occupy my street

cc David Shankbone via Flickr

Months before the news trucks and celebrities showed up, a group of artists and activist were meeting in a coffee shop near Wall Street, and many of them were foreigners who had been part of massive protests in the mid-East and Europe.

According to Mother Jones, their conversation was fueled by a desire to create something that looked like the Arab spring and had the same clout as the Tea Party. Then Adbusters, an anti-capitalist magazine from Canada, issued a call for demonstrators and soon there was a tent city in Zuccotti Park.

Occupy Wall Street, and similar groups around the country, are enamored by the concept of a “general assembly,” a consensus building effort popular in Spain and other recent European protests. This “horizontal structure” is one where they meet and talk to discover what the group wants to do.

Mostly they want the government to make the corporations give some of their money back, although it’s not too clear to whom. But the movement as a whole faces two problems.

First, these “anarchists for big government” merely want to exchange one corrupt system for a different corrupt system. Seriously, there is no reason to expect big government to be less awful than big business.

Some of them point out that big business has bought out our leaders, but this is certainly a cozy two way relationship. And some of them want to be bought themselves– where is my bail out?

Generally government and business are somewhat responsive to the demands of consumers or voters, so they may achieve some concessions. But government also attract self-centered and self-serving men and women who want and abuse power. Greed comes in all sorts of delivery systems.

The second issue is that consensus is difficult to achieve in a world with roughly seven billion people. Their claim to represent the 99% seems presumptuous and preposterous.

And while such democratic experiments have been around since before the ancient Greeks, in congregational churches in the early U.S., and in every utopian fantasy, they always have a dark side. Tyranny and dysfunction lurks outside every door.

They don’t represent me, I know that. And I’m hardly one of the idle rich. I don’t imagine they represent you either.

I don’t mean to defend the rich, however. I’m just saying if the government takes their money away there is no reason to expect less corruption. Buying votes is apparently an irresistible temptation.

That’s the heart of Tea Party concerns, actually. Occupy Wall Street opposes corporate corruption and the Tea Party opposes government corruption.

If I had to pick the lesser of two evils I’d go with the Tea Party. Freedom is at stake, and I prefer to keep mine. Expecting government to solve all of our problems can’t end well.

Both groups miss the point, through. When Occupy Wall Street kitchen staff staged a slow down because homeless people were eating their roasted beet salad it sort of belies their concern for the poor. In the end their demands have turned out to be as self-serving as any.

And if Tea Party members wanted fewer taxes so they could give more to the needy that would be great, but it’s unlikely. (Although with more government, it might also be impossible.)

Sin is not a political problem, however. Among the “sins of your sister Sodom” Ezekiel tells Israel, “she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49 ESV).”

This too is an abomination. Shame on them. And on us.

Frankly, the movement America actually needs is a revival.

Proverbs 30 says:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV)

Such a prayer is only a step, but it’s a step in the right direction. We can deny him or profane him, that’s clear enough.

Or we can let him occupy our hearts.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He teaches communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

15 Responses to “occupy my street”

  1. I visited “Occupy DC” (a meager urban campsite) with some college friends last weekend. We were met with nary a coherent answer regarding the demonstration’s purpose and direction. “Tax the rich.” “Reduce the global footprint.” Little else. Corporations represented included Southpole, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola.

  2. Amen & Amen! This cogent post belongs in the Wall Street Journal, the online news/commentary site http://www.townhall.com, and World Magazine!

    For real reform and justice we need the Holy Spirit to fully “occupy” our hearts.

  3. We can vote out corrupt politicians.

    We cannot vote out corrupt bankers.

    And we cannot boycott them out either. Most of us already don’t buy their products so we’ve already been boycotting them all along to no effect.

    • Additionally, I would like to point out the number of Wall Street bankers that there is pretty solid evidence that a number of banks and their agents willfully and knowingly committed crimes that directly contributed to the financial crisis we now face.

      Yet none of them have been indicted.

    • You certainly make a valid point, Shaun, although It’s not clear to me that this is the central concerns of OWS.

      And I’m not opposed to governments regulating or prosecuting abuses. Or, for example, the media watching and reporting on the excesses of either. The checks and balances needed to make this thing work are not all political or economic, some of them are ethical and moral.

      And more to my point, some of them are spiritual. While I express a concern here about freedom generally, including both the freedom to make money or to give it away, I hope mostly to make the point that we need a spiritual awakening, not just a socio-political one.

      I appreciate your comments. I’m always encouraged to know that you read my blog, and are willing to disagree with me.

      A good reader is hard to find. :)

      • I think part of the point for OWS is that it is headless. It HAS no stated goals.

        What are they asking us to do?

        Indict and prosecute financial criminals even if they are the richest people around these parts.

        Consider the possibility that capitalism should not be allowed to flourish at the expense of human life and liberty.

        My reading of OWS is simply that they want political focus to stay on the economy until the economy is in better shape and can support the American people again.

        It is unlike the Tea Party in that it has no agenda. Nobody down there has a job right now. Many of them have been looking for work for years while the politicians strive to prove how very Left or Right they are to their constituencies and ignore the financial burdens so many of us face in these times.

        Their goal is to make us look and to make us have discussions like this. In that, they are succeeding.

      • And I do read your blog because, while I often don’t agree with you, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into what you post. It is a quality I find lacking in a lot of christian commentary I find around the web. And it is a quality I yearn to see more of.

