Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Having invested half-heartedly in largely rhetorical criticisms of capitalism for many years, especially in ecumenical circles, church leaders these days are apt to demonstrate their 'realism' by accommodating themselves to the contrary rhetoric of market efficacy and the fruits of 'wealth creation'. This is equally superficial. I critiqued it in some detail (both economically and theologically) in the paper Is God Bankrupt? A response to Prosperity with a Purpose. For while being "against globalisation" per se is a bit like being against gravity (the issue is what kind of globalisation), and while 'state socialism' has collapsed in a heap as an alternative theory of action, the questions about the insidious nature of Mammon remain.

What's more, the churches, in spite of their struggles, have at their disposal concrete resources, assets, structures, investments and relations which could - if considered as the fabric for a Gospel which affirms both gift-giving and a transforming society of equals (ekklesia) - contribute towards alternative ways of 'doing economy'. That is what is needed both within, and in contrast to, the overwhelming money-driven nature of our dominant systems. And it is a concern shared by greens, labour movements, corporate responsibility campaigners, monetary justice reformers, fair trade advocates, and other 'new economics' advocates. But the churches are too busy arguing about sex and survival to notice what is really at stake.

Which is why it is timely that a leading East German Protestant - who was a critic of the old GDR and cannot simply be accused of 'mindless leftism' - has spoken out strongly against the seductions and deceits of capitalist (specifically neoliberal) ideology for the churches. See the full article here. "What are the dominant interests in the church: self-preservation, maintaining its position, increasing its profile or service for others?" Heino Falcke (picture above) asked a conference at the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt in eastern Germany, where Martin Luther once trained as a Roman Catholic monk. He called for a renewal of social-ist (sic) thinking and practice as an ecclesial necessity. Now there's something worth thinking about. But don't expect it to raise so much as an eyebrow at the forthcoming Church of England General Synod - where there will be much more important internecine scores to settle.

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

I think that a lot of progressive Christianity is perfectly willing to cite Marcus Borg's critique of "domination systems", but without asking itself whether capitalism is the domination system that needs to be challenged.