On the one hand you will find people saying Jesus would have opposed the Occupy Movement like Tony Perkins, the President of the Family Research Council (see “Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier”). Apparently, Jesus supported free market capitalism even before it existed. At least that is Perkins argument because in one of Jesus parables he has a servants earning profits on money given to them by their master. Perkins doesn’t seem to mind the master-slave dynamic. As Scot McKnight notes (see “Occupy Hermeneutics”), this is one of the dangers of “biblicism”.
Often this crowd can be found laughing at people who oppose abuse by corporations. They find passages of Scripture that seem to support staying contently in your place in society as if Christianity advocates some form of caste system. Another approach is an under-realized eschatology wherein all “change” in this age is not worth pursuing. There is no hope for good to prevail until Jesus establishes his Kingdom on earth. If we oppose violence we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. If we oppose greed we are trying to “establish” the Kingdom of God. Often this comes from people who are quite comfortable with the current dynamics of this world. This allows them to ignore Jesus’ Kingdom activities which challenged the systems of the world and that he expected his disciples to continually reenact.
On the other hand you will find the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He says Jesus would have supported the Occupy Movement (see “Rowan Williams Says Jesus Would Be Siding With the Occupy Movement”). The Jesus of the Gospels is closer to Williams’ Jesus than Perkins’, but I have two areas of contention with the idea that Jesus would be part of the Occupy Movement.
First, I don’t like when I hear anyone say that Jesus would be part of their movement. If Jesus were physically present we’d either be for him or against him. He would culminate the rule of God perfectly and his solutions would be beyond our own. Even at his first advent Jesus’ mission was his own (or we may say it was “God the Father’s”). At most we can say Jesus stood in continuation with the movement of John the Baptist. Otherwise, Jesus is the figurehead of his own movement. It is not about Jesus being in line with us. It is about our need to be in line with him.
Second, as we struggle to represent Jesus’ Kingdom here on earth we will always fall short. I respect Christians who participate in the Occupy Movement, but there is no doubt that Occupy has imperfections. If a disciple feels that their Lord has called them to witness unto him within the Occupy Movement that is one thing. To equate all the actions and goals of the Occupy Movement with the ideals of the Kingdom of God is an error. It may be just me, but Jesus is less concerned with the “American Dream” or the ideals of capitalism than he is with the real 99% of this planet who suffer far worse than the poorest of our citizens.
This does not mean that I don’t want to see equality in the United States. As part of our experiment in democracy this is something I seek. It is part of what it means to be an American who affirms “all men were created equal”. Yet we should not convalute our ideals with those of the Kingdom of God.
Where we find crossover we find our need to care for the poor, the physically impaired, the widow, the orphan, the elderly, and anyone our society deems “the least of these”. This doesn’t make Jesus a Marxist or even of socialist. Again, that would make Jesus fit in our system. We need to avoid minimizing Jesus into a set of principles oddly similar to our own (much like Jesus’ temple cleansing has been used as a parallel for anti-Wall Street demonstrations). I don’t know what the response is to a government that seems to make it more and more difficult on the least of these, but I think it is somewhere between challenging the State and acting as part of the solution ourselves. Often it is the second half of that equation that is far more difficult.
For my brothers and sisters who feel that their calling as Christians demands that they align with the Republicans or the Democrats, the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement, or whatever parties or systems your country uses, I pray for you in your endeavor. If you are seeking to represent Christ well then I hope you fulfill your calling. Let us not equate our personal callings as representatives of Christ with Christ’s agenda itself though. There is always some nuance wherein our fallibility distracts us from Christ’s mission. We can only seek to be in-tune with the Spirit as we await the day when Christ makes all our efforts into something more beautiful than we could construct on our own.