Does Jesus care?
By the time most of you read this the US stock market will be in the midst of a terrible free fall. Though the markets don't open for an hour, this article in the NY Times, explains that the tremendous declines in markets globally, both Monday and Tuesday, have created a pent up demand for selling. What will this mean for you and I? I don't know, but the global crisis, this time, is a result of the American economic crisis, and the American crisis has at least two addictions at the root:
1. Oil - Up 74% in the past year, this single commodity drives the US economy, affecting the price of everything we buy, from construction materials, to toys, to the food we buy. And though its not an absolute truism, it's generally true that the farther something comes from home, the more energy it has consumed to get to you. Read the labels on your clothes, manufactured in places with cheap labor. They're not as cheap as they once were because getting them here costs more - same with food - and of course the cost of driving a car - and heating oil. All those dollars spent on the basics of transportation and keeping the house warm are dollars not spent elsewhere. Thus the wealth, globally, continues to flow to those with oil or better fiscal habits than us, many countries of which are now using their wealth to diversify.
2. Credit - Buy a house with no money down, turn around and sell it in a year. Make loads of money! That's so 2002! Our efforts to keep the economic machine well oiled created an unsustainable addiction to credit, which created an unrealistic inflation of house prices. It now appears that its time to pay the piper, and many can't, leading to record foreclosures.
Does Jesus care about any of this? Well that's a question for a book rather a blog, but the answer is yes, only louder; something like this: Y-E-S!! For centuries the developed world has harvested the natural resource wealth and cheap labor wealth of the powerless across the globe. Slavery, colonialism, and more recently the economic globalism that keeps 'our best interests' in mind, have contributed to the oppression, suffering, and deaths of untold numbers. Of course, one can't read the prophets of the Old Testament, the words of the Jesus, or the words of Paul without realizing that this reaping bounty and enjoying luxury at the cost of other's well being is unacceptable to God. And the odds are that all of us who are reading this have blood on our hands.
I wonder if we who are the church should constitute a different economic model, one based on simplicity, interdependency, and deeply intentional care for both the poor and the earth as the foundations for our economic practices. "The Amish" you say? No (though we could learn a great deal more from them than we could criticize); more yeasty, more interwoven with the larger culture. How about co-housing, and health clinics for the army of uninsured and underinsured? How about living closer to work, using public transportation, and buying more locally? How about real commitments to a change in how we do energy here in America? The list could grow...and will...as the crisis grows. And maybe the crisis will be the only way we'll change at all.