traditions.
Thanks to SpeakEasy for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.