Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Capitalism and Christianity

You walk up the streets in the hilly side of the Danube, the part of the city called Buda. It has it's own history, remarkably different from the plains on the east side of the river and the city that grew up there known as Pest.

It's a cold morning and when you turn a corner as you ascend the hill, your eye catches the glorious roof of Mattias church. The building is glorious architecture, all that I'd hoped in the visiting of this city where east meets west. Truly, the influences of Byzantium and Western Europe co-exist in this one building.
Just beyond the intact church structure, you see the foundation of part of the church, remaining from a previous era, but with a completely incongruous building set on it. As you draw close you realize that your looking at the Hilton Hotel. Tourists from all continents are dining there, sipping coffee or tea, and eating sushi or goulash, or a hamburger if that's what they want.

The Hilton Hotel sitting on the foundation of the church? Perhaps we should stop and ponder this for a moment. This hotel is definitely a testimony to the freedom and capitalistic spirit that have swept in since 1989. What do you think though, of the symbolism of a monument to capitalism being built on the foundation of a church? Appropriate or Inappropriate?

Appropriate: The free market economies of the world work best and bring the most good to the most people in places where there has been a strong Christian underpinning in that civilization. Thus we see in our own country, for all its faults, access to education, clean drinking water for everyone, hospitals that open their doors to those who aren't able to pay, and public subsidies to help those with the most needs. Does the system work all the time? Of course not. But let's not deny that we enoy the greatest freedom, and the longest lifespans of nearly any nation on earth. Where there is a Christian Concensus and a free-market economy, many good things happen. I know the problems too - I'm not romanticizing. But if one travels the world, one finds that schools and hospitals, orphanages and economic development agencies - all of those things that bring material blessings to people - largely have their roots in mission work, or at the very least, the Christian west.

Inappropriate: The Hotel stands as a public testimony of what has happened to Western Civilization. Where once their stood a vast cathedral, out from which came true truth, worshippers, and changed lives which would themselves go on to change western civilization, there now stands a new god. Gone, or at the very least, emasculated, is the church that produced great art, music, architecture, and law. Gone is the church that put an end to slavery and feudalism, fear and oppression. In it's place, all that remains is buying and selling, so that even those who now enjoy the freedoms previously unknown mourn that with freedom one must also welcome more crime, sexual degradation, the loss of cultural distinctives, and the trivialization of culture. In Budapest there's a Burger King, it seems, in every neighborhood, where you can drink a milk shake, listen to Norah Jones, and pretend you're anywhere. It's come to this - on the crumbling foundations of the church, all that remains are the high places of capitalism. Maybe we've gained the world. But we've lost our soul in the process.

Your thoughts?

4 Comments:

At 29/12/05 08:24, Blogger Nova said...

i am experiencing the same thing in seoul right now. i feel like the culture and virtue are being crushed by ultra-modernization & globilization. i feel stuck between two worlds - a world so different that i can't fully step into it (yet) and a world so similar that it feels like i might as well be in lynnwood. and in this gap between the two worlds, an apparent lack of soul.

 
At 29/12/05 15:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inapropriate: When a "Christian" organization in the "Christian West" puts out a movie like Narnia, making a quality film based on a timeless allegory and making it widely available.... but then partners with McDonald's to sell toys. I am disgusted by this.

 
At 29/12/05 16:14, Anonymous sldubya said...

It appears inapropriate, but for whom? The commercial venture that obtained a former "holy" site or the church that sold that site for use by the commercial venture. Which entity did the inapropriate action. Probably both.

 
At 30/12/05 09:30, Blogger sharon said...

Hi - I just came across your blog through some links and I found this topic very interesting. I'm a Christian social work student, and I have spent most of the past 4 months trying to figure out where to figure out which political paradigm I could support (in Canada that's not an easy task; I wish there was another option). At the moment (I'm not by any means firmly choosing one way or another) I would respond to your question - inapropriate. I feel that capatilist society's encourage too much selfishness, greed and individualism. I think Hilton hotels reflect those attitudes. Churches should be places that encourage community, sharing, acceptance.These things don't often happen in capitilist societies.

 

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