Friday, October 26, 2007

Theocapitalism and theological economics

I'm surprised to find it's been a fortnight since I've managed to post anything. I've been ill, and crazy busy, between writing up and preparing for lectures and whatnot.

But I ran across a post over at Scot McKnight's blog The Jesus Creed, in which he is exploring some of the ideas of Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change.

(I don't know about you, but whenever I'm confronted with a book title like that, I am instantly skeptical - oh, yeah? says who? on what grounds? to serve the interest of whom? and so forth. The odd thing about McLaren is that usually when I get around to reading him - and I do - I find that what he's saying isn't very radical or new at all but just seems, well, common. Odd experience, I don't know if anyone else has encountered that or not. Maybe I'm just not his audience, maybe he' s intending to 'rock the world' of an older group or a different part of the church or something. Or maybe I'm just radically out of step with massive parts of the church.)

So anyway, Scot has posted four points that McLaren makes about Jesus' counter-stories to the theo-capitalist mythology. In order not to simply reproduce that post, I will just provide a link to it - go and check it out, there are some very important points made here. Also check out, in the third comment, the very potent and rich phrase: 'Would it not be a good idea to have a group of people from different disciplines work on these ideas to design a “sacred ecosystem” as a genuine alternative to theocapitalism...' Indeed, developing that 'sacred ecosystem' may be part of the church's task for the foreseeable future, as it provides - often unintentionally, and in many cases less so now than in previous years - one of the few viable or widespread alternatives in America to theocapitalism.

(What is theocapitalism? Apparently McLaren says more in his book about it being an 'economic idolatry', and McKnight says a bit more here. As a term, it at least serves to place a wedge between our present arrangements and the Lord in such a way as to open some space for thinking.)

There have also been two provocative postings by Scott Stephens on Faith and Theology recently on theological analysis of political economics, one entitled Marx and Hitchens among the Theologians, and another called On Capitalism, God, and Mammon. They are not without their limitations - I've indicated as much in a comment on the latter one, (and further, although I don't see it, to the extent he actually is taking a Marcionite perspective on things, he wins no points from me). But in the former one, whilst incisively critiquing Christopher Hitchens' latest work, he also helpfully reminds readers that, for Christians, Marx may actually be (at least) as much of an ally as an opponent.

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