Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?

Well, Rowan Williams reckons he would, and who am I to argue with the Archbishop of Canterbury? Over the last few months, the Occupy movement has, perhaps inadvertantly, raised issues of how the church should engage with the protests. That’s particularly true of Occupy London, who are camped outside St. Pauls and who have pushed this whole debate into the public eye.

But I don’t think it’s as easy as saying Jesus would set himself up in a tent and attend workshops. He’d spend time there, sure, but I think he’d also spend a lot of time in the poverty-ridden estates that prompted the London Riots earlier this year. That’s the thing with Jesus – he never worked to the script, and deliberately went to places that the authority figures of his time had condemned. His concern for the poor, and the sick, and the outcast, led to direct action, no matter the cost to his reputation. Many will say the church shouldn’t be involved with politics – well, I’m not convinced that’s true. The church should be involved with people, and as the very word ‘politics’ means ‘relating to citizens’, it’s hard for the church not to get involved if it’s going to carry out its mission. Feeding the homeless, visiting prisoners, supporting the oppressed… These automatically become political statements.

But that works two ways, and if we’re looking at who Jesus would hang out with, then sorry but the 99% have to accept the fact he’d probably be going to meals with corrupt bankers – Zacchaeus may have been a very little man, but he was also a dodgy tax collector. And yet, through an encounter with Christ, he repented and made restitution for his past crimes. A Christian response to all this has to include the possibility – indeed the impetus – for redemption. I know I’ve expressed concerns about the 1%/99% dichotomy that’s becoming the slogan of the year, but I don’t believe for a second that Jesus would be demonising bankers – their actions, yes, but one of Jesus’s main themes was restoration – resurrection even.

(I also bet he wouldn’t surround an undercover police officer whilst chanting “scum”. Because he understood the importance of non-violence, and that the concept of non-violence extends to language as well.)

So let’s not kid ourselves, Jesus would probably end up provoking both the Daily Mail and the Guardian to eye-popping fury. In a polarised world, that might well be a good thing, and it acts as a warning against trying to co-opt Jesus – to paraphrase an internet meme, in Christianity, Jesus occupy you




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