Turning our economics toward love
- Tags: Business | Corporate Responsibility | Ethics | Human Flourishing | Kenarchy | Theology | Values
I don’t know what you made of the general election result, or what you think about the fairness or otherwise of our current electoral system. But what is for sure is that even if a party had won with an actual overall majority of the votes cast rather than a mere 36.7% it would still be no guarantee of justice, equity or the common good. As I pointed out in the previous post unless there is a change in the individual and corporate values underlying our western democracy the system will continue to give us a world where the rich and powerful always dominate. But most people appear to believe that we have a political system where equality of opportunity really is vouchsafed by the freedom to vote, and that this is somehow enshrined in British history.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the ballyhoo surrounding the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta this coming June 15th. The Magna Carta is frequently pointed to as the closest thing to an original British Constitution enshrining freedom for all. The Scripture Gift Mission, for example, in their special edition of John’s gospel to celebrate this anniversary, describe the Magna Carta as “a charter of liberties signed by King John in June 1215, which established rights and privileges for all.” In fact it was a charter that set out a power stand off between King John and 25 barons, and included various rights for a few aristocrats and freemen but completely ignored the majority of the population. At the least it marked the progress of the bifurcation of sovereign power and at most the beginnings of its multiplication. It had nothing to do with freedom and justice for the poor and marginalized, but instead ratified the supremacy of the power and wealth that remain the pillars undergirding our society.
Arguably the most deep seated assumption that needs tackling today is that economic considerations should come first in our decision making.
This is why I am so encouraged to be questioning this assumption as part of the Host event organized by Business Connect in Jersey this week. For while financial benefit is placed before justice, mercy and love, whether at a personal or a societal level, we will never see real peac
e and prosperity. Despite the prevailing economic assumptions, there can be no benevolent market without these crucial ethical priorities. If this is obvious to anyone it should be to followers of Jesus and members ofhis church. “Man shall not live by bread alone” and “seek first the kingdom of God” are central tenets of the Christian testimony. The question of how they have become so displaced and inverted that financial considerations are regarded as determinants for individual and corporate success for all sensible people, Christians included, has been central to my theological research, as readers of this blog and my books and papers will be well aware (See http://lancaster.academia.edu/RogerHaydonMitchell). Walter Brueggermann’s splendid Journey to the Common Good (Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010) gives a thoroughly complementary perspective.
This week I will explore the radical implications of kenarchy for the holy business of entrepreneurial trade and commerce. I will suggest 1) true financial stewards
hip is the outworking of love or “seeking first the kingdom of God,” something that Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls the cantus firmus of creation that carries the promise of all the essential resources of food, drink and clothing (Luke 12:31; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, The Enlarged Edition, ed. Eberhard Bethge, London, SCM Press, 1971; 2) this has deep ecological implications because of the exploitation of the planet consequent on the sovereignty system; 3) the personal and corporate cost and challenge of faith involved is great but no more of a faith position than the benevolent hand of the market; 4) the shaking of the financial system since 2008 is a new opportunity for radical change.
I will propose three crucial aspects of kenarchy central to rethinking business: 1) The strategic direction of the 7 foci of kenarchy as economic ethics: instating women, prioritizing children, advocating for the poor, welcoming strangers, reintegrating humanity and creation, freeing prisoners, caring for the sick; 2) The relational nature of all aspects of kenarchy becomes the basis of trade and commerce (“make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9); 3)
Kenarchy is not a top down imposed program but a rhythm of subversion and submission that becomes the means to infuse the existing system with the primary motive of love.