OWS and Religion: WWJD

Like so many others, the Occupy Wall Street movement has captured my attention, and today, a preacher’s column drew my attention. In it, the preacher poses the question, if Jesus himself were to come upon the Occupy Wall Street movement, what would he do? How would he respond? Now, I will admit, I am tempted to make a joke or two about Jesus casting the devil out, or flipping tables, even punching in drums – but it made me consider – what might he do? Unlike the author of that article, I refuse to say, “Well, he would have…” I think the best any of us could do is merely suggest how he would approach the situation, but saying definitively that he would do this or that is near blasphemous to me.  So, here is what was going to be my response to so many of the “He would have done…” comments for the article.


WWJD? Only he knows...

“This entire premise is unquestionably without answer, and to try to pin an answer on Christ is asinine. While we would all love to project our own beliefs onto him, and thus, claim we would be like him (or he, like us), or that he would give the OWS movement some sudden legitimacy, it is not possible. As much as we would love to say, ‘Well, of COURSE he would join with the protesters!’, there are other lessons in the Bible which, if we are being honest, may have shown him refusing to join them, and perhaps even rebuking them. (And in an ironic twist, the left is well-known for having a far higher percentage of atheists among their membership than conservatives and the right in general — it seems like some stretch for the protesters to even consider how something that many of them deny, might respond)

Forget for a moment the antisemitism shown against an older man wearing a yarmulke in NYC, would the protesters welcome Jesus, or seeing a man in poor robes, chastise him and chase him away as they did to the homeless? I maintain that Jesus would have more in common with the homeless people anyway, then he would with the people who, despite having jobs and homes (a great many of them do), decide to engage in sloth (one of seven capital sins). While sloth is not the avoidance of work altogether, it is the refusal to exert oneself or engage in hard labor. A perusal of The Beatitudes really lacks any parallels to OWS behaviors, and I figure the closest that they come to matching any of them might be “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill”. Although, the justice that they seek is of their own conception, and there is not as much support for it as some would have us believe.

I find it ironic that the movement seems willing enough to use Jesus Christ as a means of leverage, and as a sort of guilt-trip to gin up support from the religious. The OWS movement in London, given some permissions to occupy the grounds of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, responded by writing graffiti onto restored pillars, scratching messages into the doors of the church, and most disgustingly, defecating in the entrance ways and inside the historic Cathedral itself. I do not recall any of Christ’s teachings that people may desecrate synagogues or any temples, be they Roman temples or any other religions’ temples.

The movement who would host a savior would probably find themselves facing a great divide in beliefs between they and he. Exploring further, I doubt he could do much for them – possibly lending some sort of ‘star-power’ and drawing cameras? Well, no, there have already been plenty of stars (Jay-Z, Russell Simmons) to proclaim their undying support for the protesters (then getting in their limos and leaving). Perhaps Christ could provide the protesters with food and drink? Then again, substance abuse is said to be rampant, and bottomless jugs of wine are the probably the last thing that the protesters need. And unions and other sympathetic people have given money and food, so loaves probably would not be too welcomed. I suspect that the result of Christ showing up to any OWS movement would probably be disgust and a quick disavowal by the Savior. As their own fellow protesters are constantly doing to the criminals among them, and as Peter did to Christ himself , I would not be surprised to hear Christ say, ‘Who are you and what are you doing?'”

(The story of the London occupation, and particulars to the eviction sought by Church leaders, and their rationale): http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/21/occupy-london-camp-eviction-bid

  1. November 29, 2011 at 15:45

    “I do not recall any of Christ’s teachings that people may desecrate synagogues or any temples, be they Roman temples or any other religions’ temples.”

    Exactly. Nor will you find, upon studious examination of the Gospels, any support whatever for violent, uproarious, mobbish protest movements. These certainly existed at the time, and Jesus was notably not associated nor drawn in by them (as was, for example, Judas Iscariot).

    The Roman occupation, while certainly providing a type of order, was not a particularly kind master to the Jewish people. Despite this, when presented with the opportunity to encourage a tax rebellion, Jesus simply answered with a question: “Whose inscription and whose image are on this coin?” They replied “Caesar’s.” Then He said “Render then unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s, and unto God those things that are God’s.”

    While Christ urges us to live out our relationships, both personal and civic with charity (love) as our motivating force, He never gives encouragement to “forceful enforcement” of this principle. The same is true of the body of Social Teaching which has evolved over time in Christianity in general, and in the Catholic Church in particular. Pope Benedict XVI, in his landmark encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” calls for economic relationships driven by charity; driven by agape love; social relationships in which we care for each other not because we are coerced or forced, rather because we choose virtue — we choose to act in love.

    When Christ turned over the tables of the merchants in the temple court, He was cleansing God’s own house of those who profaned it. He was not seeking to bring down the temple, nor to destroy the system of liturgy and sacrifice. What we have seen repeatedly acted out by various groups within the Occupy “movement” is the profanation of religious sites, disregard for public decency, and acts of violence toward other people. None of this enjoys support from the example of Christ, nor from that of His apostles.

    The only scripturally accurate answer to the “What Would Jesus Do” question is this: He would do the will of His Father in Heaven. If we have seen Him, we have seen the Father; thus we have clear indications of what is in fact the will of the Father; that we act in charity.


    • November 29, 2011 at 16:35

      I appreciate your great comments, Michael, and I think if we ever sat down for coffee, we would find we have much in common. I was surprised to realize that you actually touched on a subject that I thought about including, but ended up leaving out – the “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…” teaching. I admit I was wondering how to make it fit into the rest of my post, and I think you have done it better than I could have. I found it curious (to say the least) when the Occupiers received so much support (at first) from the clergy and administration at St. Paul’s, and I expected the problems we now observe there.
      I think the most pertinent point of your comments was that Christ taught love, peace, and acceptance. I am afraid we have yet to see any of that from the movements.


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