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Friday, June 22, 2012

Unmasking a "Christian" Critique Of The Occupy Movement

He may be from England, but this Historian and journalist's criticism of the Occupy Movement might just provide the clearest reflection of the American Conservative Christianity and its own opposition from across the pond. This person's name is Timothy Stanley, P.H.D. Dr. Stanley has written articles for the London Daily Telegraph and the Washington Times as well as for other publications. And he has recently authored a book on Pat Buchanan called, Crusader: The Life And Times Of Pat Buchanan.

In a Daily Telegraph blog post entitled, The 'Christian socialist' clergymen praising the Occupy protests are more socialist than Christian. What about saving souls?(praising occupy in lieu of saving souls), Stanley laments the various levels of support that the Occupy Movement has received from religious leaders. Hence, the title of his article and this would at least indicate that the reason for his criticism of these religious leaders is that they have left their first call. But one suspects that his real objection is due to something else.

Though Stanley does provide a religious criticism of the religious leaders who support the Occupy Movement, his fault-finding is intended to discredit than to provide enlightenment. His criticisms of these leaders include their unbelief in the afterlife, their support for gay marriage, their belief in the redistribution of wealth, their belief in the ordination of women, and they're not being obsessed with saving souls--we should note that evangelizing does not contradict working for social justice and, in fact, could provide credibility to the evangelist. All of these negatives seem to be reason enough to say "consider the source" when these religious leaders lend any kind of support to the Occupy Movement.

Stanley also characterized OWS by several isolated, and sometimes serious, incidents and reported these escapades without having performed even a cursory investigation that could provide context. Stanley finishes this part of the blog post by asking what would Jesus say about all of this. Of course, we might counter by asking what would Jesus say about the greed and corruption inside Wall Street.

What is missing in Stanley's description  of OWS are its contributions and positive attributes. OWS has, for example, at least temporarily changed the national dialog and focus on to those in need. In addition, OWS has provided an imperfect but more than adequate example of different ways of being together and exercising democracy. And, OWS has, for the most part, remained nonviolent despite the harsh police treatment they have sometimes received. Whereas what Stanley mentioned were isolated incidents, the positive aspects of OWS are the norm and are exhibited by an overwhelming majority of its participants.

What is significant about Stanley's article is not what is found in the insights he provides, which are lacking, but in the similarities his criticisms have with the way American Conservative Christians condemn OWS. Most American Conservative Christians I've talked to would never go to an OWS event because these events are not designed to save souls. They give this reason as if those who protest could never preach and share the Gospel. Many American Conservative Christians with whom I have discussed OWS also characterize the movement by the isolated incidents Stanley mentioned and use these to discredit the movement. Most American Conservative Christians also strongly oppose any kind of redistribution of wealth and they often cite "religious" reasons.

In the end, what both Stanley and most American Christians do here is to give reason after reason for not even listening to what those in OWS and the Occupy Movement say. Both Stanley and most American Conservative Christians prefer to ignore OWS than to acknowledge the serious national problems that greed has caused. Both Stanley and most American Christians would rather publicly condemn OWS than speak boldly against the corruption of the private sector. And when both Stanley and many American Conservative Christians incessantly insist that one must first try to save souls, they are the last ones on earth to preach a message of repentance to the corporate world and our nation's financial institutions. In the end, what most American Conservative Christians I have spoken to want least is to feel compelled to make a prolonged public stand against corruption and ambition exhibited by the powerful and wealthy from the private sector.

What most American Conservative Christians have refused to acknowledge is that how they preach the Gospel has been ineffective in finding its way to the leaders of the corporate world and our nation's financial institutions. Though OWS has many faults, it is the only group that is preaching a message of repentance to the greedy and powerful. The established church isn't and probably with selfish reasons. And many conservatives certainly refuse to challenge the corporate world and our financial institutions to change. By pointing out the sins of only one group rather than all, Stanley shows that his most deeply held values that are offended by the Occupy Movement are political rather than religious.

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