Occupy Wall Street, the Church, and the Apocalypse

How long have we been comfortable in the 1st world church? Nourishing ourselves on the warm broth of prayer and fellowship, resting and gathering strength, singing worship songs that seek an inward peace from God, a strengthened personal faith.

How much time do we spend on theologies seeking to eradicate lust, or to be more grateful for what we have? How long have we spent on our morning devotions, alone?

As another time understood, “Idle hands are the devils playthings.”

It’s not so much that the 1st world church isn’t busy with the tasks before it, but rather, what is before it is its own personal care. The church has become chaplain to itself rather than chaplain to the world. And I mean, world, in the Christian sense. It’s nourishing itself rather than nourishing those who are outside its fold. It has ignored a missional call, exchanging it for self care.

We are taking care of those in the 1st world church who are unhappy in spite of wealth, stuck at jobs where they feel like a cog, suffering from diseases that are the result of a fast-paced lifestyle filled with unhealthy foods, stress, and environmental toxins, with minds crippled by the parade of consumer goods and unrealistic lives we watch on television to calm ourselves after a day that leaves us strangely unsatisfied.

And are we nourished? Are we yet strong enough to act in nonviolence as the hands and feet of Christ in this world? Or are our muscles atrophied from disuse?

Yes, we are the 99%. We have mortgages, families, and spend 50 billion on household pets, while millions starve. Some of use are the 53%. Some are even the 1%.

But there is something that is looming on the horizon, some rough beast slouches towards our bed, where we sleep fitfully, waiting for our alarm’s call to beckon us to another day of work.

On the horizon is the spectre of world-devouring capitalism. Not compassionate capitalism, mind you. This is a beast that sweeps aside safety regulations, human rights, and decency. It poisons whole communities and oceans. It speculates, greedily inflating economies with empty promise, only to play dead and steal 400 billion dollars from not just the US treasury, but the world.

It is the walking dead, the machine that nobody is responsible for, the zombie profit-machine that nobody set in motion but we all tend, it feeds on the blood of the earth, oil, and crushes the poor with its stride. Nobody, supposedly, is guiding it, but if it is not fed, it, being “too big to fail” will collapse and crush all the people and houses that it walks among.

Church, this is what is coming towards you. You were giving the charge by Jesus to be salt and light of the earth. You are the guardians of love, self-sacrifice, frugality, humility. You are the watchmen, the lamp. Where are you now? Where are you as this rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem, towards your families, currencies, and mortgages?

Awaken, slumberer! You have grown fat, yes, and anxious. But throw off your blankets and heed this midnight call!

Or all that you have lived for will be destroyed. View my vision. Tell me it cannot be.

Population growth will continue. If we make cheap, easy choices influenced by corporate lobbies like oil, we will expand mining of the Tar Sands and other less-available resources rather than switching to renewable resources.

Brave New Films

The air will choke with the burning of natural resources, causing global warming. Desertification will grip the drylands. The seas will rise. Factory labor will continue, producing environmental toxins which we don’t know how to remove. The air will heat, changing the climate. The fragile, beautiful animals, plants, and people will die. The barren earth will be littered with beautiful, twitching butterflies.

Populations will crush into already packed urban centers. Over the next 50 years, mercury and other toxins, the result of coal burned power and other industry, collects in the fish and water, causing madness among the poor. The walls around the gated communities will grow, militarize. Gas masks will appear in ordinary life as the air is poisoned. The drums of war will sound as the weapons lobby seizes its moment, when whole countries become deserts, uninhabitable, like the Spanish farms.

Earthquakes and tsunamis will increase in frequency, starvation, wars and rumors of war, signs of the biblical apocalypse, not brought on by God, but by our own greed, crucifying the earth itself as we crucified Christ.

This is but one vision, there are many others. Possible worlds, they exist if we do not take action. They exist if we do not tear ourselves away from the forces that demand a quick profit without looking at the future, forces that are deeply embedded in our political processes, suborning our democratic processes with quick and easy money and facile tongues.

Nobody was at the helm, you will say. Certainly it was not I who piloted the earth’s death machine, you will say. I had bills to pay and a mortgage. I had to drive to work because there was no suitable public transportation. And you will be right. You did not do it.

But you know what? Your grandchildren will not care. Asthmatic, they will simply focus, as you and I did, on surviving the harsh climate of avaricious capitalism.

This is the clarion. Awake! Stand up to the companies that seek profit above human rights and the environment. Demand the the government extricate itself from the big money influences of oil, weapons manufacturers, and the private prison lobby. Organize.

Occupy wall street and occupy church. Are the protesters too dirty, young, or radical? They are the only people who can afford to spend 24/7 at a permanent encampment. Thank them for doing that for you. And maybe come down once a week with your nice sleeping bag and tent. Be respectable, and be among them. Wear your suit and be proud of what you have worked to be, if you are proud of it. If you don’t like them, organize yourselves. But occupy, sleeper. Join the clarion call! Raise your voice.

