As the Occupy Movement, which protests the economic inequality in our society, continues to emerge across the nation, people have begun to ask me how our students feel about the cause. That’s a difficult question to answer because the response seems to be so varied.
There are some students that are very sympathetic to the movement and have even participated in the demonstrations. Others are sympathetic but not directly involved and still more are oblivious or uninterested.
There is also a small group that I would characterize as hostile to such forms of civil disobedience.
Having said this there does seem to be a shifting in the attitudes of college students toward issues of economic inequality and social opportunity.
Most college students are part of the millennial generation, which is often described as idealistic and optimistic. The recent economic meltdown and instances of corporate malfeasance seem to have tempered this optimism.
Most of the students I work with are middle-class young adults that have grown up believing that if they work hard and apply themselves they can accomplish anything.
That optimistic self-assurance has now been challenged, and college students are frustrated because it seems like the rules of the game have been changed in the middle of their turn.
There is a sense of outrage at this unfairness that has roused the consciences of this generation. Whether or not they actually participate in the Occupy Movement is another matter however.
Cynics have cited self-interest as the primary motivating factor for the millennial generation in general and the Occupy Movement in particular.
It’s been argued that economic inequality and injustice have been part of our system for some time, but it’s only now when the prosperity of the middle class is threatened that people have begun to react.
I think there is truth in that observation. However, I also believe that recent events have been a catalyst for an underlying social consciousness among young adults.
When I step back from the situation I find myself asking a simple question: “What is God doing” through the Occupy Movement and this upsurge in social consciousness among young adults?
It seems to me that despite the pain of this economic crisis God is at work doing what God always does, bringing good out of evil.
Results of uncertainty
Young adults, many of whom come from privileged, if not affluent, backgrounds are for the first time personally experiencing the economic uncertainty that has been the constant reality for so many in our nation.
They are realizing that hard work and determination are not always enough to overcome the obstacles of economic injustice.
Our current cultural turmoil is an unusual opportunity to experience some of the economic precariousness that the poor and oppressed experience daily. But the good news in this is that there is hope.
In the person of Jesus Christ the kingdom of God has broken into our world, and this kingdom is one of justice and peace. Jesus invites us to participate in the emergence of this kingdom by working for economic and social justice for all.
Let us find hope in this good news and resolve to never forget the painful reality that we call an economic downturn but that so many of our brothers and sisters simply call life.