Blogs - Summit Announcements
October 18, 2011
A Response to Occupy Wall Street
Rapid Response is a New Publication of Summit Ministries designed to help Christians process what’s going on in the world from a biblical worldview and intelligently engage the culture. We want your feedback — what was helpful about this? What would make it more helpful? Email Michael Reneau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who wouldn’t agree to the notion of “people before profits?” For thousands of Americans now camped out at the financial, legislative, and cultural centers of their cities across the country, this sentiment is a rallying cry. And it began now more than a month ago with the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have gained tremendous traction and notoriety.
But what do these protesters want? How should Christians engage their message and their methods?
The protests began with a Canadian, anti-consumerist, anti-establishment magazine: Adbusters. The goal of the organization is to bring down America’s culture of consumerism and commercialism. Adbusters set the protest in motion in mid-summer, but the movement has now taken a life of its own. With no recognized leadership as of yet, protesters’ demands remain vague and undefined, other than they believe the richest Americans and corporations control our society. Their aim is to bring the top 1 percent down, whatever that actually means.
The OWS movement taps into legitimate questions. What does it mean to be human, crafted in the image of God? Is it to only consume? Is it to live off the backs of others? Is it to hoard wealth and material possessions, especially at the expense of those less wealthy? The Christian ought to ask these questions along with OWS protesters. But the biblical worldview offers solutions, whereas OWS seems content to complain about the problems.
Though no uniform answer has been offered from OWS, many have asked that student loans be forgiven and wealth be shared. Others demand free health care. All want more given to them by the nation’s wealthiest.
But doesn’t that play back into the notion that we are only consumerist creatures? Doesn’t that negate the fact that we were created to create, to steward resources given to us in creation and use them for the kingdom and the good of others? Mooching off the richest 1 percent and the federal government — as some OWS protesters have demanded — distorts what it means to be human.
The message of the OWS movement is still incoherent — waiting for someone to come along and lead. This is dangerous because those in the movement could be easily co-opted by those who want to use the movement for evil purposes.
But to the larger question: What would it look like if Christians, from an intelligent biblical worldview perspective, got involved? Could an honest dialogue about biblical principles sprout from that? It’s easy to tear down and deconstruct society or a movement. But what does it look like for a movement to become culture-building?
Below are some talking points we hope you’ll find helpful as you engage the OWS movement. Again we ask, what would it look like for someone who’s articulate with a biblical worldview to lead?
Talking Points to engage OWS:
- At what point is your cause illegitimate because you use what you rally against? Isn’t it hypocritical for OWS protesters to use the products of “big business” to get their message out: social media, smartphones, Adbusters, brand name tents, camping supplies?
- The U.S. has always been about what we are for, not what we are against. We know what you’re against: corporatism and crony capitalism. But what are you for?
- Isn’t greed a problem with all of us, not just businesses? In a free market economy, if big businesses are at fault, so too are the consumers purchasing their products. The problem of over-consumerism isn’t just “out there.” It’s also “right here.” We’re the ones who shop.
- Don’t OWS protesters over-exaggerate the influence of the wealthy? Even the wealthiest among us only have so much income. According to some estimates, if everyone making more than $250,000 were taxed at 100 percent of their income, we’d only have enough money to sustain the current national budget for 141 days. Taking corporate profits would only add a few weeks more.
- What would you replace capitalism with? There has never been a system in the history of the world that allows for human creativity, and alleviates human suffering, as much as ours. Restricting economic freedom doesn’t encourage us to produce, create, and make the world better, as a video from Values and Capitalism shows. It encourages us to consume — the supposed antithesis of the OWS movement.
- How do you know that your assumptions are valid?
- You assume that the wealthy have what they have because they stole it from us. How do you know that to be true?
- You assume that the wealthiest 1 percent giving up their wealth would solve the problem. How do you know that to be true?
- You assume that direct democracy would be better than our current system. How do you know that to be true?
You assume that tearing down the current system will automatically result in something better. How do you know that to be true?