Repent! Repent. And in repentance, walk towards your own salvation, the salvation of the church, and the salvation of this country, and the earth.

Who am I? I am a sleeper, wakening.

Jeremy has been an activist ever since he accidentally ate the red pill instead of the more harmless blue one. He converted to Christianity while serving a six-month prison term for civil disobedience to close the School of the Americas. He blogs and tweets about faith. He serves as a volunteer chaplain to OccupyDC with the OccupyChurch movement.

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  • Thank you, Jeremy!  This is what scares me – Christians who dare to take Jesus and the Bible seriously in action.  Scares me because I, too, am too comfortable.  Thanks again!

  • Benmanben

    I don’t think I have to agree with you.
    Please put up a mature argument on a site relating to economics or politics if you like, but please don’t post on a site dedicated to preaching Christianity.
    Your arguments don’t seem well formed to me. I feel like I’m reading a poem written by a person having trouble expressing himself. Please decide on the purpose of a protest before protesting, as this whole idea of blocking up traffic doesn’t seem to me to be very Christian at all, and I believe some people have had daily troubles and stresses added on by this movement. 
    If you want to help people, you may have to be a little more helpful than standing in the middle of a park or sidewalk and blocking people from getting to work.

    What do you mean by “occupy”? Are you trying to be vague because you don’t know what the steps are to create the society you want, or are afraid of those steps, or don’t want to share what those steps are?
    I think many of us visiting this site don’t like what’s posted on it,
    and have commented about that before.

    Perhaps you won’t mind, or might even encourage, us occupying this site with our “negative” comments.

    • Aaaaaaaaaargh

      Hi Ben,

      I find myself responding to you often and I’ll try to be nice, since dissenting voices do have a right to be here.  

      You have expressed disbelief, on numerous occasions, that people can hold the kind of views predominant among this site’s contributors and still consider themselves Christians.  I would challenge you to think about the Bible’s complexity and length; perhaps you will come to realize that there are multiple ways of interpreting many parts of it.  It’s not so clear to me that Jesus wasn’t a “socialist” (acknowledging the anachronism of that statement).  You and I obviously disagree on that.  I’m also not so sure that blocking traffic is necessarily an “un-Christian” activity.  In light of your requests to the author of this post, I have one for you: please stop assuming that anyone whose belief in God leads them to take on political causes that you don’t agree with is therefore not a Christian.  It’s a big tent, brother.

      • scrapiron

        Amen, Aaaaaaaaargh. I’d like to add to this…”please stop assuming that anyone whose belief in God leads them to take on political causes that you don’t agree with is therefore not a Christian…” by saying please stop assuming that anyone whose belief in God leads them to take on political causes that you don’t agree with (or understand, maybe?) is immature.”

        • Thank you, @90e56bbfb097eb56cc94a4c7a3179e88:disqus and @7115ea7da70302f73a158f19460dcc42:disqus

          The problem is that @09131c899b5e8534b046ceac5c038526:disqus and (some) other evangelicals have spiritualized God and Christ to the point that they are no longer relevant to our daily lives, our jobs and our economics.

          Simply calling Jesus “Lord” or the “Son of God” was subversive of Ceaser’s power in his day. When we de-policitize Jesus, we make it easy for us to lead lives that are not fully impacted by the Gospel.

          • Benmanben

            So do you believe that Genesis should be read as a scientific explanation for the creation of Earth?
            If you say no, are you sure you aren’t… de-science-ing God?

          • Benmanben

            As a side note, I don’t think Genesis was written as a “scientific” explanation for the creation of Earth.

          • Benmanben

            I should also say that I believe the Earth was made less than a million years ago, so don’t get too excited.

          • Benmanben

            As a side note, I don’t think Genesis was written as a “scientific” explanation for the creation of Earth.

        • Benmanben

          I don’t think I ever said that a person with the political view mentioned in the article could not be Christian. I am entirely sure how you read my comment this way. I was trying to suggest that a Christian can ALSO be of a different political belief than the one mentioned here.

      • Benmanben

        Oh, I’m sorry if I came off that way. That was not my intention.

        When I mention this being a Christian site, I’m not trying to say that these political views are anti-Christian. I apologize if I have said that.
        What I mean to say is that  the Bible doesn’t specifically say that one of these political views is right, and the other wrong. Perhaps I poorly worded myself.
        I am not so upset at the idea of a Christian having these views, as I am at the suggesting that a Christian SHOULD have these political view. 
        I felt as if my political view was being attacked as non-Christian.

