The Optimistic Christian
What Would Jesus Occupy?
With the Occupy Wall Street protest entering its fifth week, there is no shortage of commentary reflecting Christian perspectives. Some, like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, are generally sympathetic to the protests. Bruce Wydick at Christianity Today takes the opportunity to point out that the conditions being protested have been brought on by a crisis in American values; they cannot be blamed neatly on one sociopolitical faction or another.
Other writers ask themselves, "What would Jesus occupy?" (See here as well.) And that's an important question. I believe the true answer, based on his life on earth, is: nothing. It is a remarkably simple answer, but one with profound implications. Our society has become all but deaf to those implications, glorifying as we do the force majeure of entitlement and sanctimony. But Jesus is the very antithesis of an occupier.
Among the most famous words of Jesus are those recorded in Revelation 3:20: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (NIV) No passage more clearly reflects the attitude with which Jesus lived his life on earth, and with which he approaches us today.
Jesus never went anywhere uninvited. Even when he rebuked the money-changers in the Temple, he did not approach the institution as an antagonist, demanding entry on his own terms. He entered the Temple in obedience to the Father, as a Jew going to worship: exercising the privilege of a Jew under the commandments of God and the system of worship and priestly authority God had instituted. At no time did Jesus enter the premises of any person or institution on any but an orderly pretext.
The intention of the Occupy Wall Street protesters—to occupy the premises of others and challenge society's institutions—has been clarified during the week of October 10. Informed by the New York authorities that they would have to vacate Zucotti Park while it was being cleaned, the protesters insisted that their activities constitute an occupation, mounted on their terms. They are not there at the sufferance of the mayor or the police. (As I write this, we don't yet know the outcome of their promised showdown with the authorities on Friday, October 14.)
That's something Jesus would not do. He didn't have to defy the authorities in order to triumph. In fact, he obeyed their decrees all the way to the cross, rebuking Peter for showing resistance. The resurrected Jesus doesn't even "occupy" our hearts, the territory he was sent to claim. He dwells there only at our invitation. To us, too, he accords respect for our authority in that regard.
J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval intelligence officer and evangelical Christian. She retired in 2004 and blogs from the Inland Empire of southern California. She writes for Commentary's CONTENTIONS blog, Hot Air's Green Room, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.