Sunday, October 23, 2005

week 4 analysis

Sorry for my tardiness. Most of my research was about economics and capitalism in general, and I didn’t find a whole lot of little things that stuck out. Basically, if you want some good info on those subjects, visit the first few articles I posted.

I want to focus my analysis on a paragraph from our reading. In Global Transformations Held & Co. make the following statement:

“The heart or ‘deep structure’ of the modern system of democratic nation-states can be characterized by a number of striking features, broadly: democracy in nation-states and non-democratic relations among states; the entrenchment of accountability and democratic legitimacy inside state boundaries and the pursuit of the national interest (and maximum political advantage) outside such boundaries; democracy and citizenship rights for those regarded as ‘insiders’ and the frequent negation of these rights for those beyond their borders.”

Basically, what the authors are talking about could be described as an attitude that certain rules (and rights) apply to us that don’t necessarily apply to them. This strong us/them dichotomy fosters a sense of nationalism that pervasively influences our thinking and living. While the authors immediately assert that this way of thinking is on the way out the door, the values of this system are deeply imbedded in the American consciousness. And while the immediate context refers to things other than economics per se, this “our rights at the expense of everyone else” type of attitude affects all aspects of life, not least how we spend our money.

A follower of Jesus might purchase item X with full knowledge that the production of X involved inhumane working conditions in some far off country. Although he would never tolerate his friends, family, neighbors, etc., being treated in such ways, he justifies his action on the basis of his awareness that “that’s just how things work” in our world. Even if he feels bad about this reality, he feels no personal responsibility to do much of anything about it.

There seem to be a number of issues that we could point out from this hypothetical situation. For one thing, this person is defining himself primarily as an American, assuming a fundamental distinction between what is okay for Americans and what is okay for people in other parts of the world (think of people’s reactions to what happened in New Orleans; according to the above quote, this type of thinking makes perfect sense in our world). Furthermore, even if he does feel bad about the whole thing, he probably has no clue where to begin doing something about it.

Our task, first of all, seems to involve changing the way this person thinks about himself. He is primarily a follower of Jesus, which means he is a citizen in the kingdom of God, which means he belongs first and foremost to an international political entity. What this boils down to really has to do with something that I said last week – if we are to build the church into a people who spend their money properly as people who confess Jesus as King, we need to be clear on the nature of God’s kingdom and the various demands it places on our lives.

On another level, I have met very many followers of Jesus who would love to live more in line with who they profess to be, but they don’t know how. We need to be able to offer practical instruction on how to take an active role in economic issues such as fighting poverty, creating a mutually benefiting system, etc. We need instruction that applies to everyone from kids with weekly allowance to high profile CEOs.

One more thing. Here are my thoughts on the luncheon we attended this past week. I have a lot of respect for both men speaking, but I had some problems with the second man who spoke. I realize that Israel has a special place in God’s plan and his heart, but it doesn’t make sense to talk about God’s choice of Israel apart from his overall goal to bless the whole world through Israel. I know that Paul says some things that can be taken in a number of ways, but I felt that this man’s nationalistic agenda negatively influenced his exegesis. I hope that’s not harsh or close-minded, but those were my thoughts anyhow.