Sojomail - October 20, 2011
“We should never adjust to one percent of the people controlling 40 percent of the wealth. I hear my father say, ‘We must have a radical revolution of values and reordering of priorities of this nation.’” – Bernice King, at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington D.C.
- (Source: New York Times)
In an international meeting last week with economists, business executives, non-profit organizational leaders, and theologians, my colleague Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Institute succinctly summed up the problems of the current global economy: it’s unfair, unsustainable, unstable, and is making many people unhappy. These issues of the “un-economy” were at the heart of our discussions at the World Economic Forum, and the Occupy Wall Street encampment I just visited in New York City.
From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money making more money for a new class of super rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle class insecurity, and shamefully, rising poverty rates.
Opportunity is a lost hope now for many now, as social mobility in America is now less than in Western Europe. And if you search the scriptures, you’ll find that God not only cares about poverty, but especially, unfairness and inequality. That’s what the young people at Wall Street are angry about.
It’s time to move from a narrowly defined shareholder economy to a stakeholder economy that includes workers, consumers, the environment , and future generations -- all in our economic calculations and decision-making.
Much of the most hopeful talk at the Occupy movement sites is about new economic approaches based on local, cooperative, and sustainable models of market activity. My god-daughter, Korla Masters, is engaged in the mushrooming urban gardening movement in my home town of Detroit, and she tells me that if only half the vacant land in the city were cultivated, it could provide up to three quarters of the need for vegetables and fruits in the Motor City—imagine non-petroleum based food economies with little transport involved.
So here’s our mission.
1. Don’t expect the Occupy Wall Street movement and sites across the nation and world to produce a set of demands. They are instead raising some fundamental questions about the un-economy, and creating the space for a new cultural and political conversation about it. It’s our job now to push that conversation forward— an especially good role for the faith community as our biblical values and theological assertions are integrally involved in these matters. It’s time to put our faith values forward in the midst of what could become a new global conversation about what a fair, sustainable, stable, and happy economy might look like.
2. Don’t worry about endorsing the Occupy Wall Street movement (all the diverse elements involved wouldn’t even endorse each other!), but rather engage it. I asked a young African American man I met at Occupy Wall Street what churches could do to help. He suggested three things: inspiration, consultation, and presence. I think that’s a very good guide. Worship services are already being held at many of the sites led by local clergy of many faiths. Take a potluck meal down to the site as a chance to sit, eat, and talk with the people there. Take your youth group, or members of your congregation down there after church just to see, meet, and listen. Offer the occupiers support—material and spiritual—along with prayer and love.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.
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Years ago Wallis began preaching the Gospel to whomever would listen by bringing with him an edition of the Bible that had had all the words about justice for the poor, the stranger and the marginalized, and fighting greed and oppression cut out of it. With all of those sections scissored out of it the book was so badly damaged that it was barely readable. The Bible was in tatters. And Wallis' point was made.+Click to continue
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While the two forums couldn’t have been more different, I was surprised to find that the heart of their concerns were the same. Both groups believe that our current governmental and economic systems are broken and that change will require both structural and moral overhaul.+Click to continue
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"The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience" was the focus of five special episodes that aired last week on PBS, the last of which featured the Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners and tireless champion for the poor.+Click to continue
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The New York Times
Publications like Books & Culture, Sojourners, and The Christian Century, offer an alternative to the self-anointed leaders. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage. They understand that Christian theology can incorporate Darwin’s insights and flourish in a pluralistic society.+Click to continue
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With the Occupy Wall Street protest entering its fifth week, there is no shortage of commentary reflecting Christian perspectives. Some, like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, are generally sympathetic to the protests.+Click to continue
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Tim King, the communications director at Sojourners, joined the protests. He said one of his goals is to look for God’s presence amidst the event. “I believe it’s often easier to find God on the streets than in a sanctuary. We serve a God who shows up for those in need, and for those who stand with them.”+Click to continue
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We’d also do well to heed the words of wisdom from veterans of those movements such as Jim Wallis – especially his reminder of how essential nonviolence is to effective protest. +Click to continue
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