How Occupy Lost
I don’t work.
For everyone who wonders what I “do”, about why I won’t “do” something, I’m now going to tell you what I “do”, and you are not going to like it.
By June 2011, I was homeless in Hawaii, seeking direction in my life, and I prayed to God for guidance about what to do next.
He sent me to Alaska.
Here’s how it works.
I prayed first for guidance, then I prayed for dreams. I prayed with a small group of Christians for dreams, with two of us specifically asking for dreams, and I had dreams about Alaska. In one dream I was in a hilly, wooded town that I was told in the dream was Juneau. In another dream, I was in an airplane taking off. I added it all up and bought a plane ticket to Juneau, Alaska on my credit card with no idea how to pay for it.
I got on the plane with no money, knowing nobody in Alaska, and no idea what I would do when I got there. It was a red-eye, and as I sat in my darkened seat that night, the thought came to me that I would be preaching in Alaska.
Preaching? I don’t preach.
I arrived in Juneau on July 22, 2011 and slept the first week at the Glory Hole, the downtown homeless shelter. They threw me out over some stupid thing, and after a cold night spent out in the Juneau rain I met a retired math teacher at a church breakfast who gave me money for two nights at the local youth hostel. On my last morning there, I met a vacationing psychiatrist who befriended me and gave me a sleeping bag, a bevy, and a tarp. With these I set up a campsite on Mount Roberts, behind the city, a short hike up from the old mining road. Many a night I laid there after my prayers, listening to the creek murmuring below and the rain pattering on the tarp.
By mid-August I understood that yes, I am called to preach. How do I know this?
I do not know. I can only discern.
See, I’ve committed my life to serve God. I pray for guidance, maybe no more than the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done”, every night. I have an idea – how about preaching some sermons down the way in Juneau? OK, so I’ve got an idea, but it could just be some goofy thing floating around my head. Need to pray about it. I now take that specific idea in repeated prayer requests to God spread over days. I start to really become convinced that I should do this, that it’s OK with God. I start getting equipment together, I talk to people in city hall about electricity and permits. Now I’m really going to do it.
I set a date. I want to avoid September 11. I want to avoid preaching my first sermon on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
It doesn’t work. I get up one Sunday morning with all of the batteries dead except one little audio recorder that’s still on Hawaiian time, but I don’t know that! I hear Juneau’s bells ringing, but don’t really count them! I’m late for everything! I don’t give the speech on August 29. Nope, looks like 9/11. I was wrong. That’s discernment, too.
A friend sent me some money that I used to buy a small portable sound system. On the evening of September 7th, I spent an hour at the Catholic church, on my knees in prayer, asking to be guided by God on the whole thing, along with one last crucial point – should I point the speaker out over the ocean as the government required?
On September 11th, I went down to Juneau Marine Park at noon, the announced time for my speech. Yet I did not speak. One o’clock came and went. Two o’clock came and went. Three o’clock! Finally, trembling with trepidation, I turned on the speaker and pointed it toward the city. I whined and cried, begging God for the strength to throw the switch, but once I got started, I was fine!
But I tell you who hear me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you; if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
For two thousand years, these words have inspired many Christians. In 1200 A.D, thereabout, a young man, in Italy, kneeling before a crucifix, an icon, in a vision, heard the icon speak to him. It said “Francis, rebuild my church”. He looked around him at this crumbling church that had been built hundreds of years before, went home to his father’s shop, took his father’s best silks and a horse, went to a market town, sold the silks, sold the horse, came back and gave the money to the priest to rebuild the church.
His father was not too happy with that.
In many ways, it was a typical message from God – simple, powerful, and very easy to misunderstand.
Francis started going around Italy and preaching. Ultimately, he founded the Franciscan order and rebuilt a church that had become corrupted with greed, money, the Crusades, power politics. He turned it back to God; he turned it back, told his followers “they shall have no coins or money”; they would give all their possessions to the poor, why?, well, we read it here in this Gospel – “give to everyone who asks you”.
Now, that’s just for saints, right? It’s not for you and me.
No. Saints are not here just to do the heavy lifting while we sit around with the little one pound jogging weights. Saints are here to guide us, and teach us, and show us the way forward – “give to anyone who asks of you”.
In Matthew 25, Christ goes on again with this theme. He tells us that if someone comes to us hungry, and we do not feed him, then we are not feeding Christ, and whenever we fail to do to the least of these, we have failed to do to him.
And this is an amazing concept! Does it mean that if a Christian walks into McDonald’s, or Subway, and doesn’t have any money, and is turned away hungry, that, well, yeah! You’re turning away Christ!
