Catholic Media: Right and Wrong Approaches to the Occupy Movement

Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at Marybeth Hicks’ article without wondering, “What is this piece doing on a Catholic website?

To be fair, the article was written for the Washington Times where it possibly feels more at home in the larger context of her “conservative” political column.  Hicks has described that her own goal when writing is “to convince you that leftists in positions of power and influence over our children are seriously undermining the values and virtues essential to our national character and to American citizenship.”  I don’t think that we should be expecting something different from a person who got her start writing in the Ronald Reagan White House, but I find it a bit disconcerting that we as Catholics accept this style as our Catholic “daily bread” when we come online.

What is the style I’m talking about?  It is an approach in which, for these articles at least, Catholic beliefs play the role of support to a political ideology.  The main purpose of Hicks, and the plethora of other Catholic writers who employ the same tactic and are more properly called “conservative” writers who happen to be Catholic, is to battle their political rivals, as she herself says in the above quote.  I write “for these articles” because I am not attempting to make a comment upon their personal lives or relationship with God and His Church, as I do not claim to know that state of affairs.  I write though, as a fellow writing Catholic, questioning why an article like this appears equally in the Washington Times, at Catholic Lane, and the at Jewish World Review.  If I were Jewish I might ask, “What exactly is Jewish about this article?”  As a Catholic, I ask “What is Catholic about it?”

Beyond the general idea of whether or not our Catholicism should be subject to our political beliefs or our political beliefs to our Catholicism when we make our media choices, I take issue with some specifics in Hicks’ blast of the Occupy Wall Street movement and individuals.  I’m not necessarily attempting to ally myself with Occupy Wall Street and if you want to know where I feel our occupational efforts should be directed read my own blog post titled Occupy Heaven.

The first issue that I take with this article is the crass language and condescending tone that pervades it.  In a mere 647 words Marybeth Hicks manages to make reference to “bedsprings in a brothel,” insult thousands upon thousands of protesters’ mothers, refer to those she disagrees with as looking like idiots, state that the protesters have no integrity, say that their off-putting appearance is the cause of their assumed unemployment, and say… well, this: “You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high, and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.”  When she is not outright insulting people, Hicks is using pejorative language such as mentioning “colleges and hospitals don’t operate on rainbows and sunshine” and talk of the movement’s “fairyland agenda.”  Is this really the type of language that we want to put our Catholic name on?  The name of our Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of which it is written He gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish? (Eph 5:25-27.) 

The next big issue I have is with her insulting language about the occupiers’ pursuit of fairness and justice.  Hicks lets us know that “the concept of justice” is “worthy and worthwhile” (Hey, at least we agree on something!) but that “life isn’t fair” and the protesters need to accept this fact.  She tells them “There is no magic money machine to tap for your meandering educational careers and ‘slow paths’ to adulthood.”

The big problem I have here is that there IS a magic money machine that the bankers and Wall Street finance companies use and it is called the Federal Reserve and their implementation of a fractional banking system.  The protesters are angry, whether they understand it explicitly or not, because the big financial institutions are allowed to create that free money that she says does not exist because they only need to hold a fraction of their customer’s deposits as reserves (hence the term fractional banking.)  That fraction is 10% for most of the large banks in the US, except for the Federal Reserve which gets first crack at making as much money as they wish.  So, in an easy-math example, I might depost $100 in a bank, which can then lend $90 which will likely eventually be deposited in another bank, which can lend $81 which will eventually be deposited in another bank, which can lend $72.90 to end up in another bank, which can then lend $65.61, and so on.  In that short example $100 deposited led to the quick entry of $309.51 into the market, while a total of only $32.85 is actually held by the banks in question; yet the depositors, at any moment, can still somehow remove their money from the banks.  Now imagine these figures in the billions or trillions of dollars.

“Life isn’t fair” doesn’t really seem to cover how banks get to do that but you and I don’t, huh?

Hicks also lets us and the protesters know there are “a few other things that are not free” including “the food that inexplicably appears on the tables in your makeshift protest kitchens.”  She tells them “Real people with real dollars are underwriting your civic temper tantrum.”  After the previous paragraph we might say real people with fake dollars are underwriting the tantrum, but I digress.  This is the same Marybeth Hicks who when asked in an interview with TheHill.com about her time working in the White House said, “It was such a blast. Basically, we spent the summer finding out how you could snag free food by going to receptions.”  I wonder if the free food at White House receptions was somehow more “explicable” than the free food of the protesters…  I suppose if we thought long enough we might be able to “explicate” where the money for that food came from.  (Hint: It wasn’t donated by local farms and individuals like what is happening  at Occupy Wall Street.)  I’m being slightly facetious here, but in all charity I would ask Marybeth to lighten up on the kids and their “free food” because she was there once too, eating food paid for by other people.  If she wants to make a big deal about it we could have a conversation about governmental waste and extravagance with taxpayer money, but I’m imagining she would rather not.

The last issue I’ll raise is with Hicks’ attack on the protesters’ joy.  She tells them “A protest is not a party” and “Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival.”  This attack on joy really offends the sensibilities of what it means to be Christian.  The Bible tells us, you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you (Dt 12:7).  Not just mankind but also, Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”  Let the sea roar, and all that fills it, let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before the LORD (1Chr 16:31-33.)  Of the condition of men the author of Ecclesiastes writes, I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live (Eccles 3:12.)  St. Paul teaches us Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice (Phil 4:4) and Christ Himself commands us to Rejoice and be glad (Mt 5:12.)

 I am not under any illusion that Occupy Wall Street is a Christian religious movement in which these individuals are rejoicing fully according to these verses from the Bible.  However, our Church should not be set up somehow against rejoicing and discourage it for as John Paul II said, ”We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”  As the Easter people we should be sharing joy with everyone we meet, not discouraging it.  Wouldn’t it be great if as they danced that jig down Sixth Avenue the protesters thought, “My! Aren’t we acting Catholic today?”

James Tucker is a lay married Catholic and Editor-in-chief of FireofThyLove.com.  He delves into the topics of Theology, Biblical Exegesis, Prayer Life, Christian Tradition, and Current Events in an attempt to help himself and others come to a deeper understanding of the Lord and our place in His divine plan.  James can be contacted at fireofthylove@gmail.com.