  4. Well said, Dr. Metts. This demonstration is simply exchanging one form of corruption for another. Quite frankly, many of the protesters seem to lack a solid work ethic to want to be part of the solution. To protest payment of student loans seems pretty self-serving. The idea that you borrowed money for an education and decide to not pay it back feels like that group has a sense of entitlement. I’m seeing it with my 13-year old daughter and her peers. There’s expectation without investment. Scary. Sounds like a heart issue.

    Revival. That’s a cause I’d set up my tent in Zuccotti Park for.

    Maybe I should be doing it right now.

    • You realize they’re not protesting that they have to pay back student loans, right? They’re protesting that the financial system is rigged to the point that many of them are unable to.

  5. wonders if there has ever been a US treasury secretary that has not been a partner at Goldman Sachs ? Shaun the corrupt politicians report to the corrupt bankers.

    • Yes. But this goes directly to my point. We have no say in how the corporations behave. We can’t fire the Goldman Sachs board. But we can refuse to elect or re-elect politicians who make appointments from their board.

      As a matter of fact we should be demanding justification for appointments like this. And this is exactly the form of activism OWS is engaging in.

      We don’t have a lot of control over the government. But we have some.

      We have NO control over a corporate entity that has no retail face. And I’m not really certain how much a boycott buys you these days anyway…

      • So, what’s the solution? What gives us any right to a say in how people run their business as long as it is within the confines of the law? I don’t know about you, but I really would rather not have a couple billion US citizens dictating my finances.

        I understand the point about finding and punishing those who have committed crimes. That I understand and agree with. But from what I’ve seen, it seems more to me that isn’t their main focus. Their goal seems to be to get the government to care as much about the needs of the majority and not the needs of the “1%.” Also, something I can understand and agree with. Their greatest ideal seems to be fighting against greed, which is also admirable. It’s where these ideals find traction that I take the most issue.

        The biggest actual change it seems that they want, beyond idealistic platitudes, is to put heavier taxes on the rich. What did the rich do to deserve having a higher percentage of their wages taken? Be unfairly good at what they do? No one gets on top and stays on top without legitimate talent.

        Are they greedy? Probably. Definitely. However, no more than the rest of us. Otherwise “Where’s MY bailout” wouldn’t be a common slogan for the movement. It’s no one’s responsibility to pay your debts but your own.

        We’re all susceptible to greed and corruption which is why it our governments always rot… they’re full of people. The last I checked though, being greedy was a sin, not a crime. So while they’re accountable to God for what they do with the money that they get (legally) they’re not accountable to us. When they violate the law is when we should most definitely step in. But until that point we have no right to have a say in how anyone spends their income. For instance, I would have preferred that Steve Jobs had donated something, ANYTHING, to charity. Would that have made that world a better place than the iPad 2? In my opinion, yeah. But I wouldn’t pass a law that demands that anyone who makes more than a million dollars donate ten percent of their income to charity. I am not the shepherd of anyone’s soul but my own.

        Greed is a spiritual problem and something that we can’t cure simply by taking their money away. They’re trying (and failing) to fill a void in their lives that other people fill with sex, drugs, food, children, jobs, etc. We’re not going to eliminate greed by camping out on public lawns holding picket signs. It’s a battle that will only be won on Judgement Day.

        The best we can do is to do our best with what God grants us and encourage others to do the same. The only thing twisting arms will accomplish is bruises and indignation.

        So, what’s the solution? Just as Dr. Metts suggested. A heart change. Because nothing has the power to enact real and lasting change but the blood of Jesus Christ.

      • What’s the solution? Sometimes there isn’t one. I certainly don’t have any answers to that.

        To be honest, I don’t really believe there really is a solution.

        The world is complicated and sometimes that’s all there is too it.

        Sure; greed isn’t a crime. But lying to and misleading your customers is. There is evidence. The sort of evidence that has been openly discussed in the news that this sort of thing is and was happening and directly contributed the financial collapse we’re currently experiencing. Yet, not one of the bankers in question has been indicted. They have, however, been given a lot of money to cover their losses and allowed to return to business as usual.

        However, to claim “No one gets on top and stays on top without legitimate talent” is rather inaccurate. None of us attain what success we do without a fair deal of good luck and knowing the right people. I’m in software development and few in my business get to the top by being good. It’s much more common to get to the top by a combination of seniority and not being good enough to be denied a promotion. You get to the top by not having legitimate talent. I doubt it’s that much different in banking.

        No one wants to tax the rich more than their fair share. It would just be nice if they were taxed as much as the rest of us are. It turns out that the richer you are, the lower your tax percent gets through loopholes.

        And while the ultimate solution is a change of heart and a turning toward God, we can’t expect that from people whose success is intrinsic on succeeding on the failure of others.

        “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle” after all….

  6. Ha! I was actually going to use that scriptural reference in my original post but edited it out because it broke my flow to a certain extent.

    I think we agree more than we disagree, which is nice… I don’t get that much when I debate on on the internet. So, thank you for being a reasonable human being and not an internet hate entity.

    Ultimately, I think we have to expect unsaved people to act like unsaved people. God is working out his solution, until then we have to life in this world with patient and hopeful expectation, spreading that message to all those we meet along the way.

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  1. occupy our street | the daysman - November 14, 2011

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