The Occupy movement

Thursday, November 3, 2011

After reading a number of reports, columns, and articles from various perspectives, I can only say that I don’t know what to make of the Occupy movement. I want to support it without qualification, because there have been so very many examples in the past hundred years of “people power” (see Jonathan Schell’s excellent book about nonviolent protest, The Unconquerable World) but its incoherence and leaderlessness seems problematic.

There is one thing, however, that cannot, from a Christian point of view, be denied. Here are two expressions of it:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, respected analyst and Princeton professor, recently wrote:

…after electing a president who ran on the theme of hope and change, these
Americans feel betrayed. The only change they are seeing is a tiny percentage of
rich Americans getting richer while they are getting poorer. That is the
injustice. The invisibility is even worse. Human dignity is about being
recognized, listened to, and acknowledged as an individual human being with an
irreducible moral worth. But at a time when one in six Americans live in poverty
and virtually all of our social indicators are worse than at any time since the
Great Depression, the political system is locked in partisan paralysis. They are
not being heard, so increasingly they will make themselves seen. And given
unemployment rates, millions of Americans have nothing better to do with their

She is writing from the Middle East. Here is the link to the complete op-ed column:

And another article in the “Giving” section of The New York Times which appeared today as an introduction to the holiday season, offers these plain facts:

The number of Americans living below the poverty line — 46.2 million — is the
highest it has been since the Census Bureau began collecting such data. Median
incomes are declining, and college graduates can’t find jobs. The gap between
the haves and have-nots has widened sharply. Yet for the last three years, state
and local governments have slashed budgets that address homelessness, school
nutrition, substance abuse and a range of other social

Whatever the Occupy movement may turn out to be, there can be no question about the responsibility of Christians to pay attention. It is hard to know exactly what to do, but to do nothing is to betray the Lord who exemplified love for the poor and called for conscience on the part of the rich.

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