Sunday, June 23, 2013

Christianity and Occupy Wall St. Are At Odds For No Discernable Reason

I Was Just Wondering Why
More Christians Don't “Occupy”

In light of all the recent news reports about the rioting in Brazil and the civil war in Syria, I have recently concluded that an Occupy-style political movement is the next logical step in the evolution of the protests down there. A more illogical step would be an internal conflict as bad as Syria's has become, provided that the Brazilian government doesn't foolishly force the hands of the protesters to take more drastic action. This reminds me of the Occupy Wall Street movement worldwide. When “Occupy DC” got started on Oct. 6, 2011 at Freedom Plaza, I was there for the first three days before returning to Atlanta. But there is one thing I have noticed since becoming a part of this movement nearly two years ago. Trying to get a conservative American Christian to join the Occupy movement is like trying to get the Pope to convert to Judaism or persuading an orthodox Jew to convert to Islam. My informal research tells me that conservative Christians from other nations are far more politically liberal than their American counterparts.

Why is there such resistance by conservative American Christians to the Occupy movement? After all, aren't those in the Occupy movement trying to speak out for those in need and against an economic system based on greed? Why would any conservative American Christian not want to join a group that tells us that our future depends on how well we cooperate with each other? The same thing goes for the “We Are The 99%” movement, which I chronicled in my 2011 book, “Middle Class Manifesto”. I also can't imagine why any rational person would have a problem with people who are protesting against economic inequality and endless wars. And why would any American Christian not want to join a group that promotes a more participatory and balanced democracy than what we have now?

Lately, some writers from the Left have attributed the political convictions of American conservative Christians to their faith. So what we have is a group of people mixing their religion with their politics for personal gain. The problem with this line of reasoning is that there are conservative Christians who also promote social justice and support more liberal and even Leftist views. The majority of such Christians, however, are not American. This should give us a hint of why many conservative American Christians are not occupying today. The reason for why they are not occupying is not because of their faith but because of something else. But what would that something else be?

When one is raised as a conservative Christian in America, there are certain associations made with the faith. One such association is made between American patriotism and Christianity. We were taught since when we were born that our nation was founded as a Christian nation by Christian Founding Fathers. Therefore, the American way, at least back when America was still a Christian nation, is the Christian way, so to criticize our Founding Fathers is to ridicule God and protesting against this Christian nation of ours is tantamount to attacking the Gospel.

Any attempt at reconciling our nation's history with the notion that America was ever a Christian nation places enormous demands on one's logical skills. While it is true that many of our founding fathers were Christians, the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the America's indigenous people combined with our nation's abuse and persecution of Black Americans, both up through and after the Civil War up until the 1964 Civil Rights Act, along with our emerging empire and use of dictators as proxy rulers over other countries, make it problematic to reconcile our history with Jesus Christ. And even when our history is partially acknowledged by the conservative American Christians, there seems to be an emotional disconnect that protects such a Christian from the dissonance that would otherwise be clanging forth. That is, we might acknowledge some of the abuses in the past, but we can still seriously call ourselves a Christian nation and a "city on the hill" without batting an eye? In the end, what the patriotic American Christian is saying to the world is that, despite the evidence, we must feel good about ourselves. We demand our Constitutional right to self-exalt, forgetting Jesus' warning about this very thing when he said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but they who humble themselves will be exalted”.

And what goes for American Patriotism, goes for capitalism. After all, since capitalism is our economic system and we are a Christian nation, logic seems to dictate that capitalism has become God's preferred economy. We supplement this reason with some common sense, reasoning that since the greatest prosperity in the history of the world has been enjoyed by Americans and we practice capitalism, capitalism must be God's economy. Such an argument has a point. That is, we as a nation have experienced some of the greatest prosperity in the history of the world. But there is a problem lurking in the shadows. For just as we must acknowledge the high level of prosperity we have enjoyed, we must also ask a very damning question. That question is, when in the history of capitalism has it prospered without exploiting large numbers of people? Many times those who were exploited were hidden from the view of most Americans though their invisibility does not contradict the fact that they were exploited.

And so what caused the Occupy and the “99%” Movements to emerge in 2011 continues to this day, and that fact is that far too large of a percentage of Americans have now become the victims of the same capitalist economy that they helped create. All of our hard work was for nothing. In fact, it has backfired on us all in the worst possible way by making homeless people out of formerly middle class workers. This has angered a whole lot of people, and rightfully so since we are on the receiving end of economic and social injustice every time we turn around. As a result, we have the current Occupy/99% Movements. These movements are challenging American patriotism by opposing the endless wars for profit while challenging capitalism by insisting that people and their needs have priority over those profits. Thus, suggesting that being patriotic and practicing capitalism has spread more evil than good is to try to Occupy the Gospel because of the close association many conservative Christians have made between it and both patriotism and capitalism. They that do this are forgetting the historical reasons for Jesus' crucifixion. He preached against organized government, which infuriated the Romans, and against organized religion, which enraged the Jewish ruling council of that time. If Jesus came back today, the conservative Christians, Evangelicals, and Charismatics would crucify him all over again.

But there is still another reason why conservative American Christians have still not joined the Occupy movement. That is because the Occupy movement is seen as a protest movement that does not respect authority. From an early age, conservative American Christians were injected with spiritual steroids when being taught to respect authority, exclusively from Romans 13 of course while ignoring the 4 Gospels, so that we not only learned to respect authority, we were compelled to worship it. We see authority figures as our saviors, and that is idolatry! To challenge the authorities, as it states in Romans 13: verses 1-5, is to challenge God himself because it is God who has put in charge every authority figure.

A side effect of our hyper regard for authority can be seen in our preference for labels over concepts and thus for credentials over reason. For example, we have taught to so respect our conservative teachers that we now have great difficulty in distinguishing between between conservative theologies and conservative politics and between liberal theologies and liberal politics. As a result, some tend to uncritically accept the tenets of conservative politics, not because it is biblical, which it is not, but because it has the conservative label. Likewise others will automatically reject, and have a phobic reaction to, liberal and leftist policies because of that label. This knee-jerk acceptance of whatever is conservative and rejection of whatever not conservative enables authoritarianism. For examples of this we need only look to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Kim Jong Un's North Korea, among numerous others. And just as self-exaltation is the reason why we equate American patriotism and capitalism with Christianity, so self-interest is the reason why we have a hyper regard for those in authority. That self-interest tells us to be good little boys and girls so that those in charge will reward us rather than spank us. And perhaps, it is a desire to remain children that leads us to authoritarianism's embrace over the self-rule that the Occupy and 99% Movements have been practicing. It is the desire to spend more time playing than making responsible decisions, to spend more time enjoying our trivial pursuits than being bogged down with the serious issues of life, and how we will be with one another that causes us to prefer rule by elites than autonomy. The reason why most conservative American Christians won't occupy isn't because of their faith, it is because of the extra ingredients added to their faith. Meaning, their faith is polluted with worldly things and concerns, another thing Jesus warned us about when he said, “A man cannot serve two masters. He will either cling to one and despise the other, or he will serve the other and reject the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism”.

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