        Although I can sort of understand how you understood what I was saying,
        I don’t think you can find me ONCE saying that a person cannot be a socialist and a Christian. I believe a Christian COULD be of many different political beliefs.
        That was more or less what I was trying to say.
        I thought this person was suggesting that a Christian basically HAD to believe in this movement.

        Perhaps you misread.

        • Aaaaaaaaaargh

          Ben, thanks for your gentle reply.  I was commenting on the general impression I’ve got from many of your posts–a constant sense of disbelief over the views expressed here, as if they’re bordering on heresy.  Perhaps I misunderstood you.  I too believe that a Christian may be of many political beliefs; that’s why I called it a big tent.  I don’t necessarily believe all of those political beliefs are equally correct, of course, which is where we can at least agree on something…

        • Aaaaaaaaaargh

          Ben, thanks for your gentle reply.  I was commenting on the general impression I’ve got from many of your posts–a constant sense of disbelief over the views expressed here, as if they’re bordering on heresy.  Perhaps I misunderstood you.  I too believe that a Christian may be of many political beliefs; that’s why I called it a big tent.  I don’t necessarily believe all of those political beliefs are equally correct, of course, which is where we can at least agree on something…

      • Keith Carr61

        Mr. Pirate, I will take you to task and address your comments. I can and will  make the statement that socialism is NOT what Jesus preached. It is very clear to me that your support of these so-called protestors that you misunderstand what humbleness, and turn the other cheek mean. There is nowhere in the Bible that justifies the violent and physical protest that is going on with these ignorant, deadbeats who have been led to believe that they “deserve” to live a certain life-style and be forgiven of debt that “they” incurred  FREELY. All you deserve my friend is DEATH and HELL which is exactly why my God died for all of us. Above all he calls for denial of self, which is totally NOT in the picture if you watch these demonstrators. I submit to you that if you can justify a group of these thugs hurting senior citizens at a ‘tea party’ meeting then you my friend are not on the side of Christ. I can and will make these statements freely and unabated. The tent you speak of doesnt include misrepresentation of scripture. This “cancer” is starting to swell and will lead to violence….Is that what you think God wants?  Every time I think of unions, entitlement programs, etc… I realize that we are the most spoiled people of the face of this earth. Once again I will tell you what you deserve…..No what God tells you that you deserve….DEATH and HELL…..not a 3000 sq ft home with a new car…or   a job that pays 75k per year….nope you are way off base and so are the others who agree with the OWS crowd. 

        • Aaaaaaaaaargh

          Ahoy matey.  Regarding “turn the other cheek,” there’s a fascinating exegesis of the concept by a guy named Walter Wink that accords quite well with more radical action and is fully rooted in scripture.  Many of this site’s posters have been influenced by it.  Just so you know that they’re not just making this up as they go along.  “Misrepresentation of scripture” is a meaningless charge, because I think my beliefs are rooted in scripture too.  It’s just a different interpretation than yours.  How do you know for a fact that I’m wrong?

          I’m not a protestor, but I’m disappointed by your characterization of the whole group as a bunch of ignorant deadbeats.  It’s pretty dehumanizing language.  And about protestors hurting senior citizens–to me that’s just proof that these radical movements could really use more Christians committed to a peaceful witness of nonviolence to hold the thugs in line.

          And by the way…I don’t particularly want a huge house or new car.  A new pirate ship might be useful though.

    • scrapiron


      Sorry, man.  I think I do have to disagree with you.  This rant by Jeremy Johns expresses what I have been driven to be passionate about by reading my Bible, praying and watching my world happen for the last 50 years, as I have taken the long, prayerful, introspective journey from right-wing fundamentalist to left-leaning follower of Jesus. We Christians can no longer stand aside and assume that what we have allowed to happen in America and the developed world is OK, just because it developed in America and we have “In God we Trust” on our coins.  What Jesus taught has got to be the standard.  Jesus created the planet, humans created capitalism.  Which one is more basic and should be of greater concern?  I don’t know how you can place protecting the rapacious capitalist economy before people and the environment, which are clearly concerns to Jesus, and therefore should be to me. 

      • Benmanben

        As I’ve tried to say before,
        I don’t think EITHER political view is specified in the Bible as being right or wrong.

        I don’t ever recall mentioning “In God We Trust” on our coins having anything to do with whether the Bible talks about this or not.

        Humans also created the internet, but you don’t seem to have a problem with that.

        • scrapiron

          Again, I’ll have to disagree.  While I would agree that no political party is specified in the Bible as being right or wrong, even a casual reading of the Mosaic law and the Minor Prophets would have to lead one to the conclusion that God cares a great deal about social justice.  The New Testament echos and even amplifies those sentiments.

          I didn’t say you said anything about “In God We Trust.”  If you’ll read more carefully, that sentence began with “We Christians…” so I was talking about all of us, not only you.

