So, a couple of weeks ago I was listening to a debate on NPR about whether Jesus Christ would support the occupiers or their opponents. This is actually what got me interested in the Occupy Wall Street movement – generally I do my best to avoid all things political. In fact I rarely vote, and when I do it is because I have found a candidate that I actually support both in policy and as a person (which is getting ever more rare). However, when I heard this debate I just had to look into it.
Both sides made some interesting points, and both sides cited scripture and church tradition to defend their point of view. However, both sides made the same mistake – they assumed that Christ was all about improving peoples lives in the here and now.
However, the gospels, from the beatitudes to the ascension, contain one overwhelming theme in every message, every teaching, every word of Christ. That message is: FOLLOW ME! When men come to Christ he asks them to follow. He doesn’t ask everyone to give up all that they own (though he does of some), nor does he ask everyone to give up their hopes and dreams (though he does of some), nor does he ask everyone to provide for those around them (though he does of some). Instead, what he asks of every person who comes to him is to be like him, to follow, and to obey – whatever that might require.
Christ’s teaching is not, and was never, intended to make this life better or easier. Instead it was intended to make us better (though it sometimes has that effect). Bertrand Russell, in his famous essay “Why I am Not a Christian”, cited Christ’s lack of concern for the necessities of this life as one of the primary reasons that he was not a Christian, and that he could not consider Christ the wisest of all men. It is this exact lack of concern that both sides of the debate are missing. Christ’s teaching is that this life is not important, or, at the very least, not remotely as important as the next.
In all that I have seen, heard, and read about the Occupy movement I have yet to see anyone, on either side, pursuing this goal to follow Christ. The debate ranges from taxes, to opportunities, to welfare. Accusations of socialism, greed, and thievery run rampant. Both sides claim Christ’s support, and at least some on both sides claim Christian values, but I have not heard a single spokesman, from either side, suggest that the entire issue is unimportant in the face of Christ. In this debate religion is being used as a weapon, not as a guide, and this has me very frustrated. I cannot claim to have read or heard everything that has been written or said about the Occupy movement, and perhaps there are others out there who see the same thing that I do – not only in the Occupy debate, but in American politics in general.
Maybe there are spokesmen saying that same things that I am thinking. If so, then I am very glad. If not, then if you agree with me please speak up! My voice is not loud, and not many people are likely to listen.