“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Contrary to what some think, coveting is not just wanting something. Coveting is wanting something that belongs to someone else. God made it pretty clear about not coveting that which is your neighbor’s. (And of course, Jesus explained to us that our neighbor is essentially anyone else.)
But right now, in cities and countries all over, there are protests going on, getting rave reviews from liberals and the media, where the key ingredient is precisely this; covetousness. Much of what you hear from videos and their own website, even the whole 99% thing, is out of a want, not for money, but for the money of the “1%”. (But, because these things would be paid for by taxes, they’re really aiming for the wealth of the 53%.)
“You, cancel my loans!”
“You, pay me even when I’m not working!”
“You, finance my healthcare!”
And the target of their protests must pony up the cash. No, not “the 1%”, but the 53%, and their children. These protestors want their money; no their own. That is not at all to say that cancelling loans, unemployment benefits or subsidized healthcare are, in and of themselves, a bad thing in moderation, and when circumstances may warrant. But the method these “99%” suggest — more power to a government that got us into this situation in the first place — is both ironic and sad at the same time because they propose we keep digging the hole we’re in rather than get out of it.
(And, by the way, the folks who say they are 99% of the country? Not so much.)
We have some modicum of socialism in this country already — Social Security, Medicare, for examples — but these programs are going bankrupt. Social Security is now paying out more than it is taking in, and has been for a year now, because the socialized method used to pay for it couldn’t handle a Baby Boom. And yet these folks want the 1%/53% to finance yet another iteration of this.
The blame is misplaced, and the solution follows the direction of failed policies. So what’s a country to do?
Brett McCracken writing at his blog The Search sums things up well, both the issues and the solution.
As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organized grassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger, frustration, and antagonism against the “haves”–a suspiciously narrow (1%), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial success and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99% of us have-nots who are being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.
Mostly, though, Occupy Wall Street represents the natural discontent of an entitled generation raised on the notion that we deserve things, that the government owes us something, that everything we want should be accessible, and that somehow we are not responsible if we don’t end up quite as successful in life as we’d hoped. It’s a blame-shifting problem. It’s an inability to delay gratification or go without that which we believe is our right or destiny. And it’s a problem both on the micro/individual and macro/government level.
McCracken suggests that the blame is one that we all share, not just some tiny slice of us, from whom we need to extract our pound of flesh.
The thing is, “sharing blame” is hard for us humans to do. We’re infinitely averse to admitting our own culpability. In almost anything. Whether it be our own financial hardships, or those of our communities, or the high taxes under which we suffer… We have to lash out against someone. We have to go occupy something.
As Christians, though, I think we must first and foremost look within for the blame. We must own our share in the mess. Beyond institutions and hegemonies and Wall Street tycoons, how are we responsible for the trouble we’re in? True revolution begins here. True change begins with what we can actually control: our own lives, an awareness of our weaknesses and potentials, and a commitment to working to improve.
If we have to occupy something, let it be the dominion of our own culpable Self, the guiltiest of all institutions and the one we are likeliest to spur toward positive change.
I dare say that should this particular philosophy suddenly grip the Occupy Wall Street crowd, things might disperse rather quickly. Is there injustice in America? Yes, there is. But Jesus didn’t storm the house of Zacchaeus, among the “1%” of his day. Jesus didn’t complain that the government in Rome was unfair and make demands of it. He spoke truths to individuals, even the 1%ers. He changed hearts, which then changed the culture. Let’s follow that example instead.
Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.