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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Economic Recovery for All 8: Faith Perspectives, Pt 4

This entry completes the statement on the economy released on July 22, 2009, in Durham, NC. There are eight entries. For the full current list of endorsers as of this posting, see the first entry.

A Working Paper for North Carolina United Power
from an Interchange Among Theological Educators
July 2009

III. Faith Perspectives on Responding to the Crisis

B. Biblical, Theological, and Ethical Principles Guiding NCUP Actions and Campaigns in Response to the Economic Crisis

8. Shared economic risks and benefits

All societies become accustomed to doing things a certain way; however, there are many possibilities for organizing a flourishing economy. The predominant systems of investment and borrowing may be familiar, but that does not mean there might not be other, perhaps better, ways to invest, produce, and prosper. Rather than shifting almost all the economic risks toward the borrower, especially toward small borrowers, and the assured benefits primarily to the lender, there should be a way for risks and benefits to be shared more equitably.

Why should a family that has toiled for many years, paying bills and paying down a mortgage, be financially devastated by a change of fortune, when a financial institution prefers to write off their mortgage as a loss rather than work out a means of mutual and equitable benefit? As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop (1 Cor. 9:10). Martin Luther wrote, "If you would have interest in my profits, you must also have an interest in my losses. . . . The owners of income, who will not put up with that, are just as pious as robbers and murderers, and wrest from the poor man his property and his living" ("A Treatise on Usury").

C. Conclusions

Too often, people imagine that the economy is a competition over scarce resources. Yet while creation is finite there is no fixed limit on the prosperity that humanity can share. Unlimited acquisition and idiosyncratic use of possessions fall off of the path to human flourishing. Such hoarding of goods is theft, and it begs for divine judgment.

Rather than hoarding, sharing our blessings sets the tone of biblical economics. We are blessed that we might bless others. All that we have comes by God’s grace, and we must be gracious toward one another.

Without standards against usury, the massive transfer of wealth from the middle class workers to a wealthy elite will continue. As long as a powerful few have freedom to do as they please concerning the consumer credit of the many, the economic system will not serve the common good. No magical hidden hand will correct economic oppression.

To get out of the current mess, we will need an economic reform which acknowledges our mutual dependence and obligations and turns aside from the way of selfish individualism and competition for status and conspicuous wealth.

What kind of an economic recovery leaves giant banks standing while the average worker’s life gets harder and harder? It is not an economic recovery when billions can bail out executive jobs but nothing can bail out the rest of the jobs. There is not justice when everyone’s tax dollars can pay off banks’ bad debts, but the average taxpaying citizens are left on their own to drown in their debts. Debt relief for millionaires and homelessness for working people—that’s not the kind of economy we believe in.

Economic justice is not merely a fantasy or impossible ideal. There are practical ways to put it into practice. Communities of faith have demonstrated these possibilities in the past and present. Justice need not be limited to small economic experiments. Making real steps toward justice is fully compatible with rational and pragmatic economics. It is time for people of faith to speak this truth to power.

1 comment:

Paul said...

There is a good deal of economic injustice in our land. A lot of it is due to greed and callous disregard of the poor among us. Jesus concentrated on the poor and had few good words for the rich .

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