Block Party

November 22nd, 2011

On September 17, 2011, the movement called “Occupy Wall Street” began in Zuccotti Park (now called Liberty Plaza), located in New York’s financial district. In the weeks since, similar demonstrations have broken out across the nation and around the globe. In the United States the protest focuses on the disparity of wealth between the country’s wealthiest 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent. According to the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page, the New York City general assembly (of Occupy) accepted a document detailing the Declaration of the Occupation of New York. That document asserts that the primary motivator behind the movement is dissatisfaction with the level of influence that corporations have over our government and, by extension, over us.

The document closes with an encouragement to other communities and gives loose guidance for local participation: “We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power. Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”

What Would Jesus Occupy?

Some Christians have embraced the “Occupy” movement; others are wary of the movement’s motives. The ability to freely disagree is a beautiful privilege that we enjoy in the United States and, if we’re honest, one that on most days we take for granted. It’s not unusual to see people with signs either in favor of or against something; by law, even things that offend the sensibilities of the majority of our citizens are permissible. Our country is a wonderful place to live. Nonviolent public demonstrations have long history both here and elsewhere in the world. Ancient Jewish people protested against Pontius Pilate when he installed idolatrous images in Jerusalem. Gandhi led the Indian people in protests against unfair British taxation.

Nonviolent demonstrations were instrumental in the United States Civil Rights Movement. Recently the Tea Party movement (protesting government spending) and the Arab Spring movement (protesting corrupt regimes in the Arab world) have taken to the streets to draw attention to their cause.

Most of the “occupiers” in the United States believe that something about what it means to be “America” has been compromised and needs to be fixed. And while opinions about what is going on in New York and elsewhere vary, there is something admirable about people speaking up for their convictions.

Scripture is filled with examples of people who were called or compelled to speak out. But not all of them were willing at first. Some needed words; some needed motivation; and some needed assistance. But over and over we see people who take a stand on behalf of God.

Our Turn

As we minister to young people, we need to help them identify beliefs and convictions and causes that are worth their speaking out. Sometimes speaking out is easy and obvious. But other times it is challenging, uncomfortable, and even dangerous. But as Christians we must remember that we are not called to lives of comfort or safety; we are called to follow Christ.

Youth need to know that their convictions matter. Passion is a gift, and they shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that nobody cares what they think or that their opinion doesn’t carry any weight. Their beliefs are important, and they need to feel empowered to speak out.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

comments powered by Disqus