Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Evangelical Left's Nostalgia Trip Down Wall Street

Mark Tooley, who is always worth reading, has some thoughts on the embrace of Occupy Wall Street by left-wing leaders. (Why, by the way, are those leaders always jumping on secular bandwagons to prove their relevance?)

In an article entitled, "Religion Flocks to Wall Street" he writes:

Because they are Americans, the Wall Street Occupiers are suffused with messianic purpose, as are nearly all our nation's American political crusades. But the often raggedy Occupiers themselves do not seem specifically oriented towards organized religion.

Not to worry. Religious Leftists of all sorts have rallied to the Occupiers' bedraggled banners. Guided by the Social Gospel's emphasis on social justice over theological details, these religionists discern God's Kingdom among the squatters' tents and sleeping bags. One group of clergy visited while carrying a mock golden idol shaped like the dreaded Wall Street Bull, the very incarnation of greed.

Praising the Occupation is a gamble for liberal evangelicals, who have tried so hard to appear centrist in recent years, anxious to softly persuade suburban churchgoers to abandon their conservative voting habits. Oldline Protestant elites, along with left-wing Catholic activists, of course welcome the Occupation as a long overdue 1960s revival.

After reviewing the police lineup of the usual suspects from the Episcopal, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and Methodist church hierarchies, Tooley comes back to left-wing Evangelicals.

This call towards utopia, enshrouded simultaneously in grievance, entitlement, idealism, and youthful naiveté, has understandably seduced old-style street activists like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, or even Brian McLaren of the emergent church movement. "When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus," Wallis has pronounced, even before himself visiting the Occupation, which doubtless only amplified his excited nostalgia. "'The occupation of God has begun'" might inspire the same fear and hope among people today as 'the Kingdom of God is at hand' inspired in the first century," gushed McLaren, after attending his own local Occupation protest.

Indeed, I'll bet Jim Wallis is re-living his old Students for a Democratic Society days as he basks in the glow of the nostalgia. Is Brian McLaren even aware of how much he sounds like old-fashioned, early 20th century social gospelers when he compares the latest social trend to the kingdom of God?

I sometimes wonder if they grasp just how out of date they really are; the leftists who operated in the pre-World War I era and pre-Soviet era could be excused to some extent because they had never seen the fruits of Communism (although they should have been warned by the orgy of violence that was the French Revolution). But to gush about "equality" and "building the kingdom" with secular protest movements today is to have one's feet embedded in the cement of nostalgia while the parade passes by.

Representing a newer generation of Evangelical liberal is Shane Claiborne, a winsome young white man who typically sports dreadlocks, a bandana, and a rustic smock, while proclaiming good news for the poor to attentive middle class evangelical students. "In a world where 1 percent of the world owns half the world's stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed," he recently insisted. "Lots of folks are beginning to say, 'Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.'"

The dubious statistic about the wicked "1 percent" aside, Claiborne speaks some truth. But he and the other religious enthusiasts for Wall Street aren't calling for individuals to shed their wealth for God's Kingdom. Of course, they primarily want an all powerful state to seize and redistribute wealth according to some imagined just formula, after which the lion will lie peaceably with the lamb. It's a utopian dream, not based on the Gospels, always monstrous when attempted, and premised more on resentment than godly generosity. But it's a message that will always have an audience in a covetous world.

What strikes me is the insight Tooley offers in the last sentence. Is it not transparently obvious that the whole appeal of the OWS protests to the ordinary, fuzzy-minded, college kids with iPhones and $100K of student load debt is nothing other than plain covetousness? The Gospel is about generosity; socialism is about forced redistribution. Why is this? Because the Gospel changes lives while socialism fiddles around with social structures. Socialism cannot make people generous; only the indwelling Spirit of God can do that.

But really, religious leaders promoting covetousness??? I suppose it is no stranger than religious leaders promoting fornication . . . or divorce . . . or murdering pre-born babies. Breaking the Ten Commandments seems to be just what the Religious Left does.

4 comments:

4simpsons said...

Excellent analysis! These people are all about covetousness. Jim "the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution" Wallis continues to pretend that his Soros-supported agenda is centrist. And McLaren isn't even close to holding Christian views.

Kent said...

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but ... is there nothing in OWS that speaks to/from the Gospel as you know it? Is there no value in being concerned that the gap between rich and poor in America is growing (rather than receding or just being stable)? Is there nothing in the Gospel about wealth redistribution? Has every Christian who gives any support to OWS lost his/her bearings? What evangelical Christians seem best at doing is painting with a BIG brush. Surely Wallis and McLaren and Claiborne know a somehting about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do we just have to write them off without any engagement on these issues?

Craig Carter said...

Kent,
I assume that OWS is promoting less capitalism and more socialism. If I am wrong about that, & can be shown to be wrong,then I will alter my evaluation of OWS.

But as things stand, it seems obvious to any unbiased observer that the OWS movement is compromised of hard-left agitators manipulating a lot of naive, utopian young people incapable of critical thinking and motivated primarily by images & emotions.

Given this analysis, OWS is wrong to attack only Wall St. & not the Federal government, which caused much of the mess. To think that more govt. regulation is the answer to a problem caused by too much bad govt. regulation is to be irrational. What is needed is less govt. interference in the market. Businesses, including banks, need to stand on their own two feet and succeed and fail based on honest competition. When the government prevents this from happening it is hurting everybody.

Evangelicals who support OWS are hurting the poor most of all because socialism hurts the poor by causing poverty and diminishing economic growth, which the way out of poverty for most people. Evangelicals are being used as dupes by hard core leftists who know exactly what they are doing and who want to destroy capitalism.

This is unfortunate, but it is the case. Romantic dreams of income equality are no substitute for economic growth, higher employment and opportunities for individuals and businesses alike.

Craig Carter said...

Kent,
If you want an argument in support of my contentions about OWS, check out my latest post "Should Christians Be Concerned about Income Equality?"