A Word From C.S. Lewis to the Occupy Movement

In C.S. Lewis’s essay, “Judgment in the Psalms”, he discusses how most men and women in the history of the world lacked effective, fair and easily available jurisprudence. The average Israelite was justice deprived and oppressed. Therefore, it was sensible for Israelites to yearn for God’s justice. In America, however, an entire federal institution is dedicated to fair, easily available justice. Nonetheless, many Americans today feel justice deprived – and maybe rightly so. In the last two years we’ve seen the Tea Party Movement and the Occupy Movement join the old Israelite cry for justice.

Today I want to focus on the Occupy Movement (because it’s more recent, relevant, and young), but this post speaks to the Tea Party too.

The Occupy Movement claims to speaks on behalf of “the 99%” – the majority of America’s population who does not own the majority of America’s wealth. This wealth disparity seems to point to some gross social injustice. The Occupy Movement is deeply sensitive to their own needs, but also to the needs of the marginalized and impoverished. Many in the Movement deeply felt the recession. They lost their jobs or their savings or simply couldn’t find a job. For every aforementioned reason they demand economic justice.

Now, I don’t want to comment on whether the Occupiers’ demands are actually just, thoughtful, effective, or understandable. People far more suited to this job have already written countless articles and blogs.

Instead, I want to talk about the dangers of angrily demanding justice in the name of sensitivity to anyone’s needs . This is where C.S. Lewis offers the Occupy Movement profound advice,

Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings . . . when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. . . . Indeed what is commonly called “sensitivity” is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.

This is not an accusation toward the Occupy Movement, it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation to acknowledge the dark side of the human heart. The dark side that hides petty greed by yelling “economic injustice!”; the side that hides envy by crying out “corrupt corporations!”; the side that hides personal insignificance with radical protests.

Yet again, I am not saying whether or not the cries of Occupiers across the nation are disingenuous. Instead, let me suggest this: before you throw your weight behind any protest or ideology, first take the time to learn about every side. Ask how the gospel and the scriptures speak to the problem. Second, take some time to peer into your own heart, and ask why you’re protesting. There will be good mixed with bad, but both will be present. Tear out every selfish, evil, backward motive.

If you learn about the issue and scrrutinize your heart, then you’ll know that you justly cry for justice.


About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
This entry was posted in Art and Culture, Campus Mind, Engaging Worldviews, Global Mind. Bookmark the permalink.

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