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Acton Commentary: OWS and the Lost Sheep

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In this week’s Acton Commentary, I examine Jesus’s famous parable of the Lost Sheep in the context of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable after some people grumble about him eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” Tax collectors at the time had a bad reputation of unfair business practices and government ties. Yet, Jesus tells the parable of a man who left ninety-nine sheep to find the one that went missing in order to caution his detractors about marginalizing even these tax collectors.

In light of this, does the “we are the 99%” rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which implicitly insinuates that anyone in the top 1 percent has gotten there unjustly, amount to shunning the lost sheep (and others) of our society today? Read this week’s Acton Commentary for more.

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Unported Author: Another Believer

Dylan Pahman Dylan Pahman is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, where he serves as managing editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He earned his MTS in Historical Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary. In addition to his work as an editor, Dylan has authored several peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, essays, and one book: Foundations of a Free & Virtuous Society (Acton Institute, 2017). He has also lectured on a wide variety of topics, including Orthodox Christian social thought, the history of Christian monastic enterprise, the Reformed statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper, and academic publishing, among others.


  • tz

    The 1% are those who specifically gotten wealth and power unjustly.  Through corruption, fraud, manipulation, and being bailed out when they took excessive risks, and because of the corruption are not going to be prosecuted or even investigated for criminal acts of fraud.  Note that Wachovia laundered $300m in mexican druglord money but no one went to jail.  How many are in jail for smoking a joint?

    They to my knowledge make a distinction between Steve Jobs and Jamie Daimon.

    There also has been no shortage of detraction, gossip, and calumny directed at OWS.  They are all stupid, dirty, hippies that deserve to be peppersprayed for nonviolently protesting?

    What they are doing is saying “Shame on you in power” to the 1% who have no shame, are never accountable for their mistakes, and are corporate welfare queens.

    Jesus at least would say that a prostitute is sinning.  That publicans doing things beyond their authority is shameful.  That wealth can buy things on earth but remember the Rich Man and Lazarus…

    It is a sin to confirm someone else in their sin instead of admonishing them.  Is Acton’s policy that economic power doesn’t corrupt, so when they break the law – fraud, foreclosing on military personnel, filing false affidavits and other court documents, there is nothing, sinful, shameful, or otherwise evil?

    • TZ says: “It is a sin to confirm someone else in their sin instead of admonishing
      them.  Is Acton’s policy that economic power doesn’t corrupt, so when
      they break the law – fraud, foreclosing on military personnel, filing
      false affidavits and other court documents, there is nothing, sinful,
      shameful, or otherwise evil?”

      Your comment is not only grossly in error, it is lazy. Have you bothered to look — even for a moment — at anything on the Acton website? Where do you find grounds for making this scurrilous claim?

      Have you read Acton’s Core Principles? See here:

      Especially this part:

      Creation of Wealth – Material impoverishment undermines the
      conditions that allow humans to flourish. The best means of reducing
      poverty is to protect private property rights through the rule of law.
      This allows people to enter into voluntary exchange circles in which to
      express their creative nature. Wealth is created when human beings
      creatively transform matter into resources. Because human beings can
      create wealth, economic exchange need not be a zero-sum game.

      Economic Liberty – Liberty, in a positive sense, is achieved
      by fulfilling one’s nature as a person by freely choosing to do what one
      ought. Economic liberty is a species of liberty so-stated. As such, the
      bearer of economic liberty not only has certain rights, but also
      duties. An economically free person, for example, must be free to enter
      the market voluntarily. Hence, those who have the power to interfere
      with the market are duty-bound to remove any artificial barrier to entry
      in the market, and also to protect private and shared property rights.
      But the economically free person will also bear the duty to others to
      participate in the market as a moral agent and in accordance with moral
      goods. Therefore, the law must guarantee private property rights and
      voluntary exchange.

  • The99percent

    It never ceases to amaze me what the Acton Institute will say to make its wealthy donors feel good about themselves.
    Invoking the parable of the Lost Sheep out of concern over the treatment of the rich? Seriously? When you rail against the marginalized who depend on government assistance, when you rail against the unions or politicians, when you rail against liberals and the media, aren’t they lost sheep too? When has THEIR dignity ever been a matter of your concern?
    The Acton Institute has zero credibility to speak out on moral issues. It’s track record is of only speaking out when it serves the interests of the rich and powerful. Did it not even occur to you that the ACTUAL modern day tax collectors are regularly subjected to Acton’s derision and scorn?

  • Roger McKinney

    My take on Dylan’s commentary is that we shouldn’t hate
    anyone. That was Jesus’ point in the parable. The responses by the99percent and
    tz demonstrate what I have often said: the left is organized around hatred of
    the rich. Without that hate they have nothing to live for; their lives are

    Acton Institute has always promoted the rule of law. If
    anyone, rich or poor, violates the law they should receive the appropriate
    punishment. But as Jesus did, the Acton Institute doesn’t apply the law just to
    the rich, but to everyone. And if people are rich because they have done
    something good for society by inventing a needed product or providing a
    necessary financial service, and they haven’t broken the law, then they should
    receive praise.

    Those who understand economics know that there is no
    conflict between rich and poor. The poor need the rich to invest in new
    businesses and provide good equipment for laborers to work with.