As the Occupy Movement has swept across the U.S. and western Europe, I have found myself with a certain empathy. Sure - such protests will always attract some anarchists and rabble-rousers. But, but ……. there is something deeply stirring the hearts and souls of many folk.
The rampant, poorly regulated capitalism of so many western nations, especially in the last two decades, has left in its wake genuine pain. That should not surprise us. I know experientially the pointy end of capitalism having worked in outposts of Wall Street for many years. There is an adrenalin rush in ‘doing deals’, and doing bigger and bigger ones with larger and larger success fees! To assume more broadly that an economic system, obsessed with profit and accumulation of personal wealth, will generate good and ethical outcomes for the whole of society is simply fanciful.
And of course it is not just the pointy end of capitalism that has led to such widespread malaise. Political parties and governments of supposedly more ‘social’ orientation have repeatedly failed the very underprivileged that they supposedly are seeking to protect. How? At the risk of gross over simplification, through massively irresponsible housing policies; through expenditure of public funds with pathetic cost control resulting in a small number of contractors becoming even richer and overall less resources available to assist those who are genuinely hurting and are disenfranchised.
There is real pain in the community. There is real unsettledness. You can here the cry from people’s hearts: “Something is wrong!”
And indeed there is. And it is much, much deeper than simply the excesses of any particular economic system or power obsessed politicians.
Ben Witherington has just penned a post that I think simply ‘nails’ the root problem. He writes:
“The root of the problem is not our lack of jobs. The root of the problem is not Wall Street. Those boys are just living out one form of the American Dream which produced the bumper sticker ‘the one who dies with the most toys wins’ or ‘I’m spending my grand children’s inheritance’. The root of the problem is the human heart, and the only solution is a heart transplant. The only solution is dying to that old Adamic self.
The only cure for narcissism is a real conversion. Not just a change of direction, or a change of a few ideas, a real conversion which allows one to give up the self-centeredness and actually love God and neighbor. And the interesting thing is, that when you actually do that, that little voice inside goading you into more selfish activities quiets down. Once you know you are a person of sacred worth whom God and others love, you don’t need to prove to yourself or others you are somebody big, someone of note.”
Read Witherington’s article – slowly – digest it, chew on it, and turn to the One who is the great rescuer and transformer of hearts that, outside of God’s transforming grace, are bent on self destruction.