On Friday the 7th of October I took a stroll down to Wall Street to see the “Occupy Wall Street” protest that had been going on for a couple weeks now. I was impressed with what I saw and taking my blackberry with me I took a couple of poor quality pictures. One of these pictures I uploaded on facebook only with the accompanying message that I had stopped by to see the protest (I neither stated my support or opposition for the event). However I was impressed at the reception that it received both in positive and negative expressions. Obviously something big is happening here and it is generating some strong feelings.
It would be hard for me to describe this movement as I was able to see various positions and issues that members of this movement choose to articulate. Some of the positions I
could very much embrace while others I felt uncomfortable with. However I have to recognize the importance of the core critique that this movement is offering and it very much resonates with my own concern for the political future of this nation and the stance (or lack thereof) that it has with regards to poverty and hunger policies.
These past two years have seen the rise of the tea party and with it many anti-government positions have been expressed. Along the way there have been some concerns regarding Wall Street and the inequality of the American economy but as far as policies go the only development has been to request for less taxes and less government regulations (both policies that are usually pro-big business). This past year saw the Supreme Court passing the “Citizen’s United” case that gave further power to Corporations and big business by granting them easier access in financially influencing politics. In the eyes of many who have been critical of Wall Street and growing economic divide in our country this development is alarming.
From what I could see the “Occupy Wall Street” movement directed its many issues to the great economic imbalance that is currently our reality and which we will suffer further with the threat of budget cuts to basic social services for the poor and low-income communities as part of the deficit reduction plan. This coupled with the fervent cry by those on the political right to not raise any taxes on the wealthy and to lower even further regulations on business (as a way to save money) creates an environment of anger and disillusionment to a system that seeks to preserve an unsustainable and unequal economic reality.
On Sunday the 10th of October a group of faith based leaders came down to Wall Street with a Golden Calf to symbolize the state of national idolatry that many people are witnessing. The idol is an ancient one, money. Matthew 6:24 has Jesus cautioning us to always beware of this false idol and to be critical of an orientation to wealth over policies of justice for the people. In various Christian social positions many churches have warned about the idolatry of wealth and profit. In Catholic tradition we were reminded by current Pope that “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.”
Religious leaders like our own Rev. David Beckmann remind us of the Prophetic tradition and how the words of the Prophets (not profits) out to be critically heard with regards to tackling deep economic issues like the plan to reduce the deficit. Rev. Beckmann tells us in his most recent book Exodus from Hunger: “The Prophets repeatedly insisted that the way to national security and prosperity was to worship the real God and to establish justice for the poor and needy people.” However one wished to categorize the “Occupy Wall Street” movement I would like to take this opportunity to have us reflect on our national policies from this tradition of our faith and to raise the concern that many are expressing with regards to the unsustainable idolatry of wealth.