Why 'Occupy' When Jesus Endorsed Free Market? FRC Head Asks

The debate over how Christians should respond to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement carries on with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins arguing that Jesus was a free marketer who rejected a system where the individual’s diligence and willpower wouldn’t matter.

“Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy – equal outcomes for inequitable performance,” Perkins wrote on the CNN Belief Blog Tuesday.

Perkins, who heads a group formed by James Dobson in 1981, based his claim on a parable of Jesus found in Luke 19:13 to discredit the ongoing series of demonstrations against a range of issues including socio-economic inequalities, unemployment and corruption. Jesus, he said, chose the free market system as the basis of this parable.

Jesus is depicted as a ruler who called his 10 servants and gave them one mina each ($225 as per today’s worth) to “occupy till I come.” The mina, Perkins said, represents the “equal opportunity to build our lives.”

Jesus rewarded the servant who made the most profit. “…Because you have been faithful in very little I will give you authority over ten cities.” This servant, Perkins wrote, “used a free market system to bring a tenfold return on investment.” But the one who had “apparently either slept through his economics course or was just indifferent to the work delegated to him” was punished. The ruler ordered that his capital, which remained one mina, be given to the most productive servant.

Jesus made it clear there are no excuses for doing nothing, Perkins argued, saying the principle is, “To everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Perkins agreed that some “egregious abuses” have taken place, but they are not “inevitable” or “intrinsic” to free enterprise. What is needed, he argued, is to infuse morality into the system – not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

The servants in the parable were to invest not for their own benefit, but for their ruler, Perkins pointed out. So “we are to occupy by using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve,” he suggested.

Christian leaders have taken different views of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Some see inequality and corruption as issues Christians should speak out against while others fear that the protests could be co-opted by Democrats.

Responding to Perkins’ article, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, said Jesus was an Occupier. “Jesus occupied the biggest bank in Jerusalem, calling it a ‘Den of Thieves,’” she wrote in The Washington Post. “He threw the money-changers out.”

However, President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy Mark Tooley said earlier that the movement has nothing to do with Christianity. The “Religious Left” has heaped too much praise on those whose “demands range from cancellation of all debt, open borders, government control of health care and free college education, among other expansions of Big Government,” he said in a statement.

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, doesn’t agree with Tooley. He recently urged religious leaders to give direction to the movement. “One of the things I am convinced of is that faith has a role to play in the leadership of these movements,” he told The Christian Post. That role, he said, is one of moral and ethical authority.

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