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Occupy Wall Street: A Greater Purpose

What we can learn from the protest's demands for accountability.

I am absolutely fascinated by Occupy Wall Street (or as they hashtag it on The Twitter—#OWS). People of all ethnicities and socioeconomic classes are standing in the street, holding up signs that read “We Are the 99 Percent” and “People Before Profits,” and they are desperate for something (or anything, or everything) to change in our economic system. The top 1 percent in this system grows richer and the rest of us—never mind the truly impoverished and desperate the world over—are the 99 percent. Somehow, this leaderless movement without an articulated agenda other than “this current system is unbearable” is growing, spreading to the cities across the United States and even headed northward to my nation, too. The media is in three-ring-circus-mode, the talking heads are frustrated without soundbites for mindless consumption, the labels aren’t sticking and should we be afraid? Are they communists? Socialists? Revolutionaries? Or just regular folks like us? What exactly is happening and what do they—what do we—want?

I love a good protest. I admit it—I love to stick it to The Man. I’m a true western Canadian kid, always a bit distrustful of the establishment and the elite, throwing my lot with the underdog and the outsider every time. I do like being a bit on the edge of things, but Occupy Wall Street is fascinating me for an entirely different and deeply spiritual reason. At the heart of the protest, I believe what the protesters are calling for is repentance. They are holding a mirror up to our corporations, our governments, to the 1 percent wealthiest and to those of us in the 99 percent and saying: Look here at what our greed has done.

Look at how greed has robbed us all. Look at how the greed has robbed the world, our environment, our humanity, our old and our young, our brothers and our sisters. Look at how our greed has robbed us of compassion and humility. Look at how our mindless consumption has harvested our education, our wisdom, our attention, our creativity, our worship. Look at how greed has disenfranchised us all, making our votes and our voices worthless in the face of corporate greed.

Unlikely and eclectic prophets with cardboard signs using port-a-potties, perhaps, but their call to repentance isn’t just for government or for the 1 percent or a particular political persuasion—it’s for us all. Accountability is a beautiful, terrible thing.

I want to hold the 1 percent accountable—but I want to hold myself accountable, too.

As followers of Jesus, is this our economic awakening? Is this our time to speak out prophetically about the Christian values of contentment, faith in God’s provision and our responsive generosity? Are we making choices with our own money that affirms our allegiance to God’s way of doing things first? Are we living the economics of love? The truth is that we are all part of the problem when we capitulate to our culture’s fascination with greed, materialism, consumerism, entitlement, irresponsibility, their assertions that we are what we own (or charge on the credit card, at least).

I am inspired by those men and women in positions of leadership that make the choices for people before profits—for instance, the businesses that provide adequate health care, maternity leave, sick leave and a living wage to their employees. And I’m inspired by people who live more simply in our world today, the ones who truly trust God and live content. Because I want to be one of them.

I want to trust God more, I want to say that my money demonstrates my love and trust for God just as much as my marriage, my mothering, my politics, my community, my friendships, my writing, my work. The call to repentance on Wall Street and Bay Street is a call to repentance for me, too. The golden calf (or bull, whatever) of Wall Street demands worship. I am learning to choose faithfulness, contentment, responsibility and generosity in the rhythms of a life dedicated to the ways of Jesus and real personhood, affirming our Maker as creator and giver and sustainer of it all.

God’s economic system sets us free from the love of money. God speaks of His people living lives of gracious and generous giving, of prudent and wise decisions (something never very popular in our culture), our time and money and love, our lives, a sowing toward life.

In our family, we are learning to make choices with our money that affirm our allegiance to God’s way of doing things. I’m learning—and I have so far to go—about living the economy of love, making the loving choices on everything from our coffee to housing, food to entertainment, debt eradication and generous giving. Ethical and sustainable, fair-trade and handmade are buzz words, but I believe they are God’s words because, at their heart, they are about people and life instead of power and loot-piling. It starts small, here, in my own house and budget. But #OWS started small and the thousands are there, all ages, all races, all classes, now waking up and speaking out.

And I hear it’s a pretty good way for truth to spread, from person to person, from choice by choice, each of us making space for God every day. Accountability, yes; but the repentance is in the turning away from the old ways and instead traveling on The Way.

Sarah Styles Bessey is a non-profit marketing director, writer and simple living/social justice wannabe. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and three tinies. She blogs at This article was reprinted with permission from A Deeper Story.

Read other thoughts on Occupy Wall Street: Is the 1 percent really to blame?



Brother J commented…

As mainstream media complies to the OWS, they just show one side. They don't do research anymore. Liberal media wants to become Europe. Their have been reports of this events being planned months ahead. You see the extreme hatred of this counrty from the labor unions like Jimmy Hoffa jr as well various democrats politians. Communism is the ultimate goal. It is it's own god and will destroy Christianity. Research the behind the scenes of it and you'll see a greater picture of evil.


Curtis Climer commented…

I started listening to "community radio" recently on KBOO which I recently discovered trying to get a sense of what the occupy movement was trying to say. It was clear the occupy folkswere trying to maintain a right brain, intuitive feeling sort of message, avoiding letting the press have any clear points to pick on or feast over. I keep listening. I try to feel what they are saying. They don't really give me much to think about. At some point, the right brain will have to pass something to the left brain to work on. Now here is the really hard part, the left brain will work on and not want to give it back. Okay, all of us left brainers need to make a pact here and now, work on it, then give it back to the right side. After all, that is fundamentally the issue anyway, if you can understand it. The sharing of right and left is not so easy, one believes while the other knows. The occupy folks believe. While the left knows, it knows what it has abstracted and represented, but never the whole thing. But the whole thing is fundamentally incompatible with the focus of the left side. Here in lies the tension, the pressure, the oppression, and the distraction. How do we hold hands and walk together in friendship and love? I believe for now it is accepting the protest and listening. People are in pain. The heart is hurting. We must listen. The other hurts, the other speaks as it is able, can we hear the metaphor? I'm in pain, can you help me? I sense suffering, can you feel it? The heart is speaking, will the thought hear? And when it does, how will it respond? Put down our weapons now, decide to go where fear leads us and let the heart show us mercy's work.


CKelly commented…

Thank you for tying together so well the big picture with the need for evaluation of our personal response. Well stated.


Jo commented…

God works in mysterious ways...and I love it, although we all can come to know Him. I love that He can shroud Himself and his ways in darkness so that we can go deeper and know Him at Heart were He is no longer a mystery. Relationships with God is only mysterious when we are not at One with Him.

I really liked the varous angles in this one, and then reaching for that higher ground in Christ. And I enjoyed the spunk and humor too. I'm always impressed when people can go that route without getting crude about it. Anyone can be crude. Just ask me.

Although I'll say crude is generally tolerable to me too if the author includes themselves in it. Keep reaching higher and pointing us to Jesus. Always a plus in my book.


1MattyBaker commented…

Occupy Wall Street is a perfect example of the selfishness of an overly entitled America. It's a strange thing to follow Christ and lend positive nod to a mob whose only fruit is strife, violence, and rape. Good luck reconciling those world views. Click the link below for more.

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