I’ve been reading Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition, the new book by Dan McKanan, the professor of Unitarian Universalist studies at Harvard Divinity School. McKanan points out that although we think of abolitionism, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement as separate movements, they are actually part of one continuous tradition of American leftist politics. McKanan also points out that religion has always been intertwined with the American tradition of radicalism — not that established religious institutions have embraced leftist politics in America, for no denomination or broad religious institution has done that, but rather that many American leftists have been deeply religious, and have drawn on their religious tradition for support and inspiration.
With that in mind, I was not surprised to learn that when Occupy Oakland was broken up by the police yet again last week, most of the 32 people who got arrested were at the Interfaith Coalition tent — including Unitarian Universalist ministers Jeremy Nickel and Kurt Kuhwald, and seminarian Marcus Liefert. (Jeremy even made the news in a small way: AP photographer Paul Sakuma snapped Jeremy’s photo as he stood handcuffed and surrounded by three police officers near the Interfaith Coalition tent.) Jeremy has been blogging about his participation in the Occupy movement, and his posts offer a good example of the connection between liberal religion (especially Jeremy’s Unitarian Universalist commitment to democratic process) and his leftist politics — just what Dan McKanan is talking about. Here’s Jeremy’s post about getting arrested — and here’s a follow-up post.