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« Our Religious Devotion to a Multi Earth Economic Model »

One of the big, Earth-destroying practices going on that we can change has us treating a particularly destructive economic model with religious devotion. Economics as religion is a highly fertile way to think about economies, all the more so because an economy’s religious function is largely overlooked. It’s not covered on many blogs, so that’s the topic I want to treat for awhile here. I’ll begin with a couple of quotes.

More than religion itself, more than literature, more than cable television, it is economics that offers the dominant creation narrative of our society, depicting the relation of each of us to the universe we inhabit, the relation of human beings to God. — Gordon Bigelow

Current thinking assigns to The Market a wisdom that in the past only the gods have known…. The Market offers the religious benefits that once required prayer and fasting, without the awkwardness of denominational commitment. Harvey Cox 

Of all the times that I have remixed how I understand the relationship between economics and religion, one of the most important ones happened while I was preparing a paper that I gave in 2010 at a conference on “Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination.” It was co-sponsored by the Center for Justice and Reconciliation and other groups on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego. Among the many questions that the “Call for Papers” put out to potential presenters was, “Is there such a thing as God’s economy?” For many years I would have answered with an emphatic “No!” I had taken the position that religion did not advocate for a particular economic model. Instead, one’s faith, I argued, provides a guide to function ethically and morally within whatever economic system we are part of. But now I wasn’t so sure. I seemed to be changing my mind. So, I decided to submit a paper on “God’s Economy,” figuring it would force me to wrestle anew with the question.

But before I get to my answer in future blogs, what do you think? Is there such a thing as God’s economy?

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Reader Comments (6)

I've always believed there is a God's economy, but I take it back to the Greek, oikonomia, roughly, the proper way of running a household. Yes, there are right ways to interact as God's household, people and planet. Do I by this know what it looks like? No. But I can find pieces of it: fair trade coffee, olive oil from Palestine, sharing and helping each other out. Treasuring everything that comes to us as gift, not to be wasted or tossed out.
October 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Roberts Young
"This is what the Lord has commanded: Each one is to gather as much as (s)he needs...(s)he who gathered little did not have too little. Each once gathered as much as (s)he needed." Exodus 16:16-18) Or as the contemporary saying goes: "To each according to his or her need, from each according to his or her ability."
October 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan
Every geological epoch gets a name. Looking back over millions of years, you have your Eocene, your Pliocene, your Holocene epoch (that was the most recent one). Now folks are suggesting that we are entering a new epoch, the Anthropocene.¨http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/10/09/162506048/the-city-as-infestation
October 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan
The religion of economics has many denominations. There is the right wing minority that thinks the market is wonderful and should not be subjected to tinkering (laissez faire, invisible hand, etc.) Most economists do not belong to this denomination, and are more liberal. Just as there is a spectrum of Liberal Theology, there is a spectrum of liberal economics.
Economists in the various liberal denominations recognize that the market has short-comings (which they call "market failures"); the market fails to handle these well. Market failures arise when there are 1. externalities (negative when I pollute, or positive when I spruce up my front yard); 2. public goods (such as lighthouses or radio broadcasts, for which it is hard to get those who benefit to pay; 3. technical things such as information (you know your used car is a lemon, but I don't), indivisibilites and non-convexities (don't ask, now), and risk and uncertainty (rain, earthquakes, effectiveness of medicines), disparity between private discount rates and the social discount rate with respect to resource exploitation now vis-a-vis resource use in the future; 4, equity of opportunity, motivation, and outcome.
Just as one should not judge Christianity by the views of anti-abortionists or homophobes, nor Islam by 9/11 terrorists, one should not judge the economics religion by focussing on the laissez faire extremists.
October 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard W. Ruppert
Stimulating thoughts, Ellen, Dan, and Dick. Today, I'm reviewing comments added to blog entries. The etymology of "economy" from "oikonomia" is also helpful to me, Ellen, in thinking about the foundational functions of economics. Paul Hawken, John Cobb, and Herman Daly all talk (at length) about oikonomia in their writings. And, Dan, knowing you to be a Sojourners type evangelical, I smile at your link of Exodus 16 with the saying from the socialist movement. I'm guessing you've not heard that connection developed in sermons. I just looked for more information on the origins of "the saying." What I read emphasized that it did not originate with Marx, but he popularized it in his description of a well-developed socialist society, emphasizing the "well-developed" part as necessary to it working.
Dick, thanks for emphasizing the spectrum of thought and practice regarding economic religion. Some of my comments, I acknowledge, are not nuanced enough to show appreciation for the "denominations" and varieties of "liberal economics." I'll be on alert to improve my communication to show that diversity more consciously. Thanks for the itemization of market failures.
April 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterWebmaster
Oops! Accidentally posted my comments above as some anonymous "webmaster." So let me get my name connected to them.
April 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterLee Van Ham

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