And here we begin to see the wickedness and indifference of capitalism. No, the capitalists teach us, we will not do what we are taught in the book of Luke. We will not give to everyone who asks. We will stand behind a counter and refuse to do anything for anyone unless we’re getting something out of it for ourselves.
It is a rejection of the Christian Gospel, and it is facilitated by an indifferent freedom where people just sit around, pray to their God, go to their church, but the commandments are simply optional. We do them, we don’t do them, but that’s not what we’re taught. We’re taught to give to anyone who asks of us.
The terrorists ten years ago did not choose their targets at random.
The World Trade Center was a symbol of capitalism. It was a symbol of a nation that, blessed with fantastic wealth, will sit behind a counter with a smug look and say, “How about a job?”
…and some people, driven to some kind of rage, decided to hijack these airliners and murder three thousand people.
That certainly doesn’t seem to be a very Christian alternative, again, the Gospel of Luke: “Love your enemies.”
There’s another commandment, thousands of years older, not printed in red but carved in stone, “Thou shall not kill”! So terrorism seems to be out of the question.
What then do we do? Do we just see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil? Remain indifferent when faced with an immoral society that has turned away from the Christian Gospel?
That doesn’t seem like a very good idea.
No, Francis had the right idea. Francis… Ahab, when Elijah was called to preach to Ahab… when Moses was called to preach to Pharaoh… when Jesus told the Pharisees about their wickedness…
Preach! That is the answer! Not terrorism; not indifference; we are called to preach the Gospel! That is the true answer to 9/11! To preach!
No! Capitalism is immoral! We are called upon to give to everyone who begs of us! There is no exception if you’re running a business! There’s no exception if it’s just your job! It is not optional! It is a commandment from God!
I kept preaching. Nobody came to hear me, but I kept preaching every Sunday all through September. I even managed to begin starting my sermons on time, without all of the crying into the microphone with the switch off. I preached, with the volume on full and no questions taken afterward at the Juneau Empire, the local daily. I don’t have a very good relationship with the press. That’s an interesting sermon. I pretty much passed judgment on myself that day:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.'” (Ezekiel 33:1-6)
I tried! I tried! A huge whirlwind storm formed and blew threw the trumpet and gave it great power! But I held it in my hand too long while gazing around, then the wind came up and roared through it while I tried to pull it back, then it ripped to pieces before my eyes and the Lord held me still while I beheld the enemy taking the keep!
I moved indoors in October, preaching in the local churches, whether they wanted me to or not. By this I mean that I just stood up at the end of the service, during announcements, and preached for five or ten minutes. No, I’m not a very popular guy.
Then I was called to leave Juneau. How, do you ask? The usual. Discernment. I prayed repeatedly for guidance, because my ministry didn’t seem to be going very well. Nobody was listening; I had probably ticked off more people than I’d inspired.
I went to a Wednesday noon mass, as usual, at the local Episcopal Church, Holy Trinity, and left convinced that I was called to travel further into Alaska and keep preaching. But travel where?
I had been living in Juneau for four months, but had never visited either of Alaska’s other major cities: Anchorage and Fairbanks. I bought another credit card plane ticket (my mother ended up paying for all of this) to Fairbanks. It was a two week advance purchase, though, and the flight transferred through Anchorage, so I could still go there.
I had to decide: Anchorage or Fairbanks?
I prayed, of course. Then one evening I met a palm reader.
A palm reader?
Sounds occult. I don’t do palm readers.
She says that she’s Catholic, prays to God, hangs a crucifix on the wall. She holds people’s hands, casually, while standing in front of you, and tells them what God shows her. She reads me and tells me Anchorage.
From a palm reader?
Here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t test it. I didn’t take it back to God and ask if it’s from Him. What if she was telling the truth about everything? I never asked. I never asked her about her gifts and vocation, about her prayer life. Somebody else described her as a palm reader, not her, and not God.
I toyed with it… palm reader?… and discarded it. I flew to Anchorage on November 2, and then took the next flight to Fairbanks. I figured that I would check out Fairbanks, then travel down to Anchorage.
I’d just blown a crucial discernment on the biggest religious call of my life. How did this disaster unfold? I’d never before met anyone with a prophetic gift, at least not that I know of! I’ve met plenty of frauds, though! As I’ll explain later, we have a massive sham religion in this country. So although I understood clearly that God was in charge, I’d become very self-reliant in my vocation. I didn’t really trust anyone else to help with my discernment.
I’d also developed a bad spirit of preaching against this country. The watchman in Ezekiel 33 is called to warn the wicked, to save their lives, not to condemn them. This Old Testament prophet, sent to an “obstinate and stubborn” people, foreshadowed the loving spirit of Christ, in a way made even clearer in Ezekiel 3:
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel, so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from the evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
I slept the first week of November at the homeless shelter in Fairbanks, preached a bit at the University of Alaska, and then I joined Occupy.
