It appears the "Occupy" movement is winding down. They've worn out their welcome in city after city, and the media aren't nearly as friendly as they were at first. Even liberal politicians have pretty much turned away.
It isn't hard to find something to denounce about the Occupiers and their trampy tent cities and whiney displays. But we should not miss what I think is a valid point in their effort: The American addiction to wealth and things is a sadly misplaced hope.
I know that seems like an odd lesson to derive from this rag-tag effort. But Occupy's primary complaint was that too many people make way too much money, while a lot more people can't even find jobs.
But that's not the fault of the 1%, is it? After all, they're only following their materialistic dream as avidly as the Occupiers would like for themselves and the rest of the 99% to get a larger slice of that pie.
Still, the question arises, How much stuff is enough? And aren't there better things to do with more money than simply to acquire more stuff? And even better things to do besides pursue more stuff?
Occupiers didn't bother to appeal to the compassion or brotherly love of the wealthy. They simply assumed that doesn't exist. The only way to spread the stuff around more evenly is to get government to distribute the wealth more fairly.
But you cannot have a socialist government and a capitalist economy - not for long, anyway. Government attempts to seize and redistribute the wealth of the 1% "more equitably" results in economic slow down at just the time increased government largesse needs the resources of the wealthy more than ever. The result? Greece. Italy. Portugal.
Since the Founding a steady erosion of transcendent values has been occurring as a slow-leaching materialism has become the blessed hope of most Americans. But that hope can never satisfy, and to hope in that hope, as Occupiers do, is simply to widen the breach, not between the haves and have-nots, but between the haves and the want-to-have-mores of our society.
Believing that happiness and personal meaning can come from material wealth is a misplaced hope. People are not created to be wealthy. They are created to know God, Whom to know is to enjoy everything one needs for full and abundant life.
The idol of wealth can never satisfy. Christians know this, at least, theoretically.
At this time of year - our season of "National Splurge" - Christians can exemplify true hope by living joyously on behalf of others. If we can do that, not just now, but at all times, we will discover more opportunities to explain the reasons for the hope that is within us.
But if all we're going to do is join the materialist herd and overindulge - or long to overindulge - with everyone else, then we have nothing serious to say to anyone else.
Except, perhaps, "Happy Splurge."
Related texts: Romans 5.1, 2; 2 Corinthians 2.12-18; 1 Peter 3.15
A conversation starter: "What if material wealth turns out not to be the road to happiness?"