A CNN anchor asked earlier this week whether or not Jesus would occupy Wall Street.
That question can be answered with a categorical “No.”
First, Jesus has no truck with rank, blatant hypocrites. The OWS crowd has now fallen to squabbling over who gets a slice of the $500,000 which has been donated to them, and which, by the way, they put in one of the evil, greedy banks they are out to destroy.
And the OWS crowd is thinking about incorporating! In other words, they’re about to become one of the evil corporations they claim to detest, as the Occupy Portland folks have already done.
And they’re royally hacked off at the vagrant homeless types trying to cadge free food from them. They’re going to feed them brown rice gruel this weekend instead of spaghetti bolognese to show them the depths of their compassion for the poor and downtrodden. No more soup for you!
So all of sudden that sharing the wealth business has lost its appeal. They’re tired of people freeloading off of them and taking advantage of them. To which we say, welcome to our world. Now you know why we have lost patience with all of liberalism and the entire welfare system.
So the OWSers want the greedy, evil corporations to share the wealth with them, but they don’t want to share their wealth with anybody, especially with the poor and needy flooding into their squatters’ camps. I’m sure Jesus would be happy to address the OWS crowd, and he’d probably begin his remarks with the scathing use of the word “hypocrites.”
Secondly, Jesus has no truck with those whose entire agenda is to flagrantly disobey two of the Ten Commandments of God.
God said, “Thou shalt not steal,” a commandment Jesus affirmed on numerous occasions. Stealing is wrong, and it doesn’t make it right when government does it under color of law.
But the OWS crowd wants to use the coercive power of government to take resources from some and involuntarily redistribute it to others. Namely, them. When government confiscates wealth by force from some citizens and transfers that wealth to others, that’s not welfare and it’s not compassion. It is nothing less than legalized plunder.
Jesus teaches the redistribution of wealth – as long as the transfer is voluntary. But he is adamantly opposed to the involuntary redistribution of wealth, because that violates the moral law of God and is profoundly wrong. His words to take care of the poor are not addressed to government, they are addressed to us.
And the OWS crowd is animated by a thoroughly ugly disregard for the 10th Commandment as well. God says, “Thou shalt not covet…any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” And yet the Occupiers are driven by a dark, bitter, resentful, angry and acquisitive greed for stuff that belongs to other people.
I submit that no political program that is predicated on a violation of twenty percent of God’s moral law can possibly be right, can possibly work, or can possibly be good for America.
Jesus took a whip to the thieves and the covetous in his day. If he were to come back and do the same thing today, he just might start in Zuccotti Park.
In other words, he might occupy Wall Street after all.
There will be no explanation forthcoming from Bryan Fischer as to why James the Just and his followers held “all things in common. As related in Acts, “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common…there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32-35).
Today’s fundamentalists hate the idea of a Jesus who actually cared about people, particularly about the poor and oppressed; they seethe at any suggestion of a Jesus concerned with issues of social justice. The Jesus of Bryan Fischer and his fellow fundamentalists, though he was a penniless Galilean peasant who lived a communal lifestyle with his disciples, seems paradoxically to have loved the rich and to have promoted the existing power structure.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was the ultimate redistributor of wealth and it is impossible to conceive of Jesus finding in favor of the Wall Street tycoons, or of a 1% that treats the 99% like the priestly aristocracy of his own country treated peasants like him. He despised the power structure of his day. And he was very, very, concerned by the plight of the underprivileged and oppressed. They were, he said, the people who would inherit the kingdom of God, while camels would fly through eyes of needles before rich men found salvation.
Worse yet, Jesus particularly cared for women – yes, the same gender who have become the ultimate enemy of Christian fundamentalism.
Bart Ehrman cites a few examples:
Jesus does speak with women in public and instructs them one on one (something unusual for a reputed teacher; see the independent traditions in Mark 7:27-28; John 4:7-26; 11:20-27); he urges at least one woman to be more concerned with hearing his teaching than doing womanly duties about the house (Luke 10:38-42); he publicly praises one for an act of kindness (Mark 14:6-9); and so on…women were clearly a central part of his mission.
And the poor? Read the Beatitudes. Who gets the Kingdom of God? The short answer is, the same people to whom Jesus preached his gospel: the poor (Matt. 11:15; Luke 7:22): “In this manifesto,” writes Geza Vermes, “admittance into the Kingdom is promised to the poor, the hungry and the thirsty for justice, the generous and merciful, the irenic, those who are prepared to sacrifice everything.” The first shall be last – the folks at the top of what Ehrman calls the “socio-politico-economic heap” would trade places with those above them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted;
Blessed are those who are meek, for they will inherit the earth;
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied (Matt. 5:3-6)
For Luke, Jesus actually says, “blessed are you who are poor” and Luke’s Jesus speaks of those who “hunger and thirst”.
Not only that, but Luke’s Jesus says something wholly reprehensible in the eyes of Bryan Fischer, and it’s no wonder he refuses to repeat it:
But woe to you who are wealthy, for you have your comfort (now); woe to you who are full now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who are rejoicing now, for you will mourn and weep. And woe when everyone speaks well of you; for so too did your ancestors treat the false prophets (Luke 6:24-26).
Ouch. Jesus didn’t like rich people much at all.
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and those who are humble shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14; Mark 23:12) are words he repeated in one form or another again and again: “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11) and “Whoever humbles himself as this small child, this is the one who is great in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). Are we to believe Jesus said this again and again and mean none of it; meant, in fact, the opposite? That is what Bryan Fischer would have you believe.
Jesus said, “Children, how hard is it to enter the kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:34-35; Matt. 19:24-25; Luke 18:25). The words and the meaning behind them left Jesus’ listeners in no doubt as to what he meant, and at whom his disapproval was directed. Yes, Jesus would Occupy Wall Street, but it is the bankers who would feel the wrath he visited upon the moneylenders in the Temple, not the poor and oppressed gathered outside seeking justice.
 On Wednesday, 10/26, “CNN Newsroom,” Washington, D.C.-based CNN contributor Carol Costello.
 See the discussion in Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus (Penguin, 2002), 44.
 Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford, 1999), 175-176
 Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (Penguin, 2003), 410
 Ehrman (1999), 148