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Associated Press photo by Andrew Burton

Unequally yoked

Religion | The OWS movement does not align as well with the Bible as some suppose

Issue: "2011 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is not yet over, and it's not a religious movement, though some would like it to be.

The protest movement and the world's faith traditions seem, to some, naturally aligned. As Tom Heneghan, religion editor for Reuters, writes: "Religions condemn greed. The 'Occupy Wall Street' protests around the world condemn greed. So theoretically, religious leaders should find common ground with the rallies denouncing the inequalities of capitalism."

Yet few religious authorities have committed their support. If the OWS movement were merely opposed to crony capitalism, or political favor trading, or even executive compensation structures, then it would have broader Christian support. Instead it has focused on increasing taxes and expanding the size and scope of government.

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It's not at all clear that this is what the Bible means when it condemns greed. Arguably the OWS movement seizes upon one strand of biblical guidance, the condemnation of greed, but cuts out the rest of the tapestry of biblical counsel. How, for instance, do attacks on "the 1 percent" comport with the commandment not to covet? How would increased government spending, with a staggering debt already, reflect wise stewardship? Or is it true that taking more from "the rich" and giving more to "the poor" would improve the latter's circumstances, instead of undermining incentives to industry and entrenching the poor in dependency?

The list of religious leaders who have spoken in support of the OWS movement is relatively small and absolutely unsurprising. The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church stated on Oct. 23 that OWS "bears faithful witness in the tradition of Jesus to the sinful inequities in society," and Jim Wallis of Sojourners has embraced OWS protestors as kindred spirits. As Katherine Clark from the Interfaith Center of New York, which has staged services in support of OWS, explains, "the denominations most active with the interfaith service we have been organizing are progressive Protestants."

Income inequality is not an evil. It's a reflection of how the free market assigns values to differences of education, expertise, and effectiveness. Still, should a hedge fund manager make in one year what a teacher would make in one millennium? That's a fair question, and the OWS movement might have occasioned a healthy conversation on whether our free market needs adjustments. Instead it's devolved into a circus of envy and anti-capitalist sloganeering.

Thus far, the OWS is OMO: one missed opportunity.

Well versed

Olivia Davis/Handout photo

Perhaps your child will never make it onto American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance. Or perhaps she just has a different calling. The Shelby Kennedy Foundation offers an alternative: a National Bible Bee that inspires thousands of children to commit the Word of God to memory-and that sends the winners home with a serious down payment on their college tuition.

Children ages 7-10 were asked to memorize 350 Bible verses, while ages 11-14 were given 700, and the senior category, ages 15-18, were assigned no fewer than 1,100 verses to commit to memory. Over 5,600 students entered the competition (with WORLD parent organization God's World Publications as corporate sponsor), and the finalists gathered for the third annual National Bible Bee on Nov. 16 through Nov. 19 in Nashville, Tenn.

Three hundred competitors came to Nashville and witnessed a clean sweep for the girls: Olivia Davis of Oregon won in the youngest category, Bethany Xiques in the 11-14 group, and Kari Erickson in the senior ranks. The foundation awarded $260,000 in prizes, with the largest prize, $100,000, going to Erickson.

Yet the value of the competition goes beyond the money. The effort, Davis attested, showed her "how important the Bible is compared to worldly entertainment." -Tim Dalrymple

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