SANTA CRUZ – How would Jesus see the Occupy movement, the nationwide uprising of folks fighting for economic equality?
According to a group of religious scholars participating in a lecture series at UC Santa Cruz on Thursday, Jesus likely would have joined the protest in the name of creating a world without poverty.
“He led his disciples to feed hungry people. He embraced homelessness, and he challenged the wealthy to redistribute their wealth,” said Ched Myers, a Christian activist who led the Noel Q. King Memorial Lecture. “You can’t hang the Neocon stuff on Jesus of Nazareth.”
Myers shared the stage at Stevenson College Event Center with Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El, Imam Zaid Shakir, known as one of the
country’s most influential Muslim scholars and Dr. Inder Mohan Singh, a devout Sikh, who has founded several technology companies in the Silicon Valley.
About 100 people showed up to hear the interfaith conversation, laced with political overtones, that reflected how each religion addresses the poor through its scriptures and spiritual traditions.
Despite largely disparate backgrounds and beliefs, the panel agreed that generously helping the needy was the core message of their faith.
Marcus used the message in Deuteronomy 15:1, which says a person’s debts should be forgiven every seven years, to emphasize the Jewish vision for economic justice.
“The real world we know is broken and in need of fixing,” Marcus said.
“The eradication of poverty is an essential part of bringing about a perfected world. Each person has an obligation to work toward the creation of this world.”
Singh said charity is ingrained in each member of the Sikh religion. Sikhs also are required to be productive members of society and not rely on handouts, he said.
“We are expected to earn an honest living,” Singh said. “The guru teaches we are children of one God. We work for the common good of everybody.”
needy goes beyond telling someone to get a job, Shakir said.
“Some of the hardest working people are poor,” he said. “It’s not a question of hard work, it’s a question of God’s grace. Some are tested by poverty, some are tested by wealth.”
The discussion about how the economy and religion intersect – called “Jesus Empire: Occupy Everywhere” – continues Friday and Saturday at First Congregational Church, 900 High St.
Friday’s forum begins at 7:30 p.m. Workshops begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
For information, visit www.bcm-net.org.
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