Golden Calf vs Sacred Calf

I’ve been deeply moved by the NYC image of the Golden Calf that Judson Memorial Church has processed down past the Thompson Street Brunch crowd on Sunday afternoons in support of the Occupy Wall Street social movement. Rev. Michael Ellick and Rev. Donna Schaper’s interfaith leadership has been effective and powerful. The Golden Calf, the classic false idol of scriptures based in the Abrahamic Tradition reminds us that we’re not here to worship any economic system. It reminds us that religion and faith put human compassion before the call of the dollar. The story of Moses, Aaron and the people’s desire to rely on something familiar rather than the difficult path God put before them is one we can readily relate to. What other way is there but profit? Can we really rely on one another? Will there be enough when I can’t see the way forward?

At a recent interfaith press conference, Donna Schaper reminded us that the story ultimately has a shattered calf at the end of it – and we need to not shatter our calf. Violence has no place in this peace movement. Reflecting upon her words, I would add that our system doesn’t have to be shattered to be healed. Our reliance upon the way things have been done may need to be broken, but destruction isn’t the image we need to look toward. We need to find one of hope and abundance, because that’s the core of our challenge. And it can be the core of our solution.

I was reminded of another tradition’s image of the sacred calf at the press conference. In Hinduism, the cow is sacred. It’s a sign of life and abundance. It’s holy and an image of the divine. I’d like to suggest that we continue to use this image of the Golden Calf in the form of the Wall Street Bull, to remind us that the economic system that parses and funnels wealth against the stream to the few is a dead weight that only brings loss with it. We can also remember the Hindu notion of the sacred calf. The U.S. is a society with a tremendous dream, and an abundance of prosperity – even in the recession we now face. We can cease to pretend that hoarding wealth is our sacred national pastime. We can devise an economy – even a Capitalistic economy – that recognizes that we truly have more than we’re allowing all of us to share in. Approaching our imagination with solutions rooted in this abundance, we can rebuild a sense of hope and possibility for that way forward. It doesn’t have to be them vs us. As one protester wrote, “It’s not you vs. me. It’s we before me.”

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