Tom Beaudoin has a great new post up at Rock and Theology on the Occupy movement’s dispute with the Episcopal Trinity Church in New York. Beaudoin writes:
It seems to me that in the midst of all this, a theological matter has arisen that has perhaps not gotten enough attention: a theological interpretation of private property – especially the private property of a Christian church.
Often Trinity’s defenders phrase their defense of their space as a defense of the church’s private property. I think, however, that Occupy is challenging (mostly implicitly) the assumption that one can speak of the “private property” of a church…
At the risk of sacrificing nuance, and for the sake of brevity, let me be succinct: I think we have a very important theological matter before us when Occupy, through its religious-leader allies, is saying to Trinity Wall Street: We in Occupy — as a multifaith, interreligious, spiritually pluralistic movement that is also and equally a nonreligious, secular movement — can better meet your mission as a Christian church in this particular time, and this particular place, with negligible negative financial impact (Trinity is a very wealthy community), and with a rare and time-sensitive influence, by using this particular private property to host the next stage of Occupy Wall Street, and let’s meet to talk about the liability issues and any other concerns you have, let’s have that dialogue starting immediately, but in principle we have a substantial theological point worthy of your consideration.
The presumption in this theological claim, which I think is correct, is that no Christian church is – on the very terms of its theological existence – permitted to fall back on the mere invocation of “private property” without also a theological conversation about the spiritual significance of what that concept means and how it is being used.