Freedom and Virtue: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film
In the past four years of economic upheaval, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have been the defining political movements of the Right and the Left, respectively. This Is Our City's documentary film profiling two Christians in the movements examines the right-left divide among biblically committed Christians through this parallel divide in the civic sphere.
Emmett Bailey of Richmond, Virginia, and Pam Hogeweide of Portland, Oregon, are immediately likeable folk—and not just because we see them serving generous quantities of food in dining rooms, though that helps. They both profess Christ and want to bring what they understand of his teachings to the sphere of political responsibility.
The film's title, "With Liberty or Justice for All," sets liberty and justice against each other. Emmett, the Tea Party Republican, sees justice in terms of liberty (though he does not mention justice), and understands liberty as "all that's good about life, all that's good about being a Christian"—which, at first glance, seems to imply that the gospel is about enjoyment and freedoms in this life alone. Pam, the Portland Occupier, sees justice as the fruit of revival—a return to life sent by God—which is presumably a state of liberty (which she does not mention but surely implies). Though we see her marching for justice, "the language of God," she does not indicate what she believes justice to be. The "99 percent" language of the Occupy movement suggests that it might have something to do with economic leveling.
Pam speaks expansively only when she describes the time she realized that the revival in the church for which she had been praying might actually come outside the church, when non-Christians hunger for justice. This is a strikingly political notion of revival and thus of the gospel. As she presents it, revival is something non-Christians are capable of experiencing while remaining strangers to Christ.
Perhaps these descriptions do not faithfully or fully represent Emmett's and Pam's views—we can only discern so much from snippets of interviews. But taken on their own, the views they express here sound like civil religion on the Right and the social gospel on the Left—the besetting sins of Christians at each of these poles.