Inside Out 227: Occupy Movements

11.30.11 | Martha Manikas-Foster

The Occupy Wall Street protests in cities across the country—and around the world—have  brought attention to the economic divide between the poor and the very rich. God cares for the poor, so where does God’s Church find itself in this conversation? Could the Occupy Movement be a vehicle for God’s work as it brings attention to economic inequity in America, or does the protest movement simply promote envy and covetousness? At its core, is the movement spiritually helpful, harmful, or neutral?

The Occupy Movement exploded on the scene in late September 2011 when protesters occupied Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Similar occupations erupted in downtowns from Regina to Rome. Many of the downtown tent cities have since been evacuated by police, but members of the Occupy Movement have vowed to keep focusing on economic disparity.

It can’t escape a Christian’s notice that some of the concerns of the Occupy protesters sound like God’s concerns throughout the Old and New Testaments. So why are some Christians keeping a distance from the movement while others are joining the fold?

Join us for an Inside Out conversation with Tobin Grant, recorded the morning after police cleared the Occupy Wall Street protesters who were camping in New York City’s Zuccotti Park. Tobin Grant is a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University. He is the author of scholarly and general articles as well as books on politics and campaign finance reform. You may know him for his informative articles on current political events for Christianity Today.

To find an assortment of Tobin Grant’s articles on American politics, click here:  http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/

For information on Tobin Grant and list of his books, click here: http://politicalscience.siuc.edu/faculty/grant.html

Comments

Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 12.01.11 Daniel Mendez commented

Your guest is correct in indicating that the US is different and certainly explaining some of the dynamics is important. However, while there is a push for economic equality, not only are the issues you’ve brought up part of the dynamic and Godly/Biblical considerations, but the following also had to be included in this conversation:
1. Because we all live within our sin nature, corruption takes place at the top of Wall Street/Corporate/the Rich to the Lowest, in stealing, Social Services, etc. per abuse of both the rich and wealthy as well as the poor systems of our nation. In as much as there are those who are rich who help the poor and the poor who are honest hard working or completely destitute – honestly. That wide and detailed spectrum has to be taken into account – not that there is more one than the other, but that there is even that point.
2. Next, just like we have to tackle whether we can tell people they shouldn’t be obese (and obese people are such for a million various reasons – some who eat to comfort themselves living with memories of abuse, some who eat very little but physiologically gain weight anyway, to eating poorly to eating what they can afford, to cultural trends in the family, etc. etc.) or tell them what they do with their lives, whether drinking, smoking, etc. living extreme lives for the thrill, etc. partying all night, etc. etc., can a liberal perspective that says we can’t legislate morality in that we can’t stop abortions or having sex, on the other hand, say that it is morally right to help the poor (I’m not speaking of the church’s mandate – because an injustice in the world doesn’t necessarily translate in the church, when the cure has to be spiritual and God-ward, and the world won’t submit to it). Therefore, if you can’t force someone to be sound in their economic activities, whether to work, or put away money if they can even do so, or other biblically sound ways to prosper, such as in giving to their church, etc. if we can’t force people to be more responsible, and those that do, many who are Christians, are simply being blessed to bless, then how can you force the rich to do anything or is that fair. I say it as a person who was out of work for 4 years and depended on Food Stamps and Medicaid. So is it even right to “make” people fair, when it isn’t fair from top to bottom and from bottom to top – my next point.
3. In scripture you gave your 10% or 23% tithe & offering whether rich or poor, your tithe or gift was just different based on where you were economically – from bulls to pigeons. While I am not necessarily speaking of a fair tax or flat tax, the concept is closer in some respects to scripture in that right now, the poor (the greater number of people in this country) or people earning less than $20,000/year don’t pay tax, unlike the middle class and wealthy who pay a percentage of their wealth to an amount that doesn’t cover the highest amounts, and also with tax shelters and loopholes, pay less in some places depending on what those are, but nonetheless, are the ones who foot the federal tax bill for the rest of the country. If there were no tax shelters or loopholes, and only giving to nonprofit could be the only write-off, and everyone paid say 10%, from the homeless man who paid his 10 cents on the dollar he made that year (he can’t live on that dollar anyway, so he depends on Social Services that someone else is paying into to support him), to the billionaire who after his donations, paid 10%, then everyone is paying the same and fair amount, so that the wealthy can’t say they’re having to pay for those who aren’t and the poor can understand that it is the wealthy who pay the greater share of services they get from social services, then it would be fair economically across the board, not like now that isn’t fair to the fewer who are footing the bill and could never qualify for services if anything happened to them because of their resources.
4. People need to really look at corporation issues but be fair. Last year Wal-Mart the largest Corp with some 4 million plus employees, who don’t get healthcare as most are not full timers, and depend on Medicaid, most getting minimum wages, and Wal-Mart having more stores worldwide, made something like 4.8 Billion last year. And yet, the Gap, with Banana Republic and Old Navy, under it, having less stores and employees who probably do work full time and get some benefits (cutting their actual take home), made something like 4.6 billion last year…who is the real profiteer? And to add on top of that, Wal-Mart hires the disabled to work their stores at the door or elsewhere, the poor and others shop more affordably at Wal-Mart – so who is the real corporate winner? Is it fair to put down Wal-Mart or is a representative of the Homosexual community a financially powerful force in our society?
5. It doesn’t take the world to tell the church what to do and find its meaning in a world view of helping the poor. Especially when what we are talking about is giving, or better described as it is being taken from the wealthy and given to the poor through the government. It’s not through the church, but the government. It is easy, like having your donations get automatically taken out, to give the sense to the higher tax payers that their money is going to the poor, rather than be actively giving and being a part of the giving process and consciously understanding what you are doing than having it taken out automatically to go to the poor. My sense is that it is a form of “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” when you have non-faith based entities like the church, doing “social help”, when it should be the church doing this in helping at least the poor.
6. Finally, for now, when it is all said and done, didn’t Jesus say that we would always have the poor with us – not that we shouldn’t attempt to help them as other parts of scripture declare, but is it possible that it is to keep us Christians on our toes to do that very thing. I think we as the Church can certainly consider the message or ideology of the Occupy movement, but put it in perspective and understand the dynamic. In addition, many of the wealthy that are being targeted, especially when they are already giving and helping ministry, are wealthy because they’ve conformed to God’s way – are they wrong or bad or does the world’s perspective lump everyone, gamblers, mobsters, lottery winners, church goers, faithful, etc. into the same lump – is that fair – the church to consider the Occupy movements have to throw the question back at them and make them really look at the inequalities, not to mention that many who support the occupy movement did not or don’t support the Tea Party movement because it is too conservative or right. Anyway, these were my immediate thoughts on the matter.

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