The Occupy Wall Street movement, after accumulating glowing press portrayals in September and October, has hit a wall and is desperately trying Thursday to break through. New York police arrested some 200 protesters on Tuesday and are likely to arrest more Thursday unless OWS stands down.
Across the nation, stories of killings and sexual assaults have arisen from protest camps in Dallas; Oakland, Calif.; Burlington, Vt.; and other cities. Police have arrested protesters or closed camp sites in Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Florida, and California. Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that issued the initial call to occupy, acknowledged that "somehow we lost the high ground, we lost the narrative."
The "somehow" came into sharper focus during a meeting Monday of the Occupy Wall Street "Spokes Council," an effort by Occupiers to create a "non-hierarchical" way to organize the movement. About 100 people, most over age 30 and bundled in winter wear, gathered inside a dimly lit building in lower Manhattan. Sitting cross-legged on the floor in a rough circle, some clutched signs and sipped from Starbucks cups while others fiddled with their iPhones. Spokes Council members first sang a song about "throwing the greedy bankers out" and "creating a world of justice."
Then, with a clang of a cymbal, the meeting began, but from the vantage point of a WORLD reporter, there was lots of talk but little resolution. Channeling anarchy is as easy as nailing a jellyfish to a wall. Somehow lost the narrative? Without some hierarchy, without some leadership, there is no narrative, only babble. But if leadership does emerge, it is likely to come from a radical hard core, and the soft-core Occupiers who have enjoyed the fun and glory of camping out, eating free food, and being considered heroic may depart for other pastimes.
Democratic leaders hope to channel Occupiers into normal political activity. "I want them to get up and start registering voters, start playing towards the 2012 election," former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said at a Harvard University seminar. "Not just the presidential, but congressional and Senate elections and state legislative elections. That's where they can make real change." But many Occupiers seem to be post-liberal and unwilling to be used in that way.
There's still an opportunity here for biblical evangelicals to minister, and go far beyond the kissing up to Occupy Wall Street that some leftist evangelicals have practiced. The key is to teach what Alexandr Solzhenitsyn learned: "If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
No human is, but God is. He destroys a piece of our hearts and gives us larger hearts.
With reporting by Tiffany Owens in New York and the Associated Press.