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The Real Occupiers

November 14, 2011

     In cities from coast to coast, we’re watching the Occupy Movement gather in groups outside financial institutions and, well, occupy (meaning take up space). They bang on steel drums, show little focus and even deposit donated monies in one of the banks they protest against.  They claim to be a new incarnation of sixties demonstrators but can’t pull it off. For a good take on them, go here. I was in university at the time and remember that many of those demonstrators were students. Some were violent, even criminal (Weather Underground and the Black Panthers). But many were ordinary students who got on buses and went to Mississippi and Alabama to work for voting and civil rights for Black Americans. They got beat up, thrown in small town jails where nobody cared about their civil rights and some never made it home.

     That’s why this picture. Looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it? Just students grazing, wolfing food down into their pie holes. (As always, no students were harmed in taking this photo. Another shot from the retreat mentioned in the last post.) This picture shows a candid group shot of one of the most subversive groups in history. (See the J Edwin Orr title here.) No weapons on the tables (One guy was packing. He carries his own hot sauce wherever he goes.)  They thrive today in plain sight yet almost nobody pays much attention. They evaporate into the culture at large to spread their influence every four years or so but their replacements swarm from every corner of America. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. I know I am; I grew up as one of them and moved on. But I do all I can to agitate and keep their pot boiling.  

     College and university students are today’s real “Occupiers”. Christian ministries involving students of all stripes and tribes touch about half a million students in the United States every year. Deceptively disguised as campus extensions of church youth groups devoted to Ultimate Frisbee, Capture the Flag and major food consumption, students on campus make up the most strategic mission field in the world. They stand as one of the most pliable and receptive groups to the Spirit of God in the world. Yes, you.

     Instead of yammering into the wind and providing police with opportunities for tear gas practice, Christian student groups  push to change thinking, impact lives and mark the world now. The kind of entrepreneurial spirit needed so badly in all fields of endeavor in the years ahead flourishes among them. For example, they establish unique on-campus communities for both men and women to deepen their faith and grow as persons. See especially Chesterton House at Cornell.

     The old pros, InterVarsity, Crusade and the Navigators,still go full bore with fresh life. Some keep their niche small in order to go deep in unique ways. Coalition for Christian Outreach integrates their staff in the college communities and neighboring churches they serve to demonstrate a deep solidarity with both. Also check out the creative way they use art to help finance the ministry. Christian Union (see link at right) uses staff with serious intellectual firepower and creative tapping into a unique alumni base to significantly lengthen staff tenure. They also fund ministry projects by other campus ministries on the Ivy League campuses where they work. Their magazine (The Ivy League Christian Observer) is like nothing else out there…and it’s FREE! (Did I say free? Free is good, right?) If you don’t order it now (See the link at the right), your computer might melt down like a Poptart after three hours in a microwave on high. And I’m not responsible…just saying. Do the right thing…free.

     Students now produce theological journals of serious depth. Scroll down the homepage of the Harvard Ichthus and you find links to scads(the goose/geese plural equivalent for more than one undergrad student theological journal) of these all over the country. And these aren’t seminary students drunk on the heady stuff of Greek and Hebrew verbs but thinking undergrads from across many academic disciplines. The Veritas Forum sets up major events internationally demonstrating the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith and provides a treasure trove of resources. Can we say “help for a term paper”? Even on the international scene, shaky Third world governments have taken their lead in domestic policy from the effective work of Christian students whose outreach brough stability to the communities around their campus. (See Shining Like Stars by Lindsay Brown on the “Good Read” page of this blog.)

     Last night was a rainy/snowy Thursday at the University of Michigan at Dearborn. The night class shift rocketed in scratching for every spare parking place; pedestrians could be casualties in the making. Sixty student or so sat hunkered down in a lecture hall while a branch campus of a major university went about its business. Only sixty? Maybe not. Thursdays and Fridays are the nights that many campus groups all over the country meet for worship and outreach. They meet invisibly in basement lecture halls and other out-of-the-way places while the “important’ things go on somewhere else. Starting with the Eastern time zone, thousands meet simultaneously all over the U.S. with tens of thousands any given week. They know a secret. They’ve been told to “have no fear, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) That means small groups that include Jesus Christ can do big things. And even more important to, “…Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13). Even though small and unseen right under everyone’s nose, these “occupiers” will change the world.

     “Occupy” does not mean to take up space and fill the air with our own empty noise. It means to take the strategic high grounds of our campus and culture, to love and serve others, to allow Jesus to leak His light into every class, coffee shop and late night conversation. We subversives who follow Jesus pack more than our own hot sauce. We don’t deal in weaponry from arms dealers or destructive anarchist philosophies. We come with the mind of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Word of God to a world that has punched itself out in its own self-centeredness. Want to be subversive and radical in a way that means something? Ask Jesus if we can wear His sweat socks for a while and go wherever they take us. Occupy – and bring the hot sauce! (Bv6nuDeB-eM)

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