          I have used the internet daily for decades.  However, if somehow my access to the Internet becomes more important to me than seeing justice done and attempting to halt the destruction of people and creation, I would hope someone would call me to task, as I have tried to do for you.  People getting to their jobs on time isn’t the biggest problem we face.  The continuation of a “business as usual” attitude toward this worship of economic growth as it plunders the environment and impoverishes our most vulnerable people is a much bigger issue.  Now is the time to address it.  

  • Midnightwatch
  • LT

    Jeremy, this song is for you, enjoy…


  • Holldoug

    What I want to know is why isnt this ‘outrage’ ever directed against the abortion companies who make money killing defenceless babies ? Mind you that would make the Christian protest movement fall foul of the left so perhaps understandable. Why not ‘Occupy Abortion Clinics’ to put an end to this form of death penalty against unborn babies ?

    • Scrapiron

      Maybe you haven’t been watching the news for, oh about the last 30 years or so, but there actually has been a lot of fairly sustained outrage against abortion providers.  I think many of us who are/were active in that movement are beginning to realize that working toward a world where there is less demand for abortion is more realistic than trying to stop abortions by either legal action or protests at clinics. 

      • Holldoug

        Mmm….see any threads here about ‘Occupy Abortion Clinics’ ? Not posts but actual threads. I see many Christians throwing their lot in with radicals ( and dare I say violent ones ) about occupying Wall Street and various other CBDs worldwide but I dont see any hint of occupy abortion clinics Scrapiron. Likewise there are lots of noises about pacifism and non-violence against Al-Quaeda and various other Islamic findamentalist murder gangs but little being said here about pacificism and non-violence against innocent unborn babies dissected to death in some cases for being inconvenient. The centre of gravity of debate on this board seems unduly balanced towards favoured left wing causes IMHO rather than a balanced perspective and that makes me doubt the sincerity and intellectual base of it all.

        • The Catholics have that covered. I work next to a clinic, and there’s a full time occupation.

          Sorry, but I think I’ll ignore abortion (what young women and unmarried people are doing) and focus on the log in my own eye, the problems with the products I purchase, the human rights and environmental impacts thereof.

          • Benmanben

            Given a comment you appeared to have made about me “de-politicizing Jesus”,
            you at least weren’t focusing on the long in your own eye THEN.

    • The church would sacrifice the born for the unborn. I prefer to think about extreme poverty and human rights over and above abortion. If we fixed poverty, abortions would be much rarer. There are statistics to back that up.

      • Holldoug


        ” If we fixed poverty, abortions would be much rarer.” That may be true but a proportion of abortion in the first world is performed for convenience.

  • Tinksdad

    or maybe not…

  • Pat-Man

    Real Christians do not Occupy anything but their own lives and salvation.  Do you really think you do good by hurting, annoying, or inconveniencing others?  If it is truth that does this, then it is well.  But if it is your own selfishness and desire to foist your political agenda upon those unwilling to share your conclusions, you are inspired by the father of chaos not the God of order.  Walk toward your own salvation?, yes.  Share the truth you now imperfectly understand?, yes.  Judge that people seek profit “above human rights and the environment”?, Be very circumspect about that one, for with the same judgement which ye judge, ye shall also be judged. Compassionate Capitalism? Compassion is a trait of the soul, not so much a trait of a philosophy. Where is it compassionate and where is it malevolent?  I have heard OWS folks say that ALL profit is bad.  Wherever you draw your line, remember, the only safe place to judge profit, is when you judge your own.  It is perilous indeed to start judging others. Besides, we should never forget that it is the very fact that we have Capitalism that enables us to even blog here.  The spectre of natural disasters brought on by profiteers has been proffered by doomsayers since time began, usually to help move forward their unholy agendas, yet it is only in the lands where profit is legal that the poor are not really poor, and opportunity actually exists to raise yourself and others.  Capitalism has done more for the poor in the world to be able to no longer be poor, than any other thing.  I am considered to be poor, at least here in America, but I know that compared to the REAL poor, in countries where others judge as to the rightness or wrongness of people’s actions, I am wealthy indeed. For I am free to both succeed or fail.

  • Colin Bain

    Just to check out the Bible. Jesus occupied a seat at the table of the 1% in his day. Matthew and Zaccheus. Jesus occupied the seats at the tables of his disciples, some of whom were quite poor, others not. Jesus occupied the streets and the deserts and the synagogues. He was criticised by all and finally he occupied the cross. He will occupy the throne of heaven.
    His focus was on persons, individually. His focus was to refocus people on the most important thing of all. The rest just follows naturally, or perhaps more accurately, supernaturally.
    Let us not take sides, but simply focus on the best and let him guide us to do the rest!

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Last Thursday afternoon, I read an article by Jim Wallis, the CEO of Sojourners, in which he described his conversation...