I’d read about Occupy on the news, but hadn’t paid it much attention until I walked into Veteran’s Memorial Park one afternoon, met some of the occupiers camped out on the gazebo in sub-zero weather, talked with them for a while and joined up.
It was obviously a political opposition forming and it was just the right timing for a political campaign – a little more than a year in advance of the elections.
So we occupied. (I was called to preach) We dug into a camp at -20F, sat around a tent huddled by a fire to drive out the bitter cold and talked about the problems facing the nation. We read about what was happening elsewhere in the country on the Internet, but we didn’t have any television. I couldn’t get the General Assembly to pray at the start of each meeting, and they wouldn’t endorse my Sunday sermons, so I stopped preaching them. (Fatal)
I had a mental disconnect between the newspaper stories of SWAT teams eliminating Occupy camps and the peaceful political demonstration that I was part of. There was no way, after Tienanmen Square, that the government would use the police to break up a political demonstration. The media would never let them get away with it.
Occupy seemed to be going fine. (That was the problem) Plenty of reporters came through the camp, but I rarely talked to them. After all, the election was over a year away, so we had plenty of time to hammer out positions before making speeches. As late as Thanksgiving, I was invited to dinner at the home of a local liberal, was asked to speak, which I did, and was warmly applauded for introducing a spiritual element into Occupy!
Thanksgiving! Remember what was happening to Occupy at Thanksgiving! While I was being cheered for its spiritual side!
There were other indications of trouble, but I was oblivious. On November 6th, a woman had a vision about me after I had finished preaching at a local church. She saw me in an hourglass, trying to pass through the neck. Hmmm. Hourglass. Sand running through it. I’m in it, too. Didn’t know what it meant. (I do now) Again, I didn’t take it seriously enough. I didn’t ask God to explain it.
In early December, I decided that Fairbanks was OK, so I went down to Anchorage, to see how Occupy was fairing there. I arrived just in time to see John Martin thrown out. (disaster) But I had no clue, because I had never met John! He was thrown out of Occupy the very night that I arrived in Anchorage, while I waived vague discontent with my hands instead of John and I throwing the rest of them out together. Later that evening I met John for the first time with a delegation that handed him his walking papers.
I had never met him, but I certainly had heard of him! His affair at age 23 with his then 15-year-old adopted daughter had been plastered all over Alaskan headlines for months. Homeless like me, and for the same basic reasons, he had been camped out for months in front of City Hall on the corner of Sixth and G, six floors straight down from the Mayor’s office. He’s against Dan Sullivan’s government, particularly its homeless policy. The government bans free camping anywhere in the Municipality of Anchorage (a sprawling metropolis), including its many parks. CAP, a special police task force, evicts the homeless during the winter by simply confiscating all of their gear! It’s Anchorage! In the winter! They have no choice, then, but to go to overcrowed shelters like St. Francis.
So John was gone, but continued occupying! He had been called by God to occupy, after all! He had his camp below Dan Sullivan’s office, and Occupy had theirs a block away. He kept occupying, but I didn’t start preaching right away. (sigh)
It became clear that we were in trouble. I joined the Port protest on December 11, but did not speak, willing to obverse and plan. It just didn’t seem like the right time to start speaking. (it wasn’t)
In January, I starting preaching again. I was interviewed at the Occupy site and on KYUR 13’s Alaska Political Insider, but then nothing. No one would show up at my speeches, not the media and certainly not my own movement. I did a radio interview, too.
I soldiered on. I kept preaching, prayed for Occupy, discussed and abandoned several ideas, most notably disrupting Iditarod 40, then finally latched on to one that I liked. It only required a few people, should have been effective in regaining momentum, and seemed acceptable to God. We would occupy a news studio in February or March.
I figured that a dozen people could barricade themselves in the studio and demand to make a nationally televised speech. If we blocked the doors and refused to leave for a few days, I hoped that the media would have caved in and let me make the speech. At that point, a political nuclear strike seemed to be required; in the speech, I would have called for Alaskan secession and independence if America did not abandon her current course of leadership. In retrospect, I didn’t even need it to be nationally televised. An all-Alaska audience was perfectly adequate and quite doable. Even if the premise was extreme, a really good speech might have gotten the whole thing moving again.
