Journal Entry of an Angel With No Name

Featured, Social Justice — By on November 15, 2011 at 8:00 am

Journal Entry of an Angel With No Name

1  November 2011, as mankind reckons his days.

In the city of New York, in the country of the United States of America, I, an angel with no name, record these words:

I have descended from Heaven to America and have been walking in her cities. Though the inhabitants see me, they recognize me not, for I come cloaked in the rags of the lowliest among them. I have observed a curious thing in America: Great gatherings of men and women in the streets and public ways, clamoring in protest against the ways of the wealthy. I have never known mankind in any country anywhere to be dissuaded from his pursuit of possessions and power, so this tumult has become very interesting to me.

I know that the desires of man have created complicated structures of wealth and poverty. He has intricately divided and categorized himself. He is, to himself, primarily rich or poor, deserving or undeserving, liberal or conservative, slothful or spirited. And he has assigned values to these categories. The members of the categories with higher values, according to his reasoning, invite and even demand membership in the higher-valued categories from those in lesser-valued categories. But he of the higher-valued categories does not see, at the least, or perhaps does see and continues to demand anyway, that mass movement between categories, without the presence of the Most High, would cause structural collapse in his very system of categorization. I observe that the vast majority of men are members of one of these categories from birth to death. Though there is great noise from the higher-valued categories directed to the lesser-valued categories to become like themselves in the higher-valued categories, there is hardly ever welcome for a member of a lesser-valued category into a higher-valued category, and there is even less recognition among the higher-valued categories’ members that there exists, outside of luck or participation in the schemes of the Enemy, no actual channels by which this ascendency in category membership may be accomplished. Were there ever a door through which a lesser may pass into the realms of the higher, it has been nailed shut long ago.

Written in the Holy Word, as the Christian in America knows, indeed as the Christian everywhere knows, are many direct statements and even commands from the Most High about how those in the lesser-valued categories in man’s categorization system, the poor as they are more simply known, are to be treated. These vociferous assemblies in America’s cities attempt to expose an unjust discrepancy between the wealthy and the poor of this country, and that the circumstances of the wealthy, particularly the circumstances by which the wealthy have obtained and maintain their wealth, contribute, whether the wealthy know it or care about it or not, to the circumstances of the poor. According to the Most High, this should not be. If the Most High decries these unjust practices, then His followers, by the transitive property of mankind’s system of formal logic, must also decry them. This would lead one to believe that the assemblies gathered in America’s cities should be composed almost entirely of Christians.

I came to New York City and to Wall Street, where the original of these assemblies is based. I approached a young man with a wide-open mouth, every one of his white teeth visible, as he raised his voice in protest. He, and many others like him, shouted slogan after slogan denouncing these unjust practices of the wealthy, who peeked with wide eyes down upon the crowd from office windows high above. (Their faces were not visible, only their anonymous eyes from within the shadows.) I said to the young man, “Tell me, are you Christian?” and he replied that he was not. “Where might I find the Christian in your midst?” I asked. “There are none here,” he said. He turned from me then, linking arms with his fellows, and commenced to march forward with them, shouting until their voices were raw and hoarse. They marched on, and I remained standing in the street, shoulders slumped. I had expected that would be the young man’s answer to my latter question before he gave it.

I remain baffled. If a man claims Christianity, and after an even cursory reading of the Holy Word, he must therefore logically assert that he believes these to be true: To mistreat the poor is to mistreat Christ. To condemn the poor for their poverty is to condemn Christ. To permit the oppression of the poor, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is to approve of the oppression of Christ. The distinction is here made that unjust practices done “knowingly or unknowingly,” are both condemned, because is it not the duty of the Christian to ensure that his actions bring glory to the Most High? And how would a Christian, then, not examine each of his own practices, whether they are his personal practices or his corporate practices, before practicing them regularly? And how would any unjust practice toward the poor bring glory to the Most High?

