Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ – Exodus 32:7-8
Yesterday morning, I helped deliver a golden calf to Congress. Starting off at the Occupy DC encampment in McPherson Square, we bore a shining paper-maché bull approximately two miles to the US Capitol Building as a sign of our spiritual condition as a nation that worships greed rather than God; a society that values profits over people. This demonstration brought together people of faith – especially Christians and Jews – who bore witness against the unjust economic systems that have taken root in our nation.
The image of the golden calf is an ancient one, shared by the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It represents the fearful worship of money; the denial of God in the rush for man-made security and prosperity. Human society is always a struggle between our tendency to worship the golden calf of our own frightened selfishness and our true calling as children of the God of mercy, justice and truth.
Unfortunately, our nation is caught in a downward spiral of Wealth-worship. We live in a country where billionaires and giant corporations pay little or no taxes; yet this same nation is cutting social services for the mentally ill, homeless, disabled, and working poor. We live in a society where working families are being evicted from their homes while the banks that dreamed up their bad loans have been rewarded – bailed out from a mess that the poor and middle classes have been left to clean up.
Today, as we stood before the halls of power in the wealthiest country in human history, we proclaimed God’s righteous anger; anger against an economy and government that oppresses the poor so that the rich can inflate their already obscene wealth. We sought to remind lawmakers of God’s judgment against those who abuse their positions of authority, abandoning the most vulnerable in our society and instead taking sides with those who have the most.
For me, this public witness was an outgrowth of my faith in the Lord Jesus, who began his ministry with a sermon from the sixty-first chapter of the prophet Isaiah. As we stood before the Capitol Building in prayer for our nation, I read aloud a portion of that passage of Scripture: