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On being a Christian blog

Make Wealth History was voted number 5 in the Jubilee Centre’s  this week. That’s nice to hear, although I don’t really consider this to be a ‘Christian blog’ per se. That would imply that either it’s about Christianity or that it’s written for Christians, when it’s clearly much broader than that.

Nevertheless, I am a Christian and the I believe the issues I write about are Christian issues. Pursuing justice, caring for the poor, and preserving the earth should be much higher priorities for the church.

I’m with Archbishop Rowan Williams on this one, who was asked in  how churches should respond to recession:

The Churches can do two things, I think. One is of course what they always do in the circumstances and try to rally around in practical ways to assist those who are most vulnerable. And that may be through working in community regeneration, maybe through education, it may be through microfinance, which is a great interest of mine… The second way in which the Church has to act, I would say, is in keeping before the people the question what is wealth for, what is the nature of real prosperity? And does prosperity demand an endless spiral of material economic growth?

Lots of churches are involved in community building and practical action on poverty, both global and local. We’re less good at the broader economic questions, but I was pleased to see that on the economy, including an evening on ‘prosperity without growth’.

I was also sent the draft text of a new convention last week. The Lausanne Congresses have been attempts to hammer out some common theology for the worldwide church. The latest one took place this month and its impact remains to be seen (), but the draft commitment adds some useful words on consumerism and the environment:

Love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action and those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human needs from the abundance of God’s creation.

Strong words, but I hope it survives the drafting process. And if we can agree to stand against consumerism, commit to prophetic ecological action, and ‘keep before the people’ the question of what wealth is for, then I guess this is a Christian blog after all.

8 comments

  1. Well – I have been reading along this blog and newsletter for a while, and I did not notice that it was particularly Christian. What I read here merely struck me as reasonable. But be that as it may: if Christians consider what they are reading here to be a part of their mission, I am all for it!

    1. Probably not many, but it’s not a particularly common line in the UK church either. These are views that put me very much on the margins of the church at the moment, although it’s changing slowly.

  2. The bible reads “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” It does not say “kill the earth”, and filled the earth already is. In any case the idea of constantly multiplying basically is the same as perpetual exponential economic growth – demanding it and partly causing it.

    1. Yes, it’s notable that at the point God gives that command in the story, there are only two human beings. We need a more imaginative and less literal interpretation of being fruitful, in my opinion.

  3. @Jeremy: Only two? Did he say the same to Adam and Eve? I recall Genesis 9:1: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

    REPLENISH, according to the King James Bible, in the context that the flood just had wiped out all life on earth, and in the context that Noah carried around all remaining life-forms on earth. I just browsed to the Latin original, which admittedly I never did before, and the Latin text is not anywhere nearly as clear as the German and English translations I have known since my childhood days. In some parts it looks to me as if the deity is not commanding but merely making predictions of what will happen. And where it commands it also warns and makes limitations. One very important part (Gen 9:15):

    …et recordabor foederis mei vobiscum et cum omni anima vivente quae carnem vegetat…

    Roughly, without looking at common translations “And I remember the covenant that is between me and you and all souls in all living flesh…”.

    God also speaks of an alliance with “the Earth” (Gen ) 13:

    …arcum meum ponam in nubibus et erit signum foederis inter me et inter TERRAM.

    Literally: I place this arc among the clouds as a sign for the federation between me and the EARTH.

    There are a lot of issues with this short chapter. For example the divine character clearly says in 9:13 “inter me and inter terram” when he stressed “between ME and the earth”, while in 9:15 it is rather strange. 9:15 I could also read as “”And I remember the covenant that is between me and BETWEEN you and BETWEEN all souls in all living flesh…”. The divinity also elsewhere weaves together the fate of animals and humans and states that humans may eat all flesh – except of that with a soul. I do not in any case see that even a true believer could use the passage to justify the annihilation of the Earth and the mass torturing and slaughtering of higher animals. On the contrary. The passage could also interpreted as a call for stewardship, a “middle path” and an almost Buddhist ideal of protecting all sentient beings. I read a bit “what happens to the earth also happens to the children of the earth”. But that, of course, is only my humble ad-hoc interpretation.

    1. Yes, it comes up in Genesis 1, and then gets repeated to Noah as a fresh start. There’s definitely connotations of stewardship in both instances. Genesis 2:15 is the most obvious counterpoint to those who say humans are free to use the earth and its creature as they please:

      “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

      There’s no getting around that in my view. The earth serves us, and we serve the earth. It’s a relationship of cooperation, not domination.

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