On Monday, October 24, I’ll be going to San Francisco to be part of the “Interfaith Clergy Action in Solidarity with Occupy Wall St. SF.” I go because I believe that the values that undergird the Occupy movement are essentially Christian values.
I was listening the other day to an Occupy Seattle protester make her case. Her argument ran like this: “When the banks were in trouble and might have failed, they were bailed out – bailed out by the government, the taxpayers, all of us. But then the banks turned around and kept on foreclosing on people, taking their homes. And the banks are sitting on money instead of investing it to create jobs. We helped them, but they aren’t helping us.”
I thought to myself, “Where have I heard that before?” I scrolled back over the gospel lessons for the last couple weeks and recalled this one, “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant,” a story told by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
Grab your Bible and read Matthew 18:21-35. You’ll read about a servant who is forgiven a humungous debt by the king. Then this forgiven servant goes and has another servant thrown in jail for failing to repay a relatively speaking small debt. When the king hears about who the first servant showed no mercy to the second servant, the king has the first servant thrown out into utter darkness.
Tony goes on, writing:
Not only is the point clear, but it’s precisely the same one that the Occupy Seattle protester was making. The banks, owing a ton, got help. But they haven’t passed it on. Instead, they’ve foreclosed on homeowners, returned to the practice of paying themselves huge salaries and big bonuses, all the while hoarding their growing capital on the sidelines. What gives?
What gives, indeed?!
As I pointed out in my sermon last Sunday, Christians are called to stand with “the least of these.” We are called to side with the powerless and in our culture (as was the case in Jesus’ culture), possessing money means one possess power. Luckily, in our culture the powerless can agitate without fear of crucifixion. And so they are agitating.
In 2007, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches adopted “A Social Creed for the 21st Century” that could read as a platform for Christian participation in the Occupy America movement. It read, in part:
In the love incarnate in Jesus, despite the world’s sufferings and evils, we honor the deep connections within our human family and seek to awaken a new spirit of community, by working for:
- Abatement of hunger and poverty, and enactment of policies benefiting the most vulnerable.
- High quality public education for all and universal, affordable and accessible healthcare.
- An effective program of social security during sickness, disability and old age.
- Tax and budget policies that reduce disparities between rich and poor, strengthen democracy, and provide greater opportunity for everyone within the common good.
- Just immigration policies that protect family unity, safeguard workers’ rights, require employer accountability, and foster international cooperation.
- Sustainable communities marked by affordable housing, access to good jobs, and public safety.
- Public service as a high vocation, with real limits on the power of private interests in politics.
A month ago, I posted a quote from Elizabeth Warren, a former assistant to President Obama. It’s worth repeating here:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for.…
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless – keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
I’m going to San Francisco to remember the social contract we should be living by.
I’m going to San Francisco to stand with those who are reminding us of the Christian values of compassion, justice, and love.