- (Photo: Reuters/Luke MacGregor)
The Guardian, an influential British daily, has published a piece Thursday which claims the "Occupy London" movement – especially protesters camping in front of the St. Paul's Cathedral – falls pretty close to what Jesus was doing when he chased the money changers out from the Jerusalem temple.
The steps of the historic St. Paul's Cathedral in London has been the British counterpart to New York's Zuccotti Park in recent weeks, as the both settings have become the camping ground for protesters. The Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral stepped down Tuesday amid tremendous scrutiny for the way the site's employees were handling the issue created by the movement. Graeme Knowles said in a statement, "Since the arrival of the protesters' camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues."
Meanwhile, Terry Eagleton, the Guardian's columnist and British literary critic, wrote a piece Thursday in which he claims that the protesters "are true followers of Jesus, even if they despise religion."
Eagleton referred in his writing to the story of Jesus chasing the money changers out of the Jerusalem temple (Matthew 21:12, for example).
"Jesus was not an anti-capitalist, any more than Dante was a Darwinist. But he was ready to risk death in order to defend what he saw as an authentic form of giving against a system that impoverished it," the journalist wrote. "As such, he would probably have understood what those currently shivering outside St Paul's are up to. They have certainly managed to throw the ruling caste of a holy place into an unholy panic, just as he did. And to that extent they are his followers, however much some of them may now understandably despise religion."
What Jesus got angry about was that the money changers made it easier for worshipers to buy animals to sacrifice, which would make the act of sacrifice less genuine, the writer claims in his interpretation of the Scripture.
"He thought that a gift should be in some way intimately expressive of the giver, and that the temple system broke this vital bond. The whole process had become automated and depersonalized," the columnist continues. "In this, Jesus was at one with a later Jewish prophet, Karl Marx, whose concept of alienation involves just such a break between the product and the producer."
The question of whether Jesus would occupy Wall Street was already asked in New York, where these protests targeting bankers and the top 1% earners of the society began.
The Vatican has supported the protests recently, and The Nation wrote that the goals of the movement are parallel to those the Holy See has been supporting, as far as curbing the world's rich.
The "Occupy Wall Street" (OWS) movement has split the Christian community in the United States. On the one side, some influential conservative evangelical Christian leaders, like televangelist Pat Robertson, have condemned the movement. Robertson even called it a "rebellion" on his "The 700 Club" program CBN on Oct. 29.
At the same time, some other prominent Christians think that the church should give its full support to the movement. Those include two leaders of a group that was arrested in July for holding a prayer gathering at Capitol Hill – the Rev. Herbert Nelson, director of public witness for the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Rev. Bob Edgar, CEO of the advocacy group Common Cause.
"One of the things I am convinced of is that faith has a role to play in the leadership of these movements," Nelson told CP in an interview in mid-October. "I don't always get that there is a commitment to nonviolence."
"If you read the Quran, Torah, the New Testament or the Old Testament, you can't read those documents without discovering God cares for poor people," Edgar told CP in a separate interview on Oct. 12. "We have a righteous obligation to stand up and speak out on behalf of the poor. It's our vocational call."
On Oct. 10, Judson Memorial Church and Union Theological Seminary in New York organized an interfaith event at Zucotti Park, where the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have their headquarters. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders addressed the crowd as supporters held signs with slogans such as "Jesus is with the 99%" and "You cannot serve God and Wealth – Matthew 6:24."
The leaders talked about how they were there to show solidarity with the OWS protesters and that there needs to be a new focus in America to help the poor and underprivileged rather than "too big to fail" banks – a common theme among the OWS protesters.
"God wants you to use your resources to do what he wants you to do, which is, among other things, to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised, so that they can have a voice," a Baptist minister who is one of the protesters at Zucotti Park told CP Tuesday.