That never happened. The Occupy Anchorage direct action committee shot it down. They simply would not do it. After all of their fiery rhetoric justifying violent solutions to our most pressing problems, they would not occupy a news studio. I’m not blaming them; I’m just pointing out what kinds of people had come to dominate Occupy. They want freedom; I understand. They want to do their own thing; I do too. I want to do my own thing; they wouldn’t help. I had become the enemy. They’d heard all of my Chrisitan talk and didn’t want to hear any more. Didn’t want to hear it on TV, either. They had control of our own movement, had run it into the ground, and wouldn’t give it back. I needed their help to ditch them from the leadership, and they wouldn’t let go.
I wouldn’t have worked. It might have worked, sort of. I had checked it out with God. I had discerned it, all by myself, walking around for an hour in the snow in the garden of saints outside the Catholic church and muttering to myself, but I couldn’t do it alone. (Huge) The movement appeared savable as late as March, but it required the remnants of the movement to actually do something, and the remnants of the movement were all Anarchist. Even if the studio occupation had worked, the Anarchists would still be right there at the top, which is totally unacceptable, though it seemed OK at the time.
Are you an athiest? Can you do discernment? Can you figure out which state to fly to? When to start giving speeches? Whether to go to Anchorage or Fairbanks?
I can’t. I try it and screw it up. I know you can’t because you’re atheists. There’s no way that you can be given key leadership positions. You can’t discern. You’re not really poor. You don’t work for God. I needed to throw you out immediately, and instead I showed up late enough and tolerated you long enough that I had to beg admission to get back in.
The campaign plowed on without me. I occupied more with John. I went back up to Fairbanks. I tried to commit suicide. I worked on some computer software. I put on a robe and did some street preaching, paying scant attention to the campaign.
Then Christopher Stevens was assassinated on 9/11, the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks, the first anniversary of my first sermon!
Christopher Stevens was a super-diplomat who had slyly run Obama’s diplomacy when America conquered Libya. First he was ambassador to Quadaffi’s Libya, then when Obama backed the rebels he switched sides and became ambassador to the rebels, and then smoothly transitioned back into his old job as ambassador to the new Libya. This diplomatic two step allowed Obama to avoid using American ground troops in Libya.
His assassination in Bengazi was then followed by one of the most massive cover-ups ever seen in American history! Nobody could seem to explain what had happened! First some idiotic video tape was flown as a false flag for something like two weeks, then a massive witchhunt ensued to expose some supposed government cover-up. Meanwhile, a massive media cover-up raged on top of the supposed government cover-up.
A coverup of what?
Of admitting the link between “Obama conquered Libya” and “Chris Stevens was assassinated”, because that would confound the sham opposition hypothesis that Obama is soft on the Middle East! This is what Bill O’Reilly preached to millions on Fox News Network! The man conquered another Arab country and he’s soft! Unbelievable!
And if there really was a government coverup, a concerted attempt by the current administration to plant the video tape story, then we now have two massive coverups, both government and media, on the same story!
Finally, the race ran to its predictable outcome. The lame half-opposition limped to the finish line, prepared only a victory speech, then meekly handed the crown to the champion and vanished. Maybe it wasn’t really there at all.
I blamed everyone for Occupy. I blamed the media. I blamed the atheists. I blamed Obama. I blamed the majority. I blamed everyone but myself and then I went on. What else could I do?
God let me wonder and wander for a bit. Should I get a job? Let’s see, don’t know what else to do, let’s apply for a job… (really?)
You’ve got a job. You’re a Disciple of Chirst. God is your boss. Always will be.
I got two job hits. Hmmm… go be a schoolteacher? Checked ’em out with God. Neither one worked out. (surprise)
Defect to China? Seriously! He let me consider that for a while, maybe the Chinese would let me be a propaganda tool at least…
I had tried everything that I could think of to claw back into the election and failed. It’s impossible! It’s truly impossible for one devout man to break into the American political scene! Why? Because we’re poor! The only way politics works for a disciple is through a miracle!
This book’s key inspiration – that the whole fault for this thing is mine and that I know just how it happened – did not come until a week after election day. It required discernment, of course. It required two disciples praying a joint prayer, out loud, together, that I see the state of my ministry with laser-like clarity. A week after the election, I did.
On November 13, 2012, I knelt on the floor and confessed before God, as I now confess before you, my fellow Americans, that I bear sole personal responsibility for the absolute debacle of Occupy. This political movement was also a crucial ministry that was to preach the Christian gospel to this nation. It failed at that completely, and although many people share the responsibility for that failure, the fault is principally mine because the Lord gave me everything that I needed to overcome those obstacles and I bungled it.
Why did He tell me that? Why tell someone that he’s just blown the biggest play of his life? Why aren’t prayers answered? Would it be more merciful not to? And what was I called to preach?
What is the gospel of Occupy?