by Michael Airgood
On Sunday morning I approached the communion stewards at New Day Bronx UMC and received Holy Communion. My wrists were still bruised and sore from the handcuffs, but my soul was rejoicing.
On Saturday I had not planned to get arrested. I imagine that few of my 700 companions had planned on spending hours in a prison holding cell. I had already purchased my bus ticket out of the city for the evening, and had already planned and bought supplies to teach Sunday School in the morning.
I was careful not to step off of the sidewalk during the Occupy Wall Street protests, but as police officers stopped traffic on Brooklyn Bridge and stepped back to make more room for us to march, I joined the crowd in marching across the bridge. I heard no call to disperse and no officer informed us that we would be arrested. In the panic of the "kettle" I feared that we would all be trampled and killed as the police forced us closer and closer together.
I decided to join the protest because of my Christian faith. While the media filled pages with pictures of dirty hippies and crazed leftists, I knew that as a follower of Jesus Christ I was also called to care about the injustices in the system. This was not a left vs. right issue. We have allowed the poor and the marginalized to grow poorer and move further toward the fringe. We lose our humanity when we allow corporations to make billions in profits while millions of children go hungry every night. We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus Christ if the cries of the poor and needy go unheeded by our churches and our Christians. I decided to join the protest because of my Christian faith.
I thanked the officer that arrested me for doing his job, and I thanked every officer that helped to process my arrest. Some of the boys in blue apologized for arresting us. They squeezed 120 of us into a holding cell built for far fewer. I was not the only religious leader in the group. A Buddhist monk and an African American Pentecostal pastor were also present. We talked with people and tried to calm the anxious.
I posted on Facebook the following morning, "There are some who want you to believe that they just arrested dirty hippies and radicals yesterday; but you know me. I am your friend, your brother, a person of faith, a moderate and thoughtful person and I was arrested with hundreds like me for protesting an unjust system. I am the 99% and so are you."
Unjust systems cannot be fixed without the support of people of faith. We are the 99%. Pastors, priests, Sunday School teachers, soccer moms, nuns and the rest of us work hard to live out our faith every day in tangible ways. We must live with the consequences of our actions, and our children and grandchildren must live with the consequences of our actions.
When I was arrested my first thought was that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as I worshiped as a guest of the wonderfully inclusive New Day Church, it became more apparent that when I was arrested I was at the right place at the right time. I was raising my voice and allowing my actions to speak out against an unjust system. While the path isn’t for everyone, it was certainly right for me that day.
Michael Airgood is licensed to be a local pastor in the Western Pennsylvania Annual conference and serves with GBGM as a standard support missionary in L’viv, Ukraine. He is a graduate of Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, GA with a BS in Intercultural Studies and plans to attend seminary in the near future.