As the Occupy Wall Street movement has both spread and intensified, there have been many intriguing — even disturbing — stories that have emerged and gained precedence. But one angle that few have covered is how the leftist faith community is responding to the protests.
As you know, over the past year, The Blaze has spent a great deal of time highlighting how the left is using faith and religion as a tool to rally adherents to political causes. Today, we will begin looking at how Sojourners, led by Jim Wallis, is already sinking its teeth into the Wall Street debacle.
In an article entitled, “Praying for Peace and Looking for Jesus at #OccupyWallStreet,” Wallis offered his support for the Wall Street protesters — going just far enough in his piece to back their efforts and to encourage their antics without officially endorsing them. He wrote:
The new movement called Occupy Wall Street now has spread across the country, from the very seats of our political and financial power and our largest cities, to suburbs and small towns…
In each instance…people’s frustrations, hurts, and feelings of being betrayed by our nation’s politicians and economic leaders are clear. They want to be heard.
Despite these comments, Wallis is careful to write that there is a great deal that he still doesn’t know about the movement. He also contends that there are elements of the protest that will inspire and others that will offend, but he says, “that’s OK.”
In Wallis’ view, Occupy Wall Street has “caught the imagination of a generation — and that matters.” In speaking about what he does know about the protesters, he writes:
When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand with the hungry, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand for those without a job or a home, they stand with Jesus. [...]
When they talk about holding banks and corporations accountable, they sound like Jesus and the biblical prophets before him who all spoke about holding the wealthy and powerful accountable.
Now, it’s important to hold the powerful accountable. Wallis isn’t incorrect there. In fact, the conservative movement, which has grave concerns about the government’s size and scope, is often working toward this same goal. Both sides of the aisle, in their own ways, seek to hold powers that be to a higher standard.
But doesn’t the Bible also speak about personal responsibility, the power of negative decisions and the like? Wallis is certainly correct that those who wish to help the poor and hungry (in terms of volunteering at soup kitchens and other associated activities) are acting out in a way that the Bible will command them to, but the issue here isn’t simply about the poor; it’s about the extent to which businesses and government should be blamed for social and political problems.
Nowhere in his article does Wallis address the other side of this debate — the one that deals with individuals’ decisions to take out loans and to engage in other consumer behaviors. Plus, the protesters have made it clear that this is about “revolution not reform.” Is this something that Wallis, too, would be willing to endorse as being rooted in Biblical principle?
As one reads on, though, it becomes more clear what he was attempting to accomplish. Delving into unemployment, foreclosure and hunger, the leftist preacher coveres issues of concern for people on both sides of the political aisle. Certainly, the situation in America is difficult for a great many. But as Wallis continues his list, describing all that is wrong in America, his purpose becomes clearer:
…college students who have tens of thousands of dollars in loans and can’t find a job.
Families that have lost their homes in bank foreclosures, and the tens of millions of people who live below the poverty line even though they HAVE jobs. [...]
The institutions and systems — whether business or government — meant to serve the people, seem beyond the reach of basic human kindness and completely unaccountable.
And the ever-widening gap between the very top one percent who control more wealth than the bottom 99 percent is a recipe for disastrous social instability and unrest.
As the piece unravels, Wallis seems more and more supportive of the protesters. In fact, he even encourages “church folks” to bring them casserole, to talk with them and to offer up “the sacred gifts of hospitality, company, and friendship.”
“The Occupiers’ desire for change and willingness to take action to do something about it should be an inspiration to us all,” Wallace writes. According to his Twitter feed, Wallis visited the protest on Thursday:
While Wallis seems to be playing a bit coy about how much he supports these protests, the communications director for Sojourners, Tim King, has actually joined in on the festivities — literally. Christianity Today has more:
He is sleeping in the park and blogging about his experiences. He said one of his goals is to look for God’s presence amidst the event.
“I believe it’s often easier to find God on the streets than in a sanctuary,” King said. “We serve a God who shows up for those in need, and for those who stand with them.”
He reported that there are Christians at the event and that many of the protesters are open to religion.
King said, “Many protesters here have had some bad experiences with religion, but it’s clear that they are genuinely open to seeing religion done differently.”
And here’s a photo montage that was created for Sojourners (and published on the group’s blog), which features images, along with dramatic music, seemingly praising the Occupy D.C. rally:
Considering Wallis’ past support for the redistribution of wealth, it’s hard to imagine him writing anything negative about the protesters. The Blaze will continue to monitor how Wallis, among other leftist religious leaders, responds to the Occupy Wall Street protests.