Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Time To Choose

Since the early days of the Occupy Movement, I and many other scattered believers have been calling on the Church to throw our support behind the call for economic justice and global repentance. Some Christians have been openly involved from the very beginning, and more of us become involved every day.

The Occupy Movement continues to gain momentum, a month and a half later. There is now widespread support for the sentiment expressed by the hundreds of occupations in cities around the world: That corporate greed and the hoarded wealth of the richest 1% are unjust, and that the world needs a new, sustainable economic model that is based in the needs of all people, not just the wealthy few.

Anyone who read the Sermon on the Mount could have told you that. So why has the Church remained silent for so long? The followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of movements for economic justice and sustainability; yet, the Church has largely remained on the sidelines.

In London, the Occupation is taking place on the grounds of St. Paul's Cathedral, one of the crown jewels of the Anglican Church. Though this presented an opportunity for the Church to provide both material and moral support to the occupiers, St. Paul's Cathedral has instead joined in a lawsuit to remove demonstrators from church grounds. The result of the lawsuit could be the forceable removal of the occupiers. This decision has percipitated a serious split among cathedral officials, with several resigning in protest.

The public division within the Church in London is emblematic of the dilemma facing the entire Body of Christ. In the face of rising poverty, systematic injustice and a corporate takeover of the political system, how are we as Christians called to respond? Will we cling to the imagined security of this present order, or will we stand openly with the thousands of women and men who are putting their bodies on the line to call for a more just society?

So far, most of us have yet to make a clear choice. Much of the Church stands on the sidelines, waiting to see which way the wind will turn. God hates this. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the fence-riding Church, saying: "...because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked."(1)

How long will we remain a Laodicean Church? How long will we sit comfortably on the sidelines while the poor are oppressed and the needs of ordinary people are trampled upon by faceless powers and principalities? Will we keep our hands clean from the messy business of social justice when this is precisely the work that our Lord Jesus calls us to?

God is calling us to make a decision. There is still time to stand on the side of the outcast, the homeless, the working poor and the tightly-squeezed middle class. There is still time to add our voices to those who have already raised theirs, calling for a changed heart in this land.

But time is running out. As my friend Noah writes, "...this opening to choose won't last forever. In faithfulness, timing matters as much as showing up." Our day of visitation is here. Will we respond in faith, or will we shrink back and take the wide, easy path that leads to destruction?

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1. Revelation 3:16-17

2 comments:

thebicyclethief said...

very well put ... it should be a 'no-brainer' for all Christians ... the C of E can still redeem itself hopefully!

smithj1@unisa.ac.za said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and agree with much of what you say on this topic.

I do hope you won't be offended if I say that I think you have rather over-simplified the situation at St Paul's (I am an Anglican).

The sad irony is that the occupiers have rather chosen to bully the C of E rather than pitch their tents "just up the road" in the City itself where, as one commentator said, the bankers are going about their unethical business unhindered.

The church authorities have repeatedly come out in support of the occupiers and have graciously asked them to leave the grounds. I am not the only person who feels that the occupiers' refusal to comply with this request makes them look boorish and churlish.

Of course, you would be quite right in saying that Christ would not endorse the building of cathedrals and the owning of property, as practised by the Church of Rome, the C of E and the Eastern Church.

Unfortunately, though, none of us can undo the past.

Thank you for reading this comment.

Jane Smith (Pretoria, South Africa)