Tag Archives: economics

a two-level strategy

“Whether by design, or simply inertia, the Republican wrecking ball has been following a two-level strategy. Trump keeps the spotlight on himself with one act after another, assuming (correctly) that yesterday’s antics will be swept aside by today’s. And at the same time, often beneath the radar, the “respectable” Republican establishment chips away at government programs that might be of benefit to the general population, but not to their constituency of extreme wealth and corporate power. They are systematically pursuing what Financial Times economic correspondent Martin Wolf calls “pluto-populism,” a doctrine that imposes “policies that benefit plutocrats, justified by populist rhetoric.””

-Noam Chomsky

This makes sense to me. It seems a fairly decent description of what’s happening at the moment. Anyone else agree? How do we stop it?

saved by hope

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. — Reinhold Niebuhr

In yesterday’s post, saved by faith, I shared some of why Reinhold Niebuhr is one of my favorite theologians. I want to continue that this morning.

Niebuhr’s Christian idealism was forged on the anvil of of modern industry. Serving a 13 year pastorate in Detroit taught him firsthand the perils of a pious unreality disconnected from the everyday world of real life. That led him to a passionate concern with the practical bearing of Christianity on the ever present political and economic problems of his day.

The value of Niebuhr’s theology for me is that he shows that no matter how important the church’s work is in saving men and women from the sins of the world, the church still must function in the world. It is a social institution. That means its achievements and its limitations needs the same critical examination as other social institutions.

The church should provide the indispensable resources necessary for the building of a good and moral society. Without the moral foundation provided by the gospel (which has to be a social gospel) we can never hope to achieve the vision of an ideal society where love and justice is fully realized. But, when the church is successful in providing those resources there is real hope.

Whenever religion concerns itself with the problems of society, it always gives birth to some kind of millennial hope, from the perspective of which present social realities are convicted of inadequacy, and courage is maintained to continue the effort to redeem society of injustice.

 

a true means of hope

The Church… has a unique role to play, for the estrangement experienced by modern humanity flows fundamentally from the loss of true community. That is what the band of those committed to the Good News can restore. A beginning point for their witness is the setting forth of a model for community which rests on new values and embodies the first signs of a New Order in the world. Economically, socially, racially, and spiritually, such new communities can point the way to the rest of the world, and become true means of hope for us all to build a future of promise and creativity. – Mark Hatfield

In June 1979, almost thirty-three years ago, several of us began the Society of St. Andrew, which we called “an intentional community for covenant living.” We were attempting to accomplish exactly what Senator Hatfield is describing in the above quoted statement. We were trying to model a community based on relationships rather than consumerism and acquisition. Just how effective our witness was is up to question, but the impact of such a new model for community on those of us within the Society of St. Andrew was profound.

And from that new model has come a great number of effective and powerful national and international programs for the poor and hungry that continue to save hundreds of thousands lives every year. The Potato Project, the Harvest of Hope, the Gleaning Network, and the Virginia Hunters for the Hungry all provide millions of meals for hungry citizens in this country. And Stop Hunger Now works in over 65 nations providing  millions of meals annually to school children who otherwise would not eat.

What means the most to me is that all these programs are volunteer driven. Not only are millions being fed, hundreds of thousands of compassionate and caring people are provided the opportunity to reach out and make a real difference in the lives of those most in need. That’s not too bad for just one attempt to develop a new model of community. As my first and favorite bishop was fond of saying,”that’s definitely no small thing.” Maybe new models of community are a true means of hope.

ugly, soul-destroying and a degradation to us all

I have been trying to live more responsibly for almost 40 years. I have not been as successful in that quest as I would like. Yet, I know it’s a task to which we all need to more fully committed.

Our planet has a finite amount of resources. As a person of faith I need to be a good steward of those resources. That means using less of those resources whenever possible, always being less wasteful, and recognizing that our world is home to far more folks than those here in my country. That means I need to share what I so often take for granted.

A large part of my struggle to live more simply comes from being immersed in a society that seems to live to consume, rather than consume to live. Capitalism, Consumerism, and Wastefulness has become our new trinity.

The words of E.F. Shumacher come to mind.  Our current lifestyle of over-consumption and wastefulness is not only a peril to the peace of the world; it’s a peril to the survival of the world.

Name a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of  future generations; as long as you have not shown it to be “uneconomic” you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow and prosper. 

for this time and this place

There is a convergence today between the Biblical view of Jesus as Liberator, and the cry of oppressed peoples for liberation. For our own day, to “see the world through eyes other than our own” has simply got to mean seeing it through the eyes of the poor and dispossessed. When the story of Jesus and the story of human oppression are put side by side, they fit. They are simply different versions of the same story.

The cry of the hungry is overwhelming. The cry of the politically and economically exploited is overwhelming. The cry of those in prison and under torture is overwhelming. The cry of parents who know that their children are doomed to stunted and warped lives is overwhelming….

There may have been other emphases needed at other points in Christian history when talking about Jesus as Liberator, but I am persuaded that for this time and this place, the claim of Jesus to bring freedom, and the cry of the oppressed peoples for freedom, converge and cannot be separated. – Robert McAfee Brown

What is true freedom? There are many competing definitions. However, whatever definition we choose, we need to remember that freedom means responsibility. Freedom is not just liberation from something, it’s liberation for something.

the loss of a moral champion

The world  has lost one of its true giants. Even though I knew it would soon happen, I was stunned yesterday when I heard of Nelson Mandela’s passing.

Like so many others of my generation, Nelson Mandela was a larger-than-life hero to me. He was in the ranks of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu as real people who lived out their beliefs and never flinched when facing the ugly reality of global injustice. He was a flesh and blood champion of the poor and oppressed and demonstrated that one person can make a real difference in the world.

Living out his convictions, Nelson Mandela was a leader that helped change the world. He was a champion of peace, and never ceased to fight against injustice and hatred. Mandela recognized that hunger needed to be addressed as a moral issue. He was a constant inspiration to me and I have often used his wisdom and words in my writing. Was he perfect? Certainly not. But he was truly one of the greatest men of our time, and our world is a smaller, meaner place without him.

So today, with the rest of the world, I mourn the loss of a courageous leader and moral hero.  The following is an excerpt from a news release from the United Nations WFP.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today is mourning the loss of President Nelson Mandela. WFP, in a statement today said Mandela was “a champion against injustice and a true ally in the fight against hunger.”

Mandela delivered a special message to WFP’s staff in 2004, stating, “Hunger is an issue of social justice and not economics. Our economic approach to food and its distribution reflects our basic moral values. There are relatively poor countries where almost everyone is reasonably fed and richer ones where there is widespread malnutrition. The economic systems in these countries vary. Those who have succeeded have done so because they have made it a priority to end it. Hunger is a moral issue.”

May he rest in peace.