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Why Liberty Needs Justice: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film

Why Liberty Needs Justice: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film

A real revival in America will include the 99 percent.

Christianity Today's newest film is provocative because of its gritty, grounded honesty. This is not a film about political pundits bantering back and forth exchanging policy talking points. Instead, it's about two very ordinary people, their deep faith in Jesus, and how that faith is leading them to engage two of the most consequential grassroots movements of our time. These movements have one beautiful thing in common: they are groundswells of ordinary citizens reengaging their democratic civic duty, letting their messages be heard and considered in the public square.

Last week, my coauthor, D. C. Innes, rightly pointed out that the film's title, "Liberty or Justice for All," and its structure seem to pit the virtues of liberty and justice against one another. Within the first minute of the film, liberty is clearly identified as the motivation for Emmett Bailey's Virginia Tea Party involvement, while justice is revealed as the motivation for Pam Hogeweide's Occupy Portland involvement. Both subjects say their involvement arises from their faith.

Bailey articulates his understanding of liberty and law this way: "The Founders' vision (and God's vision), was that we would be self-regulated. When God is being honored, people are regulating themselves, not regulated from the outside with laws." We see Bailey at a Tea Party rally where machine-gun-toting "patriots" listen to a woman remind the crowd of something they are "very familiar with." She launches into the Declaration of Independence ("We hold these truths to be self-evident …"). Then she twists history and identifies "tyrannical government" as the entity Americans must protect their rights from.

There's much to say in response. First, Bailey's interpretation of the Founders' (and God's) vision is idealistic. The Founders were not against regulation. They were not against law. Their first act was to create the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights—a set of regulations and laws. They understood regulation and law as necessary tools for preserving liberty. As for God's vision, Bailey's read of Scripture seems rooted in dispensationalist soil. How else can one read the whole counsel of Scripture and think God's vision is the abolition of law? Consider the Ten Commandments, all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, David's Psalm 119 love letter to the law, all the prophets who called the Israelites back to the law, and the words of Jesus, who declared, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17)?

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Displaying 1–5 of 40 comments

A Hermit

March 28, 2012  11:06pm

R McKinney- you have still not answered whether the definitions of socialism are wrong. You have still not responded to current church teachings on the role of government. You both choose simply to discount or ignore whenever contradicts your beliefs, in the Bible and elsewhere. You choose to focus on what I have said out of context and continually restate points countered before. Whether you 'win' this exchange or not, God knows your hearts and what you truly value and where you devote your energies to; and from these posts it is clear that is private property, profit and free market capitalism. Which is sad, because you could be devoting your energies to the establishment of God's kingdom instead of a worldly economic system.

Roger McKinney

March 28, 2012  1:47pm

Catholicism's flirtation with Marx was short. Liberal Protestant denominations still promote Marxism. But free markets and private property have been the historical position of Christianity. Those who deny it are inventing new theology equivalent to any heresy.

Roger McKinney

March 28, 2012  1:44pm

God created private property so that mankind could flourish. All societies that have held property in common have endured massive starvation. China lost 30 million to starvation in the 1960's. The Torah confirms God's sanctification of private property and Jesus affirmed it when he endorsed the Torah. As Rick wrote, the NT Church held property in high esteem, along with charity because charity does not exist without property. The Catholic church endorsed free markets and private property until it absorbed Marxist teachings in the 19th century. There are many Catholics who are Marxists. Liberation theology is Marxist Catholicism. Today, many Catholics, such as those at the Acton Institute, see Catholic social teaching as free market and private property oriented based on declarations by the most recent Popes.

RICK DALBEY

March 28, 2012  1:14pm

The early church contributed voluntarily, and personally to the needs of homeless saints. It was not coercive, it was not dependent on an intstituitional re-distribution of wealth, taxing or tithing. Peter reaffirmed the rights of private property ownership to the early church “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?” The early church did not share its resources with all the poor of Jerusalem, only the believing poor in the church and only with strict standards. Single widows (not men) without family over 60 were given free food. As Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:16 “If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone.” I don’t “love” private property or capital. Curiously I would rather have your property, free food, free housing and i would prefer not to work for it. But, as the Bible teaches, that is irresponsible sin.

A Hermit

March 27, 2012  9:19pm

@ R Dalbey: Your interpretation is your interpretation, biased on your belief in private property, profit, free markets and capitalism. In the Kingdom, there will be no economic systems, only people relating to one another in love through the Holy Spirit (as in the early Christian community recorded in Acts). Genesis 1, 15: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it." Notice what God did not say- "give him possession of it". All notions of ownership are human conventions, and human conventions alone.

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