I would speak forthrightly to the men of America who claim to know Christ, if the Most High should ever permit me. I would entreat him with these words:

“O Christian, how long will you permit the pagan hippies to plead your case on the doorstep of the unjust? O Christian, how long will you promise-keep only some of your vows, forgetting the ones you made to the poor when you said, “I do,” to Christ? Will you let the long-haired, the dread-locked, the unshowered, even the facially tattooed take your place at the foot of the throne of God? Will you sell your birthright as defenders of the oppressed to the bored, college drop-outs who assemble themselves in the streets of your cities? O Christian, you would say that conditions in America are more nuanced and complicated, but in their essences they are not. Many among you have justified yourselves, your power and your possessions, disallowing the Most High, Who wore the clothes of the Lowest Low, to be fully your justifier. Many have accepted justification for your personal sins, yet have hardened your hearts to the conviction of your corporate sin. Arise, Christian, and take your rightful place at the head of this throng, which lurches toward Heaven down Wall Street. Do not follow these loud-mouths; lead them. Do not scoff at what they shout; instead, you place a proclamation of justice upon their tongues. Do not pause to discuss your actions in small groups, do not tarry to consider matters when your elders meet, do not fear to act upon the commands of the Most High. Only lead in your rightful place, Christian. Then you shall please God.”

But, until the day comes when the Most High allows me to speak in such a way, I will remain silent, recording my words in this journal, to be kept on a shelf in Heaven visible only to me.

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    13 Comments

  • JamesWilliams says:

    Are you saying that Christians should be participating in “occupy”-type protests? Seriously? And you’re tying it to helping the poor? Seriously?

    Thanks, but in my bible, coveting is also a sin, and OWS seems to me to be about hating the rich because they’re rich.

    Additionally, many Christians help the poor in more tangible ways than gathering together and protesting. Do what you want to combat poverty, but don’t imply that those who choose not to participate in OWS are somehow not living up to their obligations as Christians.

  • Jenn says:

    It is a dangerous thing indeed to accuse others of falling down in their responsibilities as Christians just because they do not see things the same way you do, just because they do not champion the movements you think are important.

    We can all agree that the fact that OWS exists as a movement at all indicates there is a deep problem. We may differ in what we think the nature of that problem is, but a problem does exist–that is undeniable. We live in a broken world, and we have failed. (In fact, I wrote a post along these lines myself about a week ago).

    We can all agree that, as Christians, we are called to help the poor. That alleviating poverty and injustice should be a central part of our faith. That greed and power corrupt. That none of us do enough, that none of us live how we should.

    But we will disagree on how to remedy what is broken with the world. And that is ok. Don’t go accusing others of not loving Christ as they ought because they don’t want to camp out in a city square. And even if you are correct in saying that the OWS are protesting on the behalf of the poor, that they are “at the foot of the throne of God” (and I’m not saying that you are or that you are not), don’t assume that theirs is the only or even the best way to help the downtrodden, that theirs is the only or even the best way to approach the throne of God.

  • Benjamin Dolson says:

    Hot topic. A couple of thoughts:

    -There are definitely Christians at OWS in Zuccotti Park. When I was there several of them were shouting things about repentance. Also, there were non-shouting Christians, like myself, and a couple of priests. So, yes, confirmed, Christians were spotted at Zuccotti Park.

    -James, you are assuming the absolute worst about the OWS movement: that they hate the rich because they are rich. I think you’re substituting anger with hate. It’s totally unfair and inaccurate to write-off the movement as hateful and jealous. Honestly, I would ask that you re-examine your view of OWS because there is some good stuff happening.

    -Let’s be careful not to “add” to the cross. While it’s clear that Christ commands us to care for the poor, I don’t think it’s fair to brow-beat Christians who don’t want to attend Occupy movements or who object to the political ideals involved with Occupy movements.

    -A cool thing: At dinner time (7pm) at OWS in Zuccotti Park there were at least 100 homeless people lined up to get a free meal. They mingled with the occupiers and they stood in the same line. I thought this was pretty neat-o.

    Thoughts?

