Yesterday, I got a text from a friend on her way to the protests on Wall Street. I sent her my prayers as we both remember protesting the Republican National Convention together. She was just starting in seminary — and somehow, I was leading the effort to stand up for the rights of the poor. That was seven years ago. That was before we started talking about crossing the aisle. That was when we were just starting to demonize the other political party. Now, it’s happening again. The people of New York are flooding downtown to demonize the bankers and traders on Wall Street. My parents emailed this morning to say that they were thinking of going.
This alerted my attention. My parents aren’t exactly the protesting type — at least, not in my lifetime. They have nodded encouragingly when I’ve talked about singing my protest songs but they’ve never joined in. So, something about this action is different. Something has shifted. Now, I could guess. I could guess that my parents aren’t feeling all that financially stable. I could guess that they’re worried about the bills they need to pay and the child they are still supporting in college, but I don’t really need to guess. I need to understand more of what is going on down there.
So, I finally read the call to action issued by Adbusters. In the middle of this blog post, the organizers refer to Wall Street as the Gomorrah of America. That grabs my heart. It’s been said (too often) that gay marriage is the social justice issue of our time. That’s never felt right to me. As much as I support, advocate and fight for love, I think this is bigger. This occupation is the true Gomorrah, but I would question that. Gomorrah does get rained down upon with sulfur and fire (Genesis 19:24) but the real problem is in Sodom. As Patrick S. Cheng so beautifully points out,
To me, it is clear that the real sin of Sodom is radical inhospitality, or turning one’s back upon the strangers and the neediest in our midst… In fact, the Bible itself expressly describes the sin of Sodom elsewhere as radical inhospitality. According to the prophet Ezekiel, the real “guilt” of the Sodomites was the fact that, although they had “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease,” they “did not aid the poor and needy” and were “haughty” (Ezekiel 16:49-50). Similarly, the Letter to the Hebrews warns Christians by alluding to the true sin of the Sodomites as inhospitality: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
Isn’t that what is happening with greed in our country? Isn’t that the rebellion that we’re seeing mobilize flocks of New Yorkers to crowd Lower Manhattan? If my parents are considering joining this mass protest, it seems to me that something has failed in our country. We’ve failed to show radical hospitality to our neighbors. We’ve failed to take care of each other. All 99% of us. We’ve turned our backs on strangers and the neediest in our midst. And now, we’re trying to find the courage to rain sulfur and fire down on those who we suspect are to blame. We’ve taken God into our own hands — and that occupies my heart. That fact makes me scared and nervous, but I’ll admit I want to go join the protests. I want to find my place among the crowds and sing for another possibility, but I find myself hesitating perhaps for some of the same reasons pointed out by Brian Merritt. At the very least, I know there needs to be more conversation for surely this occupies all of our hearts.