First of all, yes, I actually have been reading the Bible. And for those who know me: no, you are not wrong; I’m not really a God freak. I don’t go to church and by comparison, I lead a rather heathenish lifestyle. However, these are not normal times. Not only is the country struggling, but I’ve been struggling too. It’s been a very emotional month, err, couple of months. It’s not that anything specifically bad has happened. It’s just that… well, I’m poor and sometimes that really sucks. I’m not going to go into it, but there is plenty of research out there on the mental effects of poverty, especially on children. Now, I’m not that poor, compared to a lot of other people out there. I do count my blessings, but that doesn’t mean I have it easy either. It’s stressful. At any rate, the Gospels have really impressed me and helped me out this past week. I guess I’m a closet Christian. Lol. I do like Jesus, I just don’t like the church. And maybe that will change. The last time I was in church, I was a teenager.
While I was reading (and cathartically weeping), it occurred to me that there are a lot of similarities between Jesus and the Occupy movement. I decided to do some googling and sure enough, the internets is abuzzing. “Would Jesus occupy” is a popular question these days.
Lots of people are weighing in on the issue, and predictably, where people place Jesus depends a lot upon their ideology. Surprisingly there seems to be more pro-Jesus-occupy than anti-Jesus-occupy and the pro-group contains a healthy contingent of clergy. You can argue that everyone is trying to co-opt Jesus, because Jesus has power and influence and that’s what people try to do with power and influence. However, the issue that’s really being debated is whether or not the Occupy protest is valid and justified in the eyes of Christians. You can bet the conservatives and anti-protesters are bristling. It’s a minefield in the culture war, so naturally, I want to wade in.
Here’s an anti-jesus-occupy blog piece and (thank you lord!) it’s found on a Breitbart blog. You couldn’t ask for a better set-up. See “Jesus Would NOT #OccupyWallStreet”
Wow, there is so much wrong here that I scarcely know where to begin.
Although Leftists often derisively dismiss the value of religious beliefs to contemporary government and economics, these same individuals now wish to claim Jesus as a fellow social revolutionary, wealth redistributionist, and civil agitator.
No and no. With the exception of deliberately provocative atheists, “leftists” do not dismiss the value of religious beliefs. They do, however, abhor the misuse of religious belief as a substitute for science, education and public policy. This is a huge difference.
Here’s my counter argument.
Point 1 – Roman Rule. First thing you have to remember is what is Jesus trying to do? Will he have fulfilled the prophesies if he provokes the Romans and is killed by them? No, he will only fulfill the prophesy if he is killed by his own people. Therefore, he does take great care to avoid direct conflict with the Romans, and therefore you get the tax scriptures that you point out. Furthermore, God is not asking Jesus to overthrow the government or insight a rebellion against the Romans. This does not mean that he is apolitical, but we’ll get to that later. The point is He has a job and he does that job.
Point 2 – pay your taxes passages. Mark 12: 13-17. This is an awesome bit here, but you’re missing the point. He is not saying the Romans deserve their tribute or that the Romans are justified, or that the oppressed should do nothing in the face of injustice. What he is saying is don’t get yourself killed or thrown in jail over something as small as paying your taxes. (and remember this question is put to Jesus as a way to bait him into making a mistake.) Since money really isn’t important to those who dwell in the kingdom of heaven, then it really makes no sense to get into a dispute over this. Winning or losing will have no bearing on your soul. Those who dwell outside the kingdom of heaven don’t understand this. They are too busy trying to serve two masters.
Matthew 17: 24-27. Again, the article misses the point of Jesus’s teaching. It’s basically the same thing as the “give unto Caesar passage;” Jesus is teaching how one should relate to God, not to political issues. True, He is presented with a political question, but He doesn’t speak to that; instead He turns this into a spiritual lesson. He tells Peter to… go fish!? Huh? Remember, now that Peter is a disciple, he is a “fisher of men”, of conscience. He is telling Peter to do God’s work and God will provide for your financial need. The message here is not political, it’s spiritual.
(I would also like to point out that the occupy movement is not against taxes; that’s the tea party.)
