Occupy Chicago and the religious right

I just finished writing an article about four Forest Parkers who have been participating in the Occupy Chicago protests down at LaSalle and Jackson and in Grant Park, and what struck me was how much of the language they used to articulate their motivations for protesting was religious, or at least ethical.


We are the church ladies we represent the diversity of the 99%  and are here to show that Christians aren’t just right wing conservatives.  Liberal Christians love Jesus too.

— We also believe true lasting change only comes with a change of the heart, so we are calling on the 1% to repent of their addiction to greed and the 99% to repent of their apathy.

that philosophy that freedom in this country means I have the freedom to succeed and grasp wealth at the expense of whatever it takes to get my own and that seems to be the operating imperative of how one becomes successful in life these days, survival of the fittest, that is the banner that gets held up as to what it is to be an American, if your read constitution and the documents of the founding of this country freedom and liberty and justice for all, it’s not about the freedom to trounce on people they think are lesser than them, it’s about building a just society,  and building a just society meaning doing what we do and have freedom and care for one another and we don’t lose our humanity

I chose on my little sign to speak about greed and apathy because those are both deadly sins and I do believe that those are the energies that have captured the imagination of America, that people have either given in to greed want to be rich or are rich and that breeds apathy if you constantly hungering after something you don’t have you stop caring about what really matters you lose your moral compass.

I think of it from a Christian perspective.  It’s a moral revolution.  All my life I have tried to live the beatitudes.  It’s about trying to live Christianity.  It’s about trying to live what the beatitudes ask us to do in terms of living justly.

The questions in the intervie got me thinking about my involvement in OWS  and given me thoughts for reflection..  Bottom line – my “anger”- as I guess it always is – is all about fear.  It’s too bad we have to spend our present in fear of tomorrow…..I’m working on that trust God thing!


The religious right uses a lot of religious language, too, of course.  The difference, it seems to me, is in the two words liberty and justice. . .for all.  The religious right seems to emphasize the liberty part, i.e. people ought to be free to stand or fall on their own.  They focus on individual responsibility.


In contrast, the Occupy Chicago protestors seem to emphasize the justice part, i.e. that when individual responsibility is the rule, then you have a Darwinian survival of the fittest situation.  That, they argue, is contrary to what Jesus taught.  Compassion, they say, should be the primary value.


My impulse is to side with the theological liberals.  The reason I don’t is because I think they are naïve.  Compassion should be the guiding value, but because human nature is fallen, compassion always gets distorted into enabling, just as freedom always slides into exploitation and manipulation by the powerful.


The ideal this side of heaven seems to be a tension between the two, i.e. a creative dialectic in which both freedom and justice are honored.  The reason I lean towards the left right now is because I think the tension has been weakened on the justice pole and strengthened too much on the freedom side of the dialectic.



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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...