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This reference to the anti-Hitler plotter is odd, given his own ambivalence about Union, and his decidedly non-pacifist choice to help kill the Fuehrer. But likely it was just too irresistible for Union’s president to liken the Wall Street Occupiers to the anti-Nazi resistance. After all, don’t both movements represent the struggle against absolute evil, whether Hitler 70 years ago, or the Wall Street of today? Jones cited the Occupation’s crusade for “jobs, healthcare, lower student loans, increased infrastructure investment, [and] immediate changes in NYPD’s stop and frisk practices.” So no doubt Bonhoeffer, who was executed for his exertions, would see the Occupation[s similarity to his own selfless resistance to Nazism’s 13 years of conquests and genocides that consumed tens of millions.
Cornel West, rather than Bonhoeffer, is a more suitable symbol for Union Seminary. In a sort of homecoming, since he taught at Union in the 70’s and 80’s, he will become Union’s Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practices. “Union is a place where Cornel West’s view of the world is in our life blood,” gushed Union’s president, who cited her school’s “inspired strong public voices” on “war, poverty, racism, sexism, or other societal scourges.” Noting that some supposedly compare West to Reinhold Niebuhr, Jones accurately insisted that West is in fact “in a class by himself.” Indeed, she asserted, West is the “leading public theologian of our age.”
Perhaps from the rarified vantage point of New York’s upper West Side, West qualifies as America’s “leading public theologian.” Outside of Manhattan, West’s colleague at Princeton, Robert George, fearless defender of marriage and all vulnerable human life, would likelier qualify. While unsurprisingly en route to Occupy Wall Street protests in Seattle, West himself told The New York Times, that Union was “the institutional expression of my core identity as a prophetic Christian.” Such “prophetic” Christians typically ignore their faith’s emphasis on salvation and personal holiness in favor of sweeping political demands of the left, emphasizing coercive state power. In a 1991 book, West declined to identify himself as Marxist but hailed Marxism as “an indispensable tradition for freedom fighters who focus on the fundamental issues of jobs, food, shelter, literacy, health, and childcare for all.”
Identifying Christianity with endless class struggle premised on entitlement and resentment and is an old and comfortable theme for Union Seminary and for much of the archaic Religious Left. These themes bear little resemble to the teachings of Christianity’s Founder, who stressed self-sacrifice rather than entitlement. Neither would He recognize the Religious Left’s prioritization, often in His name, of political power over holiness. But no doubt Cornel West, Occupy Wall Street chaplains, and the rest of Union will enjoy singing their old class warfare hymns to their own self-chosen choir.
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