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Freedom and Virtue: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film

Freedom and Virtue: A Response to the Tea Party-Occupy Film

If Christians want to advance the common good, they should turn to their own hearts, not the government.

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.


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Displaying 1–5 of 29 comments


March 24, 2012  5:30am

Socialism isn't passe, it has become the norm, like the thievery of Greylord. Social justice subverts true justice which entitles one to the fruits of his labor (Christ's cup?). Redistribution is a perversion of Acts 4. The article captures the discipline of Spiritual mindedness, but is weak on "law for the nonbeliever", a necessity given the City of God within the City of Man. And our traditional Common Law jurisprudence, developing similarly to the emergence of the Decalogue, is best suited for establishing law without infringing on right, something modern positivism has not avoided.

A Hermit

March 21, 2012  3:01pm

Thank you...

Nate Clarke

March 21, 2012  1:25pm

A Hermit and Roger McKinney, it looks like this discussion is headed no where. Feel free to continue in another place but at this point I think it's gone far enough away from the original article that we'll delete further comments in this discussion.

Roger McKinney

March 21, 2012  1:05pm

Hermit, you’re engaging in psychological projecting. I respond to all of your points. You ignore most of mine. No one in the US claims to be a socialist any more, but your characterizations of capitalism and you ideas are all pure socialist. In past posts I have defined socialism and communism; you just don’t read them. Jesus endorsed free market capitalism when he endorsed the Torah, from which the Church’s scholars at Salamanca determined that the only just market is a free market. You don’t need money to have capitalism. Capitalism can include barter.

A Hermit

March 21, 2012  12:53pm

@ RMcK: Failing to adequately respond to my posts, you continue to simply label me as a 'socialist', which I am not. Partnership between government and private industry is not 'socialism'- which is government control/ownership of the economic means of production. In past posts, you have shown you don't even understand what 'socialism' and 'communism' are, despite claiming to have a degree in economics. You do not refute that you believe in economic determinism. So where in the New Testament does Jesus commend 'free market capitalism'? Providing for your family is not capitalism. The Amish come together as a community and help each other build barns- an economic activity. No money is exchanged, and people are cared for. That isn't 'capitalism'. Communal ownership does include people having things that they use, whose ownership is to the community as a whole.


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RT @MissionYear: A great collection of articles from @ct_city @CTmagazine http://t.co/OLmjHvUIfr

In honor of Kim Newlen, a friend of @ct_city who died Saturday, we share our story of her battle with cancer: http://t.co/S3FGKhVDuo

RT @CTmagazine: After three years, hundreds of stories, thousands of readers, our tribute to This Is Our City: http://t.co/Gz35NhAdqc @ct_c2026

The top 10 stories of @editor @KatelynBeaty picks her favorites and reflects on lessons learned in 3 years: http://t.co/BQxYdaoyD9

"As a community we have to do a better job of rescuing these young people." The newest (and last) City video: http://t.co/vZL0cRKO7H #RVA