Sunday, November 13, 2005

week 7 analysis

I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t yet read all of the assigned chapters. I will try and catch up this week and offer analysis of more of the key ideas. In the reading I did complete, there were a couple of statements that caught my attention in terms of nationalism being one of the reasons we Americans spend money the way we do.

“Although the USA emerged from the war with a combined trade surplus and low domestic interest rates which ensured it became the major international creditor, it refused to take over from Britain the role of global financial hegemon. Domestic priorities rather than international obligations dominated policy.” (199.3.2)

“John Maynard Keyes, as Britain’s chief negotiator at Bretton Woods, consistently and emphatically maintained that national monetary autonomy was essential to the successful management of a macroeconomic policy geared to full employment. Harry Dexter White, the USA’s chief negotiator, agreed and successfully resisted Wall Street’s orchestrated opposition to capital controls.” (199.4.2-3)

These statements, which refer to specific decisions made by the leaders of this country (and others, of course, but I’m focusing on ours), which to some degree both reflected and shaped the wants and needs of our citizens, catalog our tendency to look out for ourselves at the expense of others. Once again, it is what we assume about ourselves that matters. If we assume that, as Americans, we have a natural obligation to value the needs of people within our borders more than the needs of others, we will spend in our money in certain ways. If, on the other hand, we assume that we belong to an international entity, the church, we will spend our money differently.

Apart from the book, our lectures and discussions in class have got me thinking about the complexity of a problem like the one were tackling. As we attempt to formulate a resource that will actually help Christian pastors and laypeople, we are going to have to be realistic, simple, and extremely clear. We’ve been talking a lot about the kingdom of God in class, and I was reminded of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. The kingdom of God does have answers for our present economic dilemmas, but we shouldn’t fear starting small. On a practical level, I have been thinking of two things we need to do:

1) Teach
We need to inform people of the economic injustices in our world and in our own country. Most people have a vague sense that something is wrong, but we need to provide numbers and stories and pictures for them that will capture their minds, their imaginations, and their hearts.
We also need to teach people who they are in Christ. Usually “identity in Christ” messages have to do with all of the blessings made available to us in Christ. This is true, but this identity certainly also brings new responsibilities, not least political and economic responsibilities. People may object at first, but if we continue to tell the Jesus stories in the right ways, some of them will certainly come around.
We then need to teach them what practical steps they can take to do something. If we get people to the point where they are ready to make positive economic impacts in the world and yet have nothing to tell them to actually do, we’ll lose their support much quicker than we gained it.

2) Start conversations
Along the same lines, we need to get people talking. Most churches structures include some type of small group, and this seems to me to be the best place to start. Give them a list of statistics about sweatshops or big business practices, and ask them how they think Jesus-followers should respond to such realities. Give them a list of ways they can cut embody the kingdom in their finances (like the list from Foster I posted a couple weeks ago) and see what they come up with.

Those are my thoughts for now. I’m looking forward to our breakfast this week. We should get a great deal accomplished.