Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Christianity?
It's very frustrating to see so many radical ministers, priests, and "spiritual leaders" climbing aboard the ideology of redistribution. There are many who have recently alluded -- if not outright stated -- that the OWS movement is Christian at its core. Some suggest that Jesus himself would be among them. I might agree with that last part, but for different reasons from what they suggest (Jesus sought out the crippled, blind, prostitutes, tax collectors, poor in spirit, demon-possessed, etc., to redeem them...so perhaps he would have been among the OWS crowd, in an effort to save them). Jesus would not have been among them to support their purpose or their approach, and the evidence for this is obvious. The devil (so to speak) is in the details.
Many believers are being sucked into the social justice ideology because of the one simple fact that cannot be ignored -- the Bible instructs us to feed the hungry and care for the poor and downtrodden. This message is everywhere within the text we hold so dear. Because of this fact, socialists and Marxists have used the Bible (that they largely mock) to bludgeon believers. The argument of Christian charity is inescapable. As a result, some believers have quickly embraced the redistributionist ideology. Others, like me, have sensed a false implication behind the message, which urges us to peel the onion a little further.
The social justice crowd -- which includes Barack Obama and many of his Democrat foot soldiers -- promises fundamental transformation, predicated upon the action of wealth redistribution. They promise a vague, undefined, but powerful salvation built on hope. Jesus also promised fundamental transformation, of an equally powerful but opposite kind. The "ends" or results of both types of transformation promise a better world -- a utopia -- where everyone has enough, and everyone is satisfied. But it is the "means" that give away the holiness, or lack thereof, that believers (and nonbelievers who seek truth) should focus on. It reveals the sincerity of the intent of Jesus, and the wickedness behind social justice.
Fundamental transformation (FT) can be dissected, as follows:
1) FT, as prescribed by the left:
This movement depends on a "vision" transformation of the collective (that's us). The idea is to convince us that redistribution of wealth is a virtuous obligation to be embraced. This is a tough sell, for obvious reasons. Those with wealth don't want to give it to the government, who have proven themselves incompetent stewards of our tax dollars. Those not wealthy, but who are comfortable, recognize how hard they have worked to acquire what they have and are reluctant to wish higher taxes upon others. There is something inherently destructive about forcing some to bear more of the burden than others, and most people know this, internally. Thus, the task of persuasion requires the compulsory suppression of the principled values of the populace. A thought transformation of the collective ensues, from the traditional code of fairness, where every man must be responsible for himself (pull his own weight), to the Marxist idea that those who have more should contribute more (so that some can be less responsible).
This is easier to accomplish when an economy is floundering and people are scared and poor. The traditional mindset in regard to money, success, and financial achievement becomes more fluid. The FT disciples need only point to a few who have profited by unethical means, at the expense of others, to demonize the entire body of the rich. If the masses can be convinced that wealth is evil, they can be made to believe that it is righteous to confiscate more of it for redistribution to the needy -- to make things fair. The tactics involve encouraging the masses to covet what the rich have achieved, to vilify wealth, to intimidate, deceive, employ scare tactics, and to encourage the message that somehow, the collective is owed something by these rich people.
"We are the 99%" is a redistributionist theme that is being embraced because it gives the illusion that nearly all Americans believe that a few should bear the burden of our economic sins. It is interesting that there is a direct correlation to the fact that the salvation they envision is dependent on the fundamental transformation of the masses (the 99%), but the responsibility (paying higher taxes) of a few.
2) FT, as prescribed by Christ:
Christ's vision depends on a transformation of a single person. Jesus sought out those who were humble in spirit, and profoundly repentant. He forgave them of their sins. He did this (and continues to do this) on a very personal and individual basis. Salvation is never dependent upon a person's thoughts, words, or deeds (or top marginal income tax bracket). Thus, it cannot be earned. We are forgiven and saved simply because of our humble faith in Christ, and his merciful grace. As a result of this "new life" in Christ, believers naturally undergo an FT that changes their way of seeing the world. They slowly become transformed into better people -- not to earn salvation, but because they have already been saved. This freedom of spirit allows one try to obey God's commands, including that of helping those in need.
The Jesus version of FT is about the decision that a single individual makes, to put his faith in Christ. His salvation is due to God's grace and love, not his willingness to be taxed more. His spiritual wealth is powerful and infinite. He is, so to speak, the 1%.
The messages of charity and benevolence are repeated throughout the Bible. Fear of running out is what drives humans to hold tight and not share with others. Perhaps that is the reason behind the redundancy of the message. God knows this is hard for us, so he reminds us frequently that our treasure will be in heaven. Jesus did, however, warn his followers to be only as generous as their hearts allowed, so as not to grow resentment and worry in our spirits. He also warned us not to feed those who are capable of feeding themselves, as this cultivates sloth and laziness in that person. These are decisions that only an individual can make, for himself. Yet, governments have historically usurped this choice from us.
The contrast in the "means" to FT is stark: to transform the collective, negative, coercive tactics must be used (à la Alinsky). Just reviewing the 10 Commandments (quoted below from The Small Catechism, by Martin Luther), government FT must encourage the masses to break the following laws of God:
#7) Thou shall not steal: The masses must be convinced that it is right and good to steal (aka -- make the rich pay their fair share!). When the government demands more from a person than that person feels is fair, charity is not involved -- theft is.
#8) Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor: This movement by the left is creating the illusion that all rich people stepped on the backs of the poor in the former's pursuit of the dollar. The sin of one should not indict the rest. The fact is that many wealthy people built ethical businesses by offering fair salaries and benefits to a lot of people. They are now being vilified, unfairly, by this blanket false witness that the left is cloaking them in.
#9) Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house: I have always enjoyed driving through wealthy neighborhoods, admiring the beautiful homes of successful people, and imagining that I might find a way to be so successful. Now, through the Democrat FT, we are being encouraged to despise such success, and to cry out for government to take more from these people to make it fair!
#10) Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his: Refer to #9.
There are many other commands throughout the text of the Bible that are also defiled by Government FT. Meanwhile, the Jesus brand of FT is brought about by freeing the spirit, which is created in the true image of God. This liberty is released by the powerful redemption of our individual souls. It generates within us a willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to share with others the blessings of our labors.
The inherent problem with redistribution is that the tactics at the very core of this ideology rely on the ability of the government to appeal to man's darkest tendencies: jealousy, envy, greed (yes, the 99% are guilty of greed), covetousness, anger, and on and on. The charity approach to solving our problems relies on freeing men from the fear of "running out" and appealing to the light of generosity and goodwill that exists in most who have experienced economic blessing. Ask yourself which would make you feel warm, fuzzy, generous, and likely to give again: 1) personally sharing with the needy the fruits of your labor, or 2) watching government take the fruits of your labor to give some of it to the needy (what's left over after the bailouts, kickbacks, and under-the-table corruption).
Creating individuals who feel the security and the freedom to give from the heart is a far healthier tactic for the well-being of both the man and the society. Vilification, coercion, and confiscation deprive men's souls of the joy of giving freely. The creed of Saul Alinsky, whom the redistributionists necessarily worship, is that the end justifies the means. For those who identify with FT through Christ, perhaps a more fitting creed is "the means justifies the end."