Thursday, March 12, 2009

Responses to the Recession

I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I'm not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930's scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970's, 80's and 90's, you ain't seen nothing yet. I know I'm going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I'm becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the "master's" table. I've recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
-Matt F.

I think, Matt, that you're barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems-- which we will get when Jesus returns.

However, in the meantime, we need to do SOMETHING. I think the best option is to create alternative communities that can provide both an economic safety zone as well as an example to others as to how to act in God's economy. I am not advocating dropping out of the world, but rather calling on believers to have an economic change of heart. This would look like this:
a. Our economic insentive would not be to obtain more income or property ourselves, but to invest into the community. This investment would include money, but not be limited to that. It would also include property, time and labor. Thus, we could encourage others to think about every economic decision to be about the community rather than about individual gain. Each decision would still be made by the individual, but the incentive of the individual would be different. (Acts 2:44-45)

b.The economic gain would not be on the basis of reciprocity, but on a broad concept of meeting other's needs without obtaining anything back. A broad concept of need would include survival issues, but it would also include issues of respect, entertainment and inner peace. But, again, it is focused on what can give the community these things instead of individuals or nuclear family units. (Luke 6:30-31)

c. The focus of this economic return would be to provide the greatest amount of economic resourcing, not to those who have the most resources, but to those with the greatest needs. Thus, should all else fail, the basic needs of all the community-- including the poor and outcast of society-- would be met. (Luke 12:33; Luke 14:12-14; Acts 4:34-35)

d. Because all people's needs are met, the community will draw those who are poor and outcast, who are the most economically vulnerable. While this seems unsustainable, in a cash poor society, this means that the community will be wealth in a viable economic resource-- namely those able to do labor and time and who have the insentive to act in resiprocity for what they have received even if reciprocity is not demanded. Namely, a work force will be available for the community, which will make them a viable self-sustaining community. (Luke 16:1-9)

This is what we do in Anawim, with minimal assistance from our (more) wealthy friends in other churches. And, actually, I just read of a similar report in the latest issue of the MMN publication (forgot the title). In Argentina, many were losing their jobs. Since they didn't want to just be sitting around waiting for their next opporunity, many in the Mennonite church decided to create a food co-op, which provided for the entire community.

No comments: