Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?
For the past few weeks, Christian communities and virtual forums have rocked with debate over whether the Occupy Wall Street protests represent Christian ideals. But while those in favor of OWS cite scripture and the life of Jesus, opponents argue mainly by insulting the demonstrators themselves.
Jesus said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He urged his followers to pay taxes, telling them to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” He threw the money changers (the first century Wall Street) out of the Temple in Jerusalem, and he himself lived a life of poverty, trying only to serve the lowest rungs of society.
Opponents are light on biblical support, but heavy on judgement of the protestors. Pat Robertson claims that OWS protestors “don’t know what they’re doing.” A few argue that OWS covets the possessions of others and wants to steal (in the form of taxes), but this displays both an ignorance of the importance of social programs and of OWS’s purpose. And the abundance of sites calling the demonstrators “dirty hippies,” “dope-smokers,” and “anarchists” shows that their argument lies not in evidence, but in slander. While some isolated protestors have been violent, destructive, and hateful, these isolated incidents should not characterize the amazingly peaceful weeks of protest so far.
I have a feeling that much of this sentiment comes from the unfortunately widespread belief of Prosperity Theology. Preached widely in U.S. megachurches by preachers ranging from Joel Osteento Eddie Long, it basically says that if God loves you, you will be wealthy. By this reasoning, the demonstrators’ plight proves that they are un-Christian.
But even judging the demonstrators doesn’t prove that Jesus would turn from them. As Lisa Miller points out in the Washington Post, “Jesus gave preferential treatment to society’s outcasts. Lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes—all would attain heaven before the ordained elites.”
Jim Wallis, a progressive Christian leader and Huffington Post contributor, finds a middle path when he writes that the occupiers’ ability to “stand with Jesus” comes not from who they are, but what they do:
When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand with the hungry, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand for those without a job or a home, they stand with Jesus.
When they are peaceful, non-violent, and love their neighbors (even the ones they don’t agree with and who don’t agree with them), they are walking as Jesus walked.
When they talk about holding banks and corporations accountable, they sound like Jesus and the biblical prophets before him who all spoke about holding the wealthy and powerful accountable.
What do you think? Would Jesus support the Occupy Wall Street protests?