So I came across a discussion today and the person who I was talking with insisted that religion was bad. I, too, once believed such that until I became involved with the Occupy Movement.
I admit that before Occupy I was a bigot and had total disdain for organized religion; I painted every church in my mind as right-wing rhetoric and distanced myself completely from any affiliation with churches.
Once I became more of an activist with the help of the Occupy movement, I was forced to work with certain groups and some of those groups were religious groups. The image that I held in my head that made me view all churches as evil-conservative cults began to change.
I began to realize that there are indeed left-wing churches out there that do not despise gay people and women's rights, but fight for them.
` Churches have played a huge role in Occupy by providing activists food, shelter, supplies, and support. As I began to work more with labor, churches became a common meeting ground especially in the winter; the church would allow us to have a warm-place to strategize.
Another aspect I gained from Occupy was more insight into the civil rights movement. Churches in the 50s and 60s were lead organizers with the civil rights movement; churches united both black and white communities through a common faith and a common struggle.
It is important to remember that leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were pastors and faith leaders first and activists second.
Part of the reason why I have had disdain for churches was in fact that I felt that many churches were anti-gay, but as I see more and more churches change their doctrine and march in pride parades, and preach love and acceptance, my tolerance for organized religion has grown.
When it comes to the bible, many groups and people have different interpretations of what it means. It’s easy to assume that people who are religious are homophobic bigots, but I’ve come to realize that homophobic views and religion do not go hand in hand.
Just like gay rights, people used the bible for both side of the issue during the civil rights movement. Groups like the KKK used the bible as a way to promote their hate while at the same time leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., used it to preach equality.
During the NATO summit churches provided food and housing to out of town residents. But looking beyond the scope of activism, and into community, churches benefit the lives of many.
After visiting a church on the south side of Chicago one night in a neighborhood known for its crime and gun violence, I realized that to many, the church served as a safe-haven, and was heavily involved in a campaign to stop the violent shootings that plagued the neighborhood.
Now with campaigns like Occupy Sandy, churches have opened up their doors to allow Occupy Wall Street to use the church as a hub to store and organize supplies.
I, like many of the left, like to assume that a church is right-wing, and want no affiliation with religion, but there is a strong religious-left that do embrace things like civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and science. Simply hating someone or a group for simply being religious is no different than simply hating someone for being black or gay.
Occupy has done one of its most-important goals and has united people who would have never ever realized that they are on the same side of the fight, and that unity is the most-important part of any struggle.