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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Occupying With The Gospel

There is a question that the Church must answer today with regards to the Occupy Movement. The question is not whether the Church should join or support the movement. The question is should the Church challenge a corrupt system to repent.

Calling on a system to repent is exactly what Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the Occupy Movement are doing now. I was there when OWS started its encampment on September 17. What looked like a one day protest became a prolonged occupation that served as a model for the rest of the occupations.

It might surprise some to know that the Occupy Movement did not start with OWS. Both OWS and the Occupy Movement in America are a continuation of what we saw last year in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, and Spain. In fact, the origin of OWS has its roots in those earlier occupations as activists from those countries helped OWS get started. In addition, OWS has continued to receive messages of solidarity from activists in those countries. Finally, the protesters in the Occupy Movement here have many of the same concerns as the protesters there.

What are those concerns? All of the protesters oppose the corrupt ties between the powerful in the public sector and the wealthy in the private sector. They also oppose the increasing neglect of basic needs for a growing number of people. These basic needs include food, housing, healthcare, work, and time for personal growth and the enjoyment of life. What the protesters want is a political-economic system that is based on sharing instead of hoarding, cooperation instead of competition, and equality instead of dominance. They want a system that places a higher priority on people rather than on profits.

Now regardless of what one thinks of this Occupy Movement, the question remains. Should Christians challenge a corrupt system to repent? Some think repentance is not necessary. There is a simple answer to this. We only need to note that our current economic system is based on greed and it emphasizes greed much more than some previous economic systems. We know this for the system tells us so.

We know that greed is more of a problem now because the core value of the current system is to maximize profits. We should note here that maximizing profits acts like a black hole to all surrounding values including moral values. We know that greed is more of a problem today because many who support the corporate world tell us that the only purpose a corporation can have is to make a profit. We know that greed is more of a problem now because so many corporations are reducing the number of stakeholders by equating stakeholders with shareholders. And we see how the greed of corporations is hurting the lives of millions. The foundation of our economic system is greed and it is metastasizing to the four corners of our society.

Again, Christians do not have to fully agree with the Occupy Movement and its tactics. But what we should agree on is that the greed of our economic system is wrong. And not only is it wrong, it causes suffering, oppression, and even death. We see that greed is to our economic system what a demon was to the fortuneteller in Acts 16:16ff. Thus, we must ask ourselves if we are as willing to confront the greed in our society as Paul and Silas were to cast out the demon out of the girl. We must ask if we are willing to risk the retribution that comes from the beneficiaries of our greed driven system as Paul and Silas were from the fortuneteller's owners.

We do not need the Occupy Movement to show us how to preach repentance to a corrupt system, not when we have the Bible. Preachers like Isaiah (in Isaiah chapters 58 and 59), Jeremiah (in Jeremiah 22:16) and James (in James 5:1-6), to name a few, show us how to preach repentance to those whose greed oppresses others. They teach us how to defend the afflicted. With their examples, what is preventing us from providing the Occupy Movement with better examples of how to preach repentance to a corrupt system?

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