If the previous posts hold true: namely that OWS is indeed a global phenomena affecting hundreds of thousands of people that is an incredibly diversified in regard to how to make things better; what is the appropriate response for the church. Or, as Francis Schaeffer so aptly questioned “How should we then live?”
The first thing the Church must do is actually be honest with ourselves in answering a simple question: Do you love the people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement? Or, are have you allowed a critical judgmental condescending spirit to affect the way you view these people? We need to first love these people and thusly be compelled by that love to continue.
The next thing I would implore the church to do would be to learn/listen to what people are actually concerned about. Perhaps some of the people have valid concerns (that unfortunately are dismissed or ignored because we categorically have dismissed the entire OWS movement). Once a true injustice has been identified, the church must consider how the Gospel should come to bear regarding that particular issue. Then innovate, be creative and allow the redemptive work of Christ to shape an innovative response.
Now, I know this can sound rather abstract so let me provide a concrete example:
Observe/Learn/Listen (identify the concern)
The cost of higher education and the subsequent dependence upon student loans is a great concern for many who would identify themselves as part of the 99%.
Biblical Critique/Gospel Evaluation (is it an injustice?)
Right now, society is building institutions on the backs of student debt. Both private and public colleges and universities are contributing to a significant injustice. Education should be financially accessible (I need to be careful here, I do not think students having to repay the loans that they voluntarily signed for is an injustice…everyone of us who have ever signed for a student loan did so knowing that we would have to pay that back some day). But, there is a structural injustice here.
Gospel Driven Alternative
So if there is an injustice in higher education, how should the church respond? Very simply: START NEW SCHOOLS that would correct the injustice. Create, innovate, and reform the way higher education is done (Yes, this is what Eternity Bible College is attempting to do, and we would love to have others join us in this). By doing this the Church will model compassion for the community and also model for greater society the comprehensive transformational power of a gospel driven worldview.
There is a significant aspect of our global community that is in turmoil, and the church is uniquely positioned to offer a gospel driven response (in both content and action). In so doing the church has the opportunity to offer true and lasting hope to a struggling world.
Can you comment on WHY exactly schools are so expensive and therefore why students have to go in debt (or come from a rich family) to attend? Is it just that schools are offering a product that is expensive BECAUSE the quality of education is high? Or what exactly is it about the expense that makes it (=high tuition) unjust?
It is tough to say why every school carries the price tag it does. But, a few things that may contribute to many schools:
1. Having students go into debt so that other students can play games
2. Having students go into debt in order to pay excessive salaries (I wonder how much money could be saved if administrators took a moderate salary)
3. Having students go into debt in order to have a nicely manicured lawn or fountain etc on campus.
4. Having financial aid counselors who are more committed to figuring out how to creatively fund (student loans) education and sustain enrollment than they are in educating and informing students of the long term dangers/implications of that debt (financial aid counselors function more like salesmen who can get you into anything regardless if it is in your best interest).
5. Institutions of higher learning have become more about an experience than they are about education (I know this is going to be rather subjective).
This list could continue (perhaps it is a future post), but for now this will suffice. I also want to acknowledge that these things all contribute to the injustice of higher education, that being said I do believe students also bear some culpability for their choice of going to particular schools (students are never forced into going).
To be honest… it is hard to feel any sympathy for the 99% (of which, according to their definition I am one of them). Many countries like Uganda where I live don’t even have a Student Loan program for students to access higher education. Here students are entirely dependent on family or some form of scholarship, which are few.
What the 99% are also forgetting is that the 1% are actually subsidizing their education through taxes and also through their own generosity – Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation among many others are extremely generous towards institutions of higher education.
But to your point – YES! The church is obligated to provide a gospel-driven alternative – whether in the US or Africa. Through reduced fees (like EBC) or through scholarship programs (http://vimeo.com/9842321) – please note the shameless plug of ARCC in that link.
It is my prayer that the OWS would see that financial equality is not the hope of the world but that they instead would embrace the gospel as the only hope in this life.