Issue 40 Apr 12
De-mything Economic Well-being; Biblical and Theological Responses to Economic Injustice
A warm welcome to this edition of Encounters, focused around the theme of economic (in) justice. A number of topics are considered which address economic issues of concern affecting us both here in the UK and in other contemporary global contexts. What emerges is the need to engage critically with ideologies, theories, structures and practices, which frequently lead to economic injustice(s) occurring in societies and cultures around us. These require both personal and corporate responses as part of the wider Christian community’s engagement in contemporary mission contexts.
The first article, by German Professor Ulrich Duchrow, is a fascinating historical account of the roots of our economic malaise. Whilst lengthy, it is well-worth persevering to the end! His academic insights and the widespread interdisciplinary approach he adopts is remarkable, as are the far-reaching conclusions he proposes to reverse the toxic effects of excessive and life-destroying capitalism. However, this is no mere academic treatment; it proposes praxis-oriented guidelines that people of faith would do well to consider – it requires all of us to think about the way we live and the effects of our economic way of life.
The second article by Jonathan Ingleby deals with the assertion by many of our leaders that to safeguard our economic well-being (i.e. to protect our oil supplies and other wealth-generating resources), political decision-making leading to military action is justified, with the subsequent engagement of the full force of the ‘war-machine’ with enormous economic consequences on the ordinary lives of millions in targeted contexts. This approach often reflects the ideological prioritisation and implementation of Western economic policies.
One of the other great myths is that the majority world can be brought out of poverty solely through Western aid and the World Bank’s programme of ‘structural adjustment’ linked to crippling loans provided under a narrow neo-liberal rubric. Christian Aid has been advocating in such issues around the world for many years, but Sue Richardson challenges us to consider the issue of taxation as being critical in alleviating poverty. Closing the loopholes so favoured by the rich and stimulating rigorous tax policies by majority world governments are much more likely to be effective in combatting extreme poverty and building sustainable infrastructures, in the long-term.
Terry Lockyer draws our attention to the Brazilian context; a nation that is fast-rising out of the kinds of issues that Sue Richardson addresses. After a comprehensive survey of the Biblical narrative, Terry invites us to engage with the biblical concepts, and arrives at interesting conclusions for the church and the missions-community. Brazil, he argues, possesses great economic wealth, but the church has a long way to go in influencing life-affirming change in society.
Marijke Hoek reminds us of the positive contribution of early Christian business endeavours. The Quakers’ impact and long-lasting legacy is striking, not least when considering how numerically small that community was. Marijke provides us with contemporary examples of organisations making an impact and challenges Christian business to, once again, remember the purpose of wealth generation; to lead to well-being for the many, rather than self-aggrandizement for the few. This disparity was, of course, at the heart of the Occupy Movement’s protest. James Butler’s article critiques the role of the Church in its handling of the events last Autumn, proposes that the Church, rather than taking sides, should seek to re-imagine a space where voices from the margins may be heard, and where true worship leads to righteous living.
Jim Harries has worked in Eastern Africa for many years, and has experienced at first-hand the dynamics involved with Western economic investment, including that allied to missionary-service. Many of his criticisms and conclusions ring true from our own experiences in Bolivia, and remind us that our missionary-service is not conducted in an economic vacuum – many of our decisions and the implementation of our projects, are at best naïve, and often seriously damaging to the development of the local church as agent of transformative change.
Lastly, Janet Parsons provides a summary and review of Julie Clawson’s book, Everyday Justice, which brings home the effects and impacts of many of our day-to-day decisions, often taken for granted or perpetuated uncritically. We are asked to reflect on our personal response to consumerism, in the light of the global consequences of our materialistic Western culture.
In conclusion, please check-out the jusTice initiative based at Redcliffe, where we seek to engage with many such issues. More details on the initiative may be found at http://www.redcliffe.org/SpecialistCentres/JusticeAdvocacyandReconilicationinMission. In addition, you can follow us on twitter (@just_mission) or interact with our blog at http://justiceadvocacyandmission.wordpress.com. A key element of the initiative is a new MA course in Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation in Intercultural Contexts, recently validated by the University of Gloucestershire for commencement this coming September (see http://www.redcliffe.org/Study/PostgraduateCourses/JusticeandMission). We will also be running a new undergraduate module looking at Christian responses to contemporary issues of justice; so lots of exciting new initiatives are taking place in these critically-important areas of life – demanding responses that critique current practice, and propose alternative solutions from within the Christian community!
We look forward to hearing from you, so please join the conversation by giving us your critiques, comments and questions!
Andy & Carol Kingston-Smith
Lecturers in Mission at Redcliffe College
- Article 1: Biblical Clues to a New Economy
(Ulrich Duchrow, words 8548, pdf 290 KB)
- Article 2: Economic Injustice – a Mythological Perspective
(Jonathan Ingleby, 1549 words, pdf 141 KBB)
- Article 3: Economic Justice Matters; The Iniquity of Unfair Trade and Global Tax-dodging
(Sue Richardson, 3914 words, pdf 187 KB)
- Article 4: A Biblical Perspective on Wealth, Poverty and Prosperity; Concluding with Reference to Mission and Economic Justice in the Brazilian Context
(Terry Lockyer, 5866 words, pdf 267 KB)
- Article 5: Business that Seeks the Well-being of Society
(Marijke Hoek, 3014 words, pdf 212 KB)
- Article 6: The Occupy Movement, Worship and the Imagination of the Church
(James Butler, 2791 words, pdf 189 KB)
- Article 7: Westerners’ Involvement in Projects in Africa: Hindrance, Help or Necessity?
(Jim Harries, 1343 words, pdf 1343 K)
- Book Review: Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices
(by Julie Clawson, InterVarsity Press)
And finally, a single PDF of the whole issue. Ideal for using offline or to make printing easier.
Issue 40: Single Document Version (in full)
(pdf 717 KB)