Occupy Wall Street needs no introduction. This movement of “the 99%” has swept the entire world by force and is growing larger and larger each and every day. Through leaderless commitment, great people are being inspired to speak out and finally take a stand against the large corporations that have become the puppet-masters of American politics. Here’s my question: What would Jesus say about it?
Two weeks ago I was having a discussion about OWS with a colleague of mine and he was telling me how some of the OWS people just “seem lost.” This person is a devout Christian, who always manages to surreptitiously slide in some sort of religious undertone to every conversation that he has, including this one. As it turned out, the OWS protesters (in addition to just being a bunch of art majors who wasted their money on “bullshit degrees” and are too lazy to get a job) have no proper moral compass that would have helped guide them out of their socioeconomic woes, according to him.
I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation because most of it had to do with me metaphorically vomiting all over him. You see, I don’t have a “moral compass” that’s been socialized into my person because I have a basic set of principles (like, “don’t be an asshole”) that afford me the ability to live and grow in a dynamic world. As an American I think it is wonderful that we can have two people who believe in completely opposite things live and work in the same general geographic area without the fear of violence. As a secular, respectful person, though, it makes me sick to listen to people reduce great movements like OWS to a lack of moral compass (or the other conclusions, like “they’re just a bunch of hippie losers” and “they’re just a bunch of lazy people who want hand-outs”).
Well, that conversation got me thinking about religion and OWS, and how although I do not like people quoting the Christian Bible as some sort of social authority, the Bible 1) has been around for a long time, and 2) is the closest we can get to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ (regardless of whether or not Jesus is a fictional character). This means that even if Jesus is a fictional character, since so many people live (and die) by his teachings we might be able to use some of his lessons to help convince the masses that OWS is not about “lazy, jobless hippies” and really about (wait for it) people.
Illustrating that Jesus Christ would have endorsed Occupy Wall Street serves two purposes: first, it will highlight the blatant hypocrisy of Christians who are against the movement, and second (and most importantly), it will offer yet another reason why OWS is a movement for the poor, common person. After all, wasn’t Jesus all about the poor? Deut. 15:7? Luke 12:33?)
In the next few paragraphs, we’ll take a look at some basic lessons straight from the horse’s mouth.
Lesson #1: There’s what you see, then there’s what you get
Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples and said, “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”
Luke 20: 45-47
The last part of this is especially important: “Yet they shameless cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious.” Do you remember in 2008 when the markets crashed and a lot of people lost a lot of money? Synthetic securities were created in order to capitalize on profits that were not real, and a fake commodity was bolstered in popularity and sold over and over again to the point of collapse. Occupy Wall Street is not about shutting down businesses and handing out money to lazy people, it’s about holding corporations accountable for their actions that happens out of the public eye.
And what is the “public eye,” other than what is portrayed through instruments of mass media? With Corporations becoming people and having more power in politics, information control is as easy a $1, $2, $3. Don’t want the economically disadvantaged people in America rising up against you? Instill a little intra-class conflict (you know, like convincing middle-class Americans how well-off poor people are these days) and you’ll be good to go. Which brings us to lesson #2.
Lesson #2: Materialism is so last millenium
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Luke 10: 36-37, and
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which?
Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
It always amazes me that people who dismiss evolution are quick to get on board with Social Darwinism. If there’s one thing that clear in the Bible it’s the quotes from Mr. Christ, it’s this: selfish economic prosperity directly affects a Christian’s salvation. I don’t subscribe to the concept of everlasting life and sitting on a throne in clouds after I die, but I do see hypocrisy quite easily. How can someone tout the teachings of Jesus Christ and then turn right around and criticize the Occupy Wall Street participants for speaking out against those who use money and power to manipulate markets and politics? If we apply what Jesus had said to what OWS stands for, we can see some stark similarities. Those who worship profit and possessions will, in the end, fall.
Lesson #3: Socialism? Me gusta.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe [unto you], ye that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe [unto you], when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the [one] cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also.
Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
True Christianity is Applied Socialism, no matter how you look at it. For people to think socialism is an anti-Christian movement just emphasizes Lesson #1 (especially the part about information control). I mean, seriously: Sell all of your belongings, give to the poor, help others in need at all times, stop thinking about yourself, contribute to the greater good. Is it possible to be be both super rich and Christian, and talk down on the Occupy Wall Street movement? Well of course it is: just turn on any right-wing news channel and listen to the comments about lazy Americans who just want hand-outs.
If all you hear about OWS is what right-wing television and websites are telling you, then please, open up your browser and starting reading some other sources. The majority of mainstream rightwing pundits and politicians are conservative Christians – and that’s fine, but not when your religious agenda is swaying your political one. This is especially so when your religious agenda is hypocritical to the very teachings of the one person you are supposed to be listening to!
Christians, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that Occupy Wall Street is just a bunch of hippie college kids who are lazy and don’t want to work (when in reality they’re both working and nonworking American citizens from all walks of life), and then turn around and tell me how important it is that we listen to Jesus. I love religion and how it unites people to do good things, but I have to be honest (and I’ll use the words of Mohandas Gandhi): “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”