    • JamesWilliams says:

      Benjamin, any movement has individuals that don’t reflect the core of the movement itself, I get that. That’s why I have spoken up when people have claimed that the Tea Party is full of racists (though not being a Tea Partier myself), and why I haven’t mentioned that there have been multiple rapes at OWS protests, plus that guy doing unimaginable things in front of children at that one OWS event.
      But the primary goal of actual OWS organizers or adherents is worth calling into question. As I see it, it’s partially about corruption, yes. But when you read the words of the protesters, it seems that anyone rich is suspect. That smacks of coveting to me, which is clearly anti-Christian.
      Additionally, check out leaders of the OWS movement in NYC: They are actually trying to shut down business. That means that real people–folks who make normal wages, trying to feed their families–will be affected. It wouldn’t surprise me if it gets violent, but I hope it doesn’t. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/11/16/ows-protesters-calling-for-day-of-action-following-loss-of-camp-in-zuccotti-park/

  • Benjamin Dolson says:

    James, let’s clarify that suggestion… They are calling for a day of marches and occupations that will definitely affect businesses in NYC. However, it is false to say that they are trying to put Macys and other stores out of business. Disrupting business for a day isn’t going to lose anyone a job…that’s hyperbole.

    Also, it is a protest…protests are disruptive and annoying by nature…otherwise they would be really crappy protests.

    Also, there has already been plenty of violence on the part of the police. But yes, I hope the protesters remain non-violent as well. Isn’t it weird that we apply the standard of non-violence to the protesters and not the police?

    Beyond the left/right politics of OWS, this is about citizenship in the American democracy. It just seems to me that the right to peacefully assemble in dissent in a public space is the very essence of living in a free society.

    If people want to protest the rising of the sun each morning, the color green, wool mittens, whatever, then they should be allowed to gather in public spaces and protest.

    • Ben (can I call you Ben?) I want to be clear: while it’s more wrong if they had actually shut down Macy’s than just disrupt business for one day, the one-day disruption is still unacceptable and certainly not the Christian thing to do. I never said anything about people losing jobs or businesses being shut down permanently, so I never engaged in hyperbole. You’re better off arguing with what I actually said than what you imagined I meant.

    • Benjamin Dolson says:

      Yes, you can call me Ben.

  • Benjamin Dolson says:

    Also, on a lighter note: how hilarious is it that “sanitation issues” in NYC’s public parks has suddenly become SO important to the Bloomberg Administration? Bizarro.

    Can we hold the Administration to those same standards of cleanliness at, say, parks in the Bronx? Subways? Sidewalks?…since now the cleanliness of public spaces is a trump card in city politics.

  • Matthew says:

    I tend to cringe whenever I see any piece written in regards to social justice and the participation Christians should take in such events. The one singular and prevalent truth that is continuously overlooked is the idea of oppression itself and its true nature. All oppression stems from one fact: all have sinned and fallen short the glory of God. The true oppression we face is that of sin – specific sins of violence, inequality, authoritarianism, or dishonesty are simply symptoms of a greater problem. When Christians are called to focus on only the systems, we are only placing a proverbial finger in a dike while the volume of water is cresting over the barriers to drown us all.

    I think we would all be in agreement in stating that Christian history began far before 1611 – that’s why there is a ground-swell of people rediscovering the ancient practices of our faith. The church should strive to understand the truth of the disparity of wealth as well. The Occupy Movement is concerned with the 1% that they are not a part of while conveniently forgetting the minority percentage to which they do belong. That’s what is most bothersome of the whole movement: people are upset with what they do not have and make demands to close that gap. This is, as a previous comment stated, covetousness. Real poverty, real disparity, is lack of access to water or the ability to have their children vaccinated, or the right to a basic education. Regardless of America’s faults, these realities exist as a microcosm in a history where these things have only been afforded a small percentage.

    So when Christians are challenged by an “unnamed angel” I can’t help but picture this same angel as being a participant in the crowd when Jesus spoke regarding an inheritance of two brothers in Luke 12:

    13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

    The real problem with the Occupy Movement is they are concerned over issues that are hidden within the heart. The demands of the movement will only make things worse. For instance, an $18 minimum wage will only lead to inflation, where the margins of profitability are maintained while the capital to support those margins is greatly increased. In other words, a 300% increase in labor cost will result in a parallel rise in goods and services. To those in the movement, the rich are the sinful and are the only arbiters of oppression. Students of Scripture know otherwise.