The last few points of the article only serve to illustrate that Jesus would not have agreed with certain individuals who do participate in the protests. Big deal, I don’t agree with using violence either. It is a logical fallacy to fault the entire movement based on the views of a few supporters. The Occupy movement is not about destroying dissent. In a democracy there are many voices. The movement acknowledges that and seeks to work with those voices, not to silence them.
I agree that in Matthew 19:13-30 Jesus is not advocating for forced redistribution of wealth, but neither is the occupy movement. The protesters have pointed out that income inequality is bad for society, democracy and the economy. Are you are saying that raising taxes on the rich or closing tax loopholes is a forced redistribution? Then wouldn’t lowering the taxes on the rich (from where they were in the 50’s and 60’s) also be a forced redistribution? And how do you defend the argument that we already live in a socialist state only that instead of favoring equality for the people, it favors corporations and the super rich? Corporate welfare state.
Now let’s get to the positive side of the argument.
Notice how when Jesus is asked a spiritual question, he replies with a parable? He replies with a story that is entirely contained within the mundane or ordinary world of everyday people. And when he is asked a question of mundane or worldly concern, he instead uses it to teach a spiritual lesson and takes no position on the mundane? Instead of answering directly (as his opponents would wish of him regarding Caesar’s taxes), he answers in such a way that the listener must carefully consider the words. The listener must engage and wrestle with the truth. This serves many purposes: 1. The truth is not self-evident, but can only be discovered through an examination of one’s values and assumptions. In other words Jesus is not giving man a fish (the truth), he is teaching man to fish (to find the truth). 2. His teachings are impressionable and easy to remember (ie this is an oral tradition). 3. His enemies have a harder time trying to pin him down. They want him to take a specific political position, in the same way that detractors and the media want the occupy movement to make demands.
OK. Now here’s the point I want to make: Jesus had enemies. Right? You know it. I know it. We all know it. Also, these enemies where politically empowered. Remember how they killed him? They used the “lawful” political system to do it. Now, ask yourself this, if Jesus was not political, then why did he have such strong, well-connected enemies? If Jesus did not threaten the status quo, why should they care about his life and death?
You’re not going to find a political treatise in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t politics in there. Jesus doesn’t lecture on or teach politics, but as anyone with half a brain will tell you, the values you hold (including religious beliefs) inform your political beliefs and Jesus is no exception to this rule. If you want to know what His political position is, you have to first know what He teaches. i.e. read the gospels.
Here’s a good one, Matthew 19: 16-30
So here we have someone who has followed the Ten Commandments and yet, is still unsatisfied. Despite his fealty to the law, something is missing; he does not yet have “eternal life”, he cannot enter the “kingdom of heaven”. Why?
The Master tells him, but he does not like the Master’s answer. (And neither does the 1%, nor the fools who support the 1%.)
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdomof God.
Although Jesus is not advocating for a “forced” redistribution of wealth, it’s obvious he is asking for the wealthy to give it up. Why? See, among many, many other passages Matthew 6: 19-34
(Back to Matt19:25)
This story is not over yet. Look how his disciples respond with a lack of faith, “Who then can be saved?” They can’t believe that Jesus would ask such a thing. And Peter asks further, what about us? What is our reward?
Notice how the Master wraps it up with this final line, the great reversal…
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Even though Peter has been following Jesus since the beginning of his ministry, (and is arguably first or second in-line behind Him) he still has to ask, what’s in it for me? Really? This shows the Master that his disciple still doesn’t understand the kingdom of God.
And this is precisely the problem with America today. How long have we been a “Christian” nation, and yet everyone is still asking “what’s in it for me”. These are the people who shall be last to enter into the kingdom. You want to argue that by raising taxes on the super wealthy and closing corporate loopholes that this is advancing a socialist agenda and will destroy the competitive element of capitalism? But I say to you, the demand for excessive reward is Mammon worship. Where is our social responsibility? Where is our goodwill and brotherhood toward our fellow citizens? Why is asking the government to do this any different from asking an individual to do this? Shouldn’t the government serve the will of the people?
I’m sure Jesus would challenge the protesters (to be better), but who really knows, right? What we do know is that things that Occupy is protesting against are the same things that Jesus denounced… greed, materialism, corruption, lack of compassion, etc.