Recently I responded to a cnn article by Tony Perkins, who suggested Jesus was a free market capitalist and would have been against the Occupy Wall Street movement. His assumption, I think, was that OWS is a movement full of lazy hipsters who want to tear down our capitalist economy to replace it with a socialist government and thus empower their laziness. As fundamentally wrong as Perkins was on a biblical and gospel level, he was right about one thing… there literally is a lot of OWS folks who are lazy hipsters who want a socialist government so they can have more of the perks with less of the work and risk.
But then again, Perkins isn’t right. A lot of the OWS currently have jobs and protest during what little free time they have. Many of them have college degrees. Many of them make decent money. Some are challenging the Wall Street crew that is responsible for our economic collapse, or they are protesting a capitalist system that oppresses and destroys communities abroad for the sake of $20 jeans at Old Navy, or they are protesting the wealth and power a few hundred individuals yield in our nation who own way too much wealth for the health of a democratic nation.
Occupy Wall Street really has no central demand. Its kind of just a bunch of pissed off people. Everyone seems to want something different. Everyone has differing levels of education, commitment and goals. For this reason alone, I personally wouldn’t stand with a poster board amongst them. I think ultimately they really won’t accomplish much. Its not that I necessarily disagree with their message—I just don’t feel like I have a message to agree with. It’s a movement that I don’t perceive moving anywhere.
But here’s the question… is the Church detrimentally becoming like Occupy Wall Street?
As the modern church, with its creeds, empty liturgies and episcopal governments, gives way to post-modernity church autonomy, non-denominationalism, orthopraxy over against orthodoxy yet impotence in moral edification for fear of ‘legalism’; is it dissipating into a muddled horde of people who have no distinct message, no distinct life, no distinct community to offer to the world? When people think “church” or “Christianity”, what will come to mind? I am currently serving at a church plant that I absolutely love. One thing I love about it is that we have no statement of faith or creed and we have no community covenant of behavior. I don’t want to get kicked out if I question a particular theological doctrine such as, say, the eternal security of a believer or the inerrancy of scripture etc. And I don’t want to kick people out if they if they have sex before marriage or say a cuss word when they smash their thumb.
But can a church like this stand vitally for 100 years? 200 years?
Recently in my Church History class, we learned how the order of the Catholic Church’s government early on in history probably saved Christianity from extinction. There were other, bigger religious movements at the time that faded out because they didn’t have sufficient governmental or belief structure to ultimately last over time and across space. We now live in a time where the church and its dominant privilege are fading into a position of minority once again, like its beginning.
We truly live in a postmodern age… where a group of protestors cannot tell you what they are protesting and a church cannot tell you what it believes or how its congregants act. Will the chaos of our time destroy the church? How are we to retain relevance while remaining counter-cultural and true to our identity?
After all, what is the point of going to church if the church is whatever each individual wants it to be? What can it distinctly and exclusively offer?
Will the Church die like Occupy Wall Street in this 21st century?