Progressive pastor Jim Wallis’ support for Occupy Wall Street was inevitable, especially considering his ties to ultra-liberal individuals and causes. From the beginning, the faith leader was enamored by the anti-capitalist movement. He has proudly proclaimed that the protesters “stand with Jesus” and that they have distinguished themselves as inspirational “citizen economists.”
These comments, of course, have drawn the ire of conservative Christians who simply don’t agree with his assessment. It didn’t take long for this praise, which was by many accounts a backdoor endorsement of sorts, to evolve into a full-fledged support effort taken up by both Wallis and his liberal faith group, Sojourners.
Last week, as you may recall, the Blaze reported on Wallis’ insistence that Thanksgiving is the perfect time to invite Occupiers to church. “Open our church basements and parish halls as safe places to sleep — shelter and sanctuary as cold weather descends upon many of our cities,” he wrote. “The Occupy movement needs a sanctuary. And what better safe and welcome place could these young people find than with communities of faith?”
On Wednesday morning, Wallis continued his overt push for Christians to support the movement — or, at the least, to embrace those individuals who comprise it. He took to the Sojourners web site to write about his experiences visiting the Occupy London protesters earlier this week.
As he discussed seeing the Occupiers outside of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, he wrote, “What a picture of the Incarnation,” and he said that he “marvel[ed] at the scene.” Wallis continued:
So here is the church in the midst of the international conversation that is changing the world — right where we should be.
And what an opportunity it revealed. The vivid metaphor of St. Paul’s in the streets of the public debate over the world’s inequality is a clear call to mission, to ministry, to hospitality, to prayer, and to prophetic ministry. At the steps of the cathedral, the Occupiers of London have found sanctuary.
As he looked at the protesters, Wallis wrote that the “dramatic picture” that was painted served as an inspirational “visual sign” of what he imagined the Christian church would be able to offer the world’s younger generation — a collective of people he says are seeking a better world.
He goes on to say that the Occupy movement is an opportunity to “embrace” individuals who might not otherwise attend church or have interest in Christianity. He’s careful to write that, “endorsement is not the point,” though it’s hard to qualify Wallis’ actions as anything short of doing just that.
But there’s a point in his piece where he asks a very interesting question: “Isn’t this what we should long for?” The “this” he’s referring to here is the aforementioned opportunity to engage people who might otherwise not seek faith in a higher power. He also asks, “So why, as [Jesus’] followers, don’t we enter the fray?”
Here, Wallis claims there’s an opportunity to bring the Occupiers into “church basements and parish halls.” Considering that Christianity hinges on the Great Commission — the commandment that came from Jesus Christ, telling all of his followers to spread his teachings throughout the world — Wallis’ words are intriguing.
While one might disagree fervently with Wallis and with the Occupy movement, most Christians do agree that reaching out to as many people as possible with Jesus’ message is an essential command. So, should those who embrace Christianity be engaging with the Occupy movement?
It should be noted that Wallis’ words here are based more on meeting peoples’ needs (which is likely tied more to his thirst for social justice than anything else). Thus, he may be calling for individuals to literally bring the Occupiers in so that they can be helped physically, rather than spiritually (although there are undertones of both in his writing).
Others, though, have already begun to address these spiritual issues. Take, for instance, these men, who the Blaze reported on last month. Rather than joining in on the Occupation, they’re encouraging Americans to turn to prayer to fix the nation’s horrific economic situation.
In the end, regardless of Wallis’ take on the protest movement, this raises a question for Christians of all stripes: How should they be treating the Occupy movement as well as the individual protesters it is comprised of?
This isn’t to say that Christians should be jumping in and supporting the protests, but, considering Biblical mandates, it may be worth asking — for those who believe — how Jesus would like them to handle it.
Does Wallis make any valid points about interacting with the Occupiers? Let us know, in the comments section, below.