    The real problem with the church is that the majority are ignorant of the inauguration of the Kingdom. Many churches teach salvation as a ticket to a future life, while Jesus tells us that the Kingdom was inaugurated with his incarnation. That is the thrust of the beatitudes… because of Christ, we can now pursue a greater life where we love unconditionally and serve others regardless of status. So yes, much of the church is still in pursuit of their personal happiness rather than establishing a Kingdom where Christ rules and our lives are nothing but an active response to the grace bestowed to us upon the cross.

    But the Kingdom does not present in the hearts of the Occupy Movement… only a short-sighted coveteousness.

    • Benjamin Dolson says:

      I like most of what Matthew is saying here. You’ve pointed out some legitimate problems with the OWS movement just as James did. I concede that it’s a very imperfect movement. Christians should never pledge their full allegiance to any movement not based in Christ.

      However, I do want to repeat my objection to categorizing the OWS movement as one based in covetousness. It’s unfair to write-off the entire movement by claiming that it is inspired by a specific sin. It seems like an easy way to ignore the more legitimate aspects of OWS. The few times I’ve attended OWS I was impressed with the sense of community, kindness, and love.

      There is such a thing as righteous anger. And, there is value in pointing out inequality in the American democracy. Injustice is injustice, right? Small or large, we’re called to identify it and object to it. There is real, actual suffering in America. No, it doesn’t look anything like the suffering in other parts of the world or at other points in history. But does that mean we should pardon it?

      Also, your economic example is kind of a straw-man. So, what about a more general idea of livable wages for full-time workers? Is that crazy?

  • Matthew says:

    Benjamin:

    Thanks for your response. There’s a lot of the OWS with which I agree, I just hate to see when the Church is co-opted by any political movement. (Aside, the Baptist tradition has historically been suspect of such things, but that was easily forgotten during the rise of the moral majority in the 70s).

    Regarding the economic example, I don’t know that it is a strawman although it is, admittedly, a quick generalized concept. Corporations make decisions to maintain a percentage of profitability – cost is just an adjustable variable.

    The root of the issue is the need for the separation of Business and State. The entire political spectrum is deeply financed by the corporate class. Restrict that, limit the power of lobbies, tighten tax loop holes, and introduce term limits in the House and Senate – then we’ll have a place to begin closing the diparity between the have and have-nots.

    But, and this is a major point, people have to stop living beyond their means. Rather than protest in the streets, people should close their bank accounts and move their money to locally organized credit unions, close their credit accounts, and pay cash for all that they can. Rather than participate in the protests, people need to stop participating in the system.

    As for a living wage, that issue has more to do with the availability of global resources and the decreased cost in outsourcing the work. For that, hefty tarrifs should be placed on corporations that do that rather than building up the American economy, more service options available (with zero interest) to pay back student loans should be created, and a the minimum wage should be increased but to what, I’m not certain.

    • Benjamin Dolson says:

      Matthew,

      I really like that response.

      I guess my hope for OWS is that the outrage we’ve seen in the streets of our major cities will translate into political, economic, and social reform. I think this is possible. Historically, there is precedent for this type of transition.

      The value in protesting, in my opinion, is that it draws attention to these issues. The national conversation about our economy has changed for good because of OWS.

      There are a lot of very smart, dedicated people involved with OWS who won’t be satisfied with occupying parks and then heading home when the fun is over. Just a small example of some smart folk… When the NYPD confiscated generators and fuel at Zuccotti Park, the occupiers figured out how to power the entire media center and all essential appliances using bicycles. That’s a lot of energy from just 2 bikes.

      A stray thought on “fixing the economy”… Almost all good economists are saying that our economy is ailing from a lack of demand. Businesses aren’t hiring because there’s no demand for their services/products (not because they need a tax-refund or tax holiday). For awhile I just accepted this as true and that the best possible solution is to figure out a way to increase demand. But recently I’ve realized how horribly sad it is that our best suggestion for fixing the economy is to encourage more consumption. That’s depressing…and definitely not a good enough answer. I think this ties into your very legitimate point that people must stop living beyond their means.

  • john sr says:

    As part of the 99% of persons who read these articles and comments and rarely respond, I was going to let this one go even though the article brought up a lot of resistance in my own mind. Reading the comments, I feel no need to add any more. Good discussion from all sides!
    (Just wanted you all to know that there are more of us out here reading along…)

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