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Does Occupy Wall Street have religious dimensions?

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Occupy Wall Street, religion on Oct 14, 2011

As the Occupy Wall Street movement morphs from a fad to a story with legs to a…what exactly is it?…religious voices are weighing in on where God stands.

Tom Beaudoin, a Fordham theologian, writes for the blog of the Jesuit magazine America about taking part in the protests.  He wonders if Catholics could apply the same “model” to their church (a notion the church is not likely to appreciate).

He writes: “Imagine a group of Catholics whose deep care for the future of their church is matched by their sense of responsibility to name, protest and change what is intolerable about that church today: in the form of nonviolent physical occupation of spaces, in the form—necessarily imperfect and unruly—of democratic organization, in the form of continued open-ended articulations of visions of a different Catholic Church, without prematurely forcing the movement to take on a specific agenda. And yes, in the form of consciousness-raising and of direct action. This would be the Catholic version of the Arab Spring, to combat the long Catholic Winter.”

Scholar Joseph Knippenberg has been tracking reactions to Occupy Wall Street for a blog with First Things, a “conservative” journal on religion. He writes: “I have no doubt that God is with the folks near Wall Street, but I doubt they’ve recognized Him yet.”

“Liberal evangelical” Jim Wallis is, as you might expect, right there with the occupiers. He writes: “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 some communities small groups of a few dozen have formed and in some cities thousands have gathered.

“In each instance, no matter the size, people’s frustrations, hurt and feelings of being betrayed by our nation’s politicians and economic leaders are clear and they want to be heard.”

The Jewish Week wrote about 1,500 people attending a Yom Kippur service within yards of the Occupy Wall Street protest in Lower Manhattan: “Participants in the service, organized by supporters of the protest, included many of those involved in the demonstration, local Jewish residents who had come simply for the service itself, and non-Jewish onlookers.”

Today, the JW reports that protesters are building sukkahs—temporary dwellings for the holiday of Sukkot—at OWS protests in nine cities. The first comment from a JW reader says this: “Speaking as a neoconservative, all OCW sukkahs are declared automatically treyf.”

Treyf means non-kosher. Funny.

ADD: The Institute on Religion & Democracy, which promotes traditional or conservative thinking in mainline Protestant denominations, just released a statement on the religious left’s support for Occupy Wall Street.

IRD President Mark Tooley says this:


“The many college age Wall Street occupiers concerned about college debt and real world responsibilities can be possibly excused for youthful naiveté. But middle-aged church activists, some of whom may be trying to relive their street activism of 40 years ago, should show more discernment and wisdom.

“Covetous battle cries for class resentment and even greater coercive wealth redistribution through an ever expanding Big Government do not resemble traditional Christianity.

“Unlike the Religious Left voices who have hailed and even romanticized the Wall Street Occupation, wise religious leaders should call their flocks to the common good. They would know that in a fallen world, no government or system of laws can seize property or massively redistribute income without creating even greater injustice.

“The Scriptures call for believers to put away childish things. Religious activists who have aligned with the Wall Street Occupation should model mature Christian discernment, not echo angry resentments that dream of a secular utopia.”



5 Responses to “Does Occupy Wall Street have religious dimensions?”

  1. Mike

    Yes, I think it has religious dimensions. The OWSers claim to be protesting one of the seven deadly sins, Greed. Yet, all I see from them are most of the oether dealy sins, espcially Envy, anger and Pride. Ironically, at least some of the protsetors themselves are guilty of teh very greed they protsest as more and more reports come in about thefts taking place in the park. In the end, the words of Jesus should echo through their heads as well as the theologians you cited: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God”.

  2. Saadaya

    Jesus was a revolutionary and very much against capitalism. He told the rich man that he would not be able to enter God’s kingdom until he sold all his possessions and gave it all to the poor. He turned the tables on the moneychangers. And he said one may not serve God and Manon (the demonic personification of Money) at the same time.

  3. Mike

    Did Capitalism exist in Jesus’ time? I think not so why would anyome say he would be aginst it? I think capitalism run amok he would be against, but certainly not in its entirety

  4. Jeff

    The problem is that laws redistributing wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy are currently in place, laws enacted because the wealthy have disproportionate access to government.

    The solution is not to redistribute wealth, but to recognize and stop the redistribution that is ongoing.

  5. Mike

    I think the issue is more aptly one of corporatism not capitalism. We have major multi-national corporations ho control wealth and power and have done so at the detriment of many working people. And yes, I agree that laws appear to support these corporations-this I think is teh real essence of teh problem and not capitalism per se.

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