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Paul Kengor on OWS: The Religious Left Offers Itself - Again, Jim Wallis to the Rescue


Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. For an extended analysis of the original Days of Rage (and much more), see his latest book Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

Back in September I wrote an exclusive for The Blaze on the original Days of Rage in Chicago in the fall of 1969, which inspired Occupy Wall Street this fall of 2011. I noted that ringleaders for the Days of Rage included Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Tom Hayden, Mark Rudd, among many others. The literal communists who organized the original Days of Rage have magically reappeared as Progressives for Obama.

Hayden, who wrote the Port Huron statement that founded SDS, also wrote the founding manifesto for Progressives for Obama. Rudd, the SDS leader at Columbia, who shut down the campus in 1968, is a charter member of Progressives for Obama.

Suddenly, four decades later, the old communist revolutionaries are “progressives” stumping for Barack Obama.

In 1969 they had come together in Chicago to raise unholy hell, coalescing in the “National Action,” under the banner, “BRING THE WAR HOME!”

Rudd had established the plan of action: “In Chicago the pigs have to be wiped out. We’re going to fight with violence and wipe out Chicago.”

An organized riot ensued, erupting on October 5, 1969 when these apostles of “peace” dynamited the statue commemorating the Chicago police killed in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. The anti-war protesters went to war with some 1,000 Chicago police deployed to the front lines.

That fall had also marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the American Communist Party in that same city.

My analysis of this for The Blaze back in September was lengthy. One item I left out, however, has significant relevance to another sudden twist at Occupy Wall Street. It relates to the emerging role of the Religious Left:

Amid the rampage in Chicago in 1969, the Religious Left stepped in to dutifully play its usual role of sucker to the communist ringleaders. It offered aid and comfort to the student revolutionaries.

Consider: Just like at Wall Street today, there were numerous radical leftists littering the streets of Chicago. Where would this large contingent, with upwards of 600 organizers, find housing? There was no easy solution, especially given that many were wanted by the law for violent activities.

That fall of 1969, the answer came from clergy in the liberal mainline denominations in the Chicago and Evanston areas. A special clergy group was established for the purpose of finding housing for the young folks. As Mark Rudd later recorded, these were “churches loaned to us by sympathetic clergy.”

So blatant and troubling was the intervention of these churches and their liberal pastors that Congress investigated the matter, taking testimony in hearings before the Committee on Internal Security on December 17-18, 1969. According to the official Congressional investigator tasked to probe the Days of Rage, the revolutionaries were accommodated in Evanston at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Covenant Methodist Church, and Garrett Theological Seminary. It was at Garrett that a police officer was beaten. In Chicago, they stayed at University Disciple Church in Hyde Park.

The clergy had laid down one condition for the dope-smoking, weapons-toting militants: no dope or weapons in the churches. That simple rule, naturally, was violated. Much like how the Vietcong had used “sanctuaries” in Cambodia to launch attacks on American troops inside Vietnam, the young radicals used these literal sanctuaries to stage assaults on their domestic enemies: the “pigs” that had always protected these churches and their congregations.


Of course, the folks in the pews were not exactly thrilled when they caught wind of this news. In no time, members of the congregations and people from the surrounding community were demanding that the duped preachers wake up and expel the extremists from their houses of worship. Fighting the fight for “social justice,” the good reverends sided with the marijuana-smokers.

In one case, almost comical if it were not so tragic, the police were forced to enter the Covenant Methodist Church with warrants to arrest those who had engaged in violent action. There, reportedly, the Methodist minister complained that the police broke down the door—as if the police were the aggressors. Quite the contrary, as the Congressional investigator calmly explained during hearings, “They broke the door down because the Weathermen had barricaded the door of the church and had refused to let the police serve the warrants.”

The pastor was shocked at what was happening in his church—shocked, that is, by the behavior of … the police.


And how is this relevant to Occupy Wall Street right now?

This week, Jim Wallis, high priest of the Religious Left, wrote an eye-opening piece for the Huffington Post, apparently hoping to take us back to those wistful days of yesteryear. Wallis proffered a suggestion:


It's time to invite the Occupy Movement to church! And Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion. Have some of the young protesters -- the "99ers" as they're becoming known -- from this rapidly growing movement over for a big holiday dinner!

Our faith communities and organizations should swing their doors wide and greet the Occupiers with open arms, offering them a feast to say "thank you" for having the courage to raise the very religious and biblical issue of growing inequality in our society.

Concentrations of wealth and power, unfairness in our political process, the loss of opportunity -- especially for the next generation -- and the alarming rise of poverty in the world's richest nation are all fundamental concerns for people of faith. So let's invite the young occupiers into our churches and ministries for good conversation and a great meal.

If our mayors and police departments are making the Occupiers feel unwelcome, why don't we welcome them to stay on our church property if they need someplace to go?

Open our church basements and parish halls as safe places to sleep -- shelter and sanctuary as cold weather descends upon many of our cities.

It's time both to embrace and engage this hopeful movement of young people….

The Occupy movement needs a sanctuary. And what better safe and welcome place could these young people find than with communities of faith?


Churches as sanctuaries for the radicals? Sound familiar?

This is precisely what happened in the original Days of Rage in Chicago. Now, exhorted by its leader, Jim Wallis, the Religious Left is poised to again offer up itself and its services.

Surely, liberal Christians will tell us, this is what Jesus would do. As more than one of them has angrily told me in emails, “Jesus also hated the wealthy.”

Jim Wallis puts it this way: “These are Gospel issues, and are therefore the business of the churches…. Jesus is a popular guy among the thousands of Occupy sites around the world.”

Perhaps “social justice” Christians will heed Wallis’ call, flinging open the doors to some of their empty churches in New York. As Glenn Beck noted this week, many of these gorgeous old cathedrals are empty on Sunday mornings (just like in Western Europe), open merely as tourist attractions for sophisticated progressives to drop in and admire some interesting art and architecture. Indeed, maybe these echo chambers can become winter-time sanctuaries for OWS troops as they endure their clashes with the “pigs.” Perhaps the churches can help the occupiers persevere during their self-proclaimed, stoic “Valley Forge Moment” (click here and here).

Yes, the Religious Left is ready to sacrifice itself yet again. Such a surreal spectacle would be nothing new. History, my friends, constantly repeats itself.

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