Occupy Wall Street

It is almost impossible to miss the news coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protest being held in New York. This campaign has attracted attention from around the country and inspired similar protests around the world. A large group of New York religious leaders joined the protest a couple of weeks ago by parading from Judson Church to Zuccotti Park carrying a statue of a golden calf on their shoulders. This movement has become a focal point for people who are frustrated about the economic conditions of the country. Over the past couple of weeks I have heard lots of support for this movement from people of all walks of life. It is as if they are saying, “finally someone is doing something about this”—whether or not they agree with the tactics.

Our economic malaise, the gridlock in congress and the widening gap between the rich and the poor merge to make for a maddening situation. One number that crystallizes the disparity to me is that today the average American CEO makes 185 times what the average production worker earns while in 1965 the ratio was 24 to 1. I do not think the CEOs in 1965 were thought of as underpaid. We have indeed gotten off track as a nation.

It is important, though, to not just scapegoat one group in society. The big banks are indeed a big part of the problem, but we also need to recognize this is not confined to a few greedy individuals, but is about a society in which the pursuit of personal gain—financial, power, fame, etc.—has completely surmounted concerns for the common good. We live in a time where it is OK, and even encouraged, to be concerned only for oneself, even if it hurts others. We celebrate rich icons much more than we emphathize with the poor. It is only now that the middle class is feeling such pain that voices are being raised for fairness in the nation’s economic policies.

Occupy Wall Street should also be a time to occupy ourselves. To protest the values of personal gain that permeates our communities. Our nation, and our environment, needs a renewed commitment to the common good so that we all may live together in harmony and in health. I pray that our church may continue to be a place where we focus on loving our neighbors and seeking ways for fairness to prevail for all.

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