It continues to puzzle me that the Church – in the broadest sense of the word – finds it so hard to talk about money and economics. The Jubilee 2000 campaign revealed how much the British people valued and wanted to participate in a public conversation about the global financial system and the structural injustice of third world debt. It also highlighted the relevance of Christian and other faith organisations to that conversation. Christian values – particularly the Judaeo- Christian and Islamic abhorrence of debt bondage or usury – proved highly relevant to the injustice of the global financial system.
Today the Church focuses much energy on matters like gay marriage and sex, and very seldom intervenes in debates about money and economics. But money and economics are big public, political and social justice issues – addressed throughout the gospel, which the Church is pre-eminently suited to talk about. This is particularly the case today, when money and economic systems, designed by our politicians and central bankers in the interests of wealthy elites, impose grave suffering, unemployment, debt bondage, homelessness, hunger and poverty on our loved ones and communities. They also embed the structural injustice of inequality within and between individuals, families and communities – local, national or global.
As American theologian Ched Myers* argued: “Any theology that refuses to reckon with these realities is both cruel and irrelevant. We Christians must talk about economics, and talk about it in light of the gospel.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments we are instructed to dismantle what Myers calls “patterns and structures of stratified wealth and power, so that there is “enough for everyone. The Bible understands that dominant civilizations exert centripetal force, drawing labor, resources, and wealth into greater and greater concentrations of idolatrous power (the archetypal biblical description of this is found in the story of the Tower of Babel, Genesis 11:1-9). So Israel is enjoined to keep wealth circulating through strategies of redistribution, not concentrating through strategies of accumulation.”
That is why I welcome this Lenten course. Christians are going to be talking about money – and also I hope, economics – and drawing on the many references to money and economic injustice in the Bible. I hope this will help us all think more clearly about what is happening all around us – so that we can act upon the principles of the gospel.
Churches who’ve been taking part in the Seeing Change course will be partaking in the 6pm Eucharist at St Paul’s Cathedral this Sunday, 17th March. Everyone is welcome to come and take part in the service where we will pray for the success of this initiative and the wider work of the Church in economic justice.
*CHED MYERS is a writer, teacher, and activist based in Los Angeles, and author of The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics.