Lessons for Christians from the Occupy Movement
Please help me welcome back Clay Morgan for today’s guest post. *applause* Clay makes some excellent observations and connections here with the Occupy Movement and Christianity. He’s a professor, writer, and pop culture whiz, so it’s no wonder that he can bring all this to light in a thought-provoking, light-hearted way. Be sure to check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.
Okay, quick free association. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase Occupy Wall Street? What kind of images pop into your mind?
I’m wondering how many people think of ignorant protestors instead of social and economic inequality or educational services.
I teach at a couple colleges and have had conversations this semester with a number of students. Some of them want to be really connected to the protest movements, others think they’re stupid and destructive, and still others couldn’t care less.
Whether the protestors want to truly change the world or just create some cool memories, one thing is certain: They have an image problem. And Christians, sadly, are often in the same boat.
I was doing some research on the New Testament travels of the Apostle Paul when I stumbled across a verse that about smacked me upside the head like a riot policeman’s baton. A lynch mob was forming against some of Paul’s friends, and a riotous crowd had to be dissuaded from doing bad things. Here’s what Luke says about that mob:
“The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:32).
I think that sums up a lot of modern protestors, a lot of shouting with little direction. News blurbs about the Occupy movement usually annoy me for the following reasons that Christians need to pay attention to.
If you are going to start a movement it’s a good idea to know what you believe. A lot of the protestors don’t know. Simply rejecting an idea is also not good enough. You have to be able to articulate a solution.
I can get behind a movement that works to help the truly less fortunate way more than I’ll ever be motivated by the fact that some people are really rich. Is corporate greed a problem? Yes. Does that make capitalism evil? No.
If capitalism is the devil, and the goal is to overthrow the system then to what will you turn? Communism? Yeah, that always works out like super duper. If you don’t know what I mean, check out a book on the 20th century and look in the index under “Communism, tens of millions murdered by.”
Are we really just victims all the time? Will property destruction and government disruption help anyone? Again, doing more harm than good is easy.
You have to work from a positive motivation, not negative. As Tim Elmore said, “I tend to think people can follow: “I Have a Dream” a little easier than: “I Have a Complaint.”
There’s something funny about claiming to be “the 99%” when only 43% of Americans can even tolerate what you’re doing. But moreover, if you’re really protesting the 1% then why aren’t you anti-Kim Kardashian and the NBA as this brilliant article says?
The Occupiers also don’t want to be criticized, but what do you expect when you stand in the street complaining against mega corporations while wearing, using, and consuming all the wonderful stuff they make?
As I said this post is more about Christianity than Wall Street, so back to some quick free association. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Christians”?
I hope the instant connections are positive. That word should make others think of people who are loving and good. But like the Occupiers, we Christians often get it wrong in our public attempts to change the world.
As Christians we have got to know what we believe. If we can’t articulate what we believe and why then we make Jesus look bad and his followers look stupid. We should always be able to explain what we stand for.
In a related thought, for those who reject Christianity I have two questions. First, do you understand the true origins of what you are rejecting, not the messed up version that’s offended you? Second, to what will you turn? It’s not enough to reject everything. If life is to make any sense you’ll have to find a coherent philosophy.
Many people think that Christians are just about running around telling everybody what to do or not to do, basically condemning everyone who ever wants to do anything fun. Like I already said, successful people operate from a positive perspective with sights set on a goal. We work towards whatever we are focused on.
This is the big one. If we want people to believe that the love of God changes lives then shouldn’t other people see that our own lives have been changed?
It’s easy to stand in the street amidst a crowd and yell about stuff that sounds cool. For Christians, we’ve gotta really know what we believe and operate towards a hopeful end. People should see truth and love in the way we operate.
What do you think? Am I off base here? Love to hear your thoughts.