When I was 20 I studied abroad in South Africa. When I came home, I was a bit of a mess.
I was angry about the drastic economic inequality that I encountered in Southern Africa during my six months away. Something felt horribly wrong about how people could live in a secure mansion while the people who worked in those houses lived nearby in shacks. Back in the USA I remembered scenes that seemed like the slave plantations, feudalism, and colonialism I studied in my history books. The sourness of disgust turned my stomach.
When I had to readjust to life in the USA upon my return, all of that new social and economic awareness made things as ordinary and American as going shopping into ugly, uncomfortable activities. I felt ashamed to feel rich even though I had to work three jobs in order to pay my tuition and buy books and food. Really, the questions and struggles of reverse-culture shock changed me more than living abroad in a foreign land had.
The questions consumed me. What are we supposed to do so that everyone in this world can have enough to live healthy and productive lives? I didn’t want anyone to be left out nor anyone to die from hunger while others ate too much and threw away food. I wanted the rich to share their wealth with the poor. I didn’t know where to look for a way to do this. Church didn’t seem to be helping. I began to wonder if Catholic Christianity would work for me anymore.
With these questions stirring flames in my heart, I went back to class at my small, liberal arts college in Iowa. I was registered for a class called “God, Catholicism and Capitalism” as part of the general education requirements at the school. For homework, I had to read this Church document, Economic Justice for All. I fell in love. Soon after, I learned about all of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. My love grew. I studied the Gospel and realized I loved everything Jesus taught. Then I fell in love with sacraments, devotions and the lives of the saints. All because of the economics of love, I fell in love with the Catholic Church and Jesus some more.
It is still quite clear to me that if we really heeded the economics of love and equality that Jesus taught- and the Church leaders echo- then injustice would cease. The reign of God shall be, heaven would be on earth.
Now, 10 years later, after great global economic crisis, I am no longer a wierd-o for having doubts about capitalism. The mainstream news and popular social action is filled with many who also wonder if capitalism is truly the most fair system. No matter your point of view, I think you’ll agree that capitalism isn’t working! And, it definitely doesn’t fit with the Gospel. Occupy Wall Street, Chicago, Oakland and Occupy Everywhere challenge us to do what is right and share with the needy. The time to change things is a little overdue, but when it come to love and justice, it’s better late than never.
The Church is wise. She noticed that people were speaking up on behalf of justice and she reminded them what she said long ago. Be a community. Share and use only what you need:
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. – Acts 4: 32-3
So, naturally, then I am very excited about the Occupy movement. Faith and hope is at its heart and it has to be. Principles of justice come right out of my religion. God is with this (I recommend this video from PBS.org).
The Occupation movements are important history that we cannot ignore: here is good account of it. Creative non-violence and social action is what shifts paradigms and change history. The answers to the great questions of how to create systems of justice are found right in the heart of God.
So, here’s my cry: the Christian economy is an economy of love! Christians, raise your hands and fall to your knees. Pray for peace and justice and blessings upon occupy the movement. Get involved as much as you can. And, do whatever it takes to help heaven be on earth. The poor are counting on you and Jesus is too.
You don’t have to camp in the cold with the occupiers to work for an economy of love. Here’s a few other action options:
Join and participate in the Catholic NETWORK “Mind the Gap” Campaign.
Read, study and pray about how you and your church can support the occupiers and all who work for justice.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless the 100%!