Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy Wall Street – A Sign of the Times

As I looked through the postings on my Facebook page recently, I came across an illustration titled, "The Original 'Occupy Wall Street' Protester." It got my attention since it made use of a painting depicting Jesus breaking up business as usual and running the money changers out of the Jerusalem Temple. Indignation, anger and perhaps frustration were certainly in order in response to those who brought their unethical business activities into the Temple courts. They were exploiting the religious devotion of poor people and all those who had made a pilgrimage to the Temple.  Jesus was not out of line or out of place in his very visceral expression of his feelings.  In fact, as always, he was right on time!

In that moment in the Temple, Jesus was expressing a spiritual yearning for economic justice and outrage at individuals and systems that exploit people. For him, business as usual had become totally unacceptable.  That kind of yearning is not to be found in the halls of the U.S. Congress or in the reports and analysis of much of the mainstream media. However, the Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing the matter forward in a most visible and effective way. So it comes as no surprise that there are church folks and especially UCC church folks in the mix of Occupy Wall Street.  After all, they are Jesus' disciples.

There is another point in the gospel narrative in which Jesus challenges his listeners, the Pharisees and Sadducees, to read the signs of the times (Matthew 16:3).  If nothing else, Occupy Wall Street is a sign of these times in which a concern for the common good is emerging as it should.  These are also times of outrage at the Wall Street investment firms, banks and related corporations due to their flagrant abuse of the economic system that has in so many ways harmed poor, working class and middle class people. Only the very wealthy have benefited from the unwarranted gains of the investment and banking organizations collectively known as Wall Street.

This is a movement that has been a long time coming, and now it is here. The simple truth is that so many of us are suffering that our collective voice of discontent, frustration and even anger is rising above what has been the dull murmur of despair and helplessness. Occupy Wall Street is indeed a sign of the times.  It is unfortunate that there are many in government and the business community who refuse to see it for what it is and respond appropriately with policies and programs that support the common good and advance economic justice.  Certainly disciples of Jesus living today are in a position to read the sign and amplify its message. Thanks be to God, many are doing just that!

"The Original 'Occupy Wall Street' Protester" illustration is helpful. It puts the Occupy Wall Street movement into perspective. It gives people of faith a frame with which to assess what is going on with this movement.  It too is a sign, a sign that makes the relationship between Christian faith and the quest for economic justice clear for all to see.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your comments. It helps to put this movement in perspective. A local paper here in Seattle has a very negative editorial about Occupy Wall Street here at our Westlake Mall. I didn't know you were doing these. I will be following your blog. Carolyn

W. Mark Clark said...

Thanks Geoffery for this timely reminder of the Gospel call.

Jim CastroLang said...

Thanks for this Blog post. It is amazing to see the empowerment of people who see that they can do something while our leaders let things spiral out of control. As ministers march the streets of Spokane, I see non-church goers surprised that we are out there. They are used to us staying in our churches. They expect us to preach morality, bicker internally, and try to gain members. They don't expect this and they are happy we are being so visible. They are cleaning off their glasses and taking a new look at their stereotypes of the church. And I feel refreshed as well in the focus of my calling.

TKIsner said...

While income inequality and wealth distribution are serious injustices that our Christian faith calls us to address, we do not need to participate in a blame game that scapegoats the richest 1% for an economic system that they did not create alone. Treating the rich as outcasts or social pariahs is not how Christians are called to respond. Blame and demonization are simply not Christ-like approaches to rectifying injustice. How can we support this movement in a way that that acknowledges our own complicity in the problem and invites participation by the 1%?