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Jesus: To Occupy or Not to Occupy?

Thomas Whitley

Unsurprisingly, politically conservative Christians are again trying to make the case that Jesus was a "free marketer." The latest example comes from an opinion piece on CNN's Belief Blog by Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council.

My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier: Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy  equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual. ... Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by  using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

Perkins uses the parable of the ten talents as his e.g. for Jesus, the Free Marketer. His logic is wildly flawed and his biases blatant. This is bad enough, but then a reaction was written by Susan Brooks Thistlewaite over on The Washington Post.

Occupy the Bible: Why Jesus is not a 'free-marketer': You know #OccupyWallStreet is preoccupying the conservatives when Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council feels he has make the convoluted argument that “Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier.”

Except, of course, Jesus was an Occupier. Jesus occupied thebiggest bank in Jerusalem, calling it a “Den of Thieves.” He threw the money-changers out. “Then Jesus entered the Temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers...” (Matthew 21:12)

Her logic too is flawed and her biases blatant. Both commentators have fallen prey to anachronistically reading their contemporary American politics into a 1st century Greco-Roman society. There is no relevant one-to-one and while lessons can be gleaned from the text (if that is one's inclination), there is no place for political sides in an argument arguing that Jesus really supports their version of economic policy. That is laughable.

Susan Brooks Thistlewaite ends her piece with this gem:

Don’t believe these ‘free-market’ interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth. They are not true.

Well said, Susan. People should not believe "'free-market' interpretations of Jesus;" likewise, people should also not believe your "Jesus was an Occupier" interpretation. Please read Jesus' teachings, but please stop claiming Jesus was really a free-marketer or an occupier or a Republican or a Democrat or a conservative or a liberal. This type of elementary interpretation does not serve to further your understanding of Jesus or the divine and serves no one but yourself.