Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. --Psalm 86:11

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Warning against Unhappy and Deadly Prosperity

In preparation for a couple of upcoming posts on poverty and Jubilee in the Bible, I offer a snippet from Glen Stassen and David Gushee’s Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Chapter 20, “Economics” is both on-target and challenging and is one of the highlights of the book. Here’s how it concludes:
Mention of consumerism reminds us of where we started. Christians living in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, the powerhouse of global capitalism, are daily subjected to the most sophisticated enticements ever devised—enticements not just to buy certain products, but to buy into a certain way of looking at and living life. It is a way of life that ascribes inordinate value to the acquisition of material goods and indeed thrives based on the creation of new “needs” and then cut-throat competition to fulfill those “needs.” If Christian ethics is following Jesus, it must involve a clear-eyed analysis and finally repudiation of an economic ethos that ratifies the “deceitfulness of wealth” and makes Mammon the national idol.

This is no mere theoretical preference. As I write I think of lives ruined by this ethos: those who deteriorate into essentially soul-less creatures pursuing the latest goodies with zombie-like intensity; those who have no access to adequate work and no way to provide for their families; those around the world who live in squalor and misery; those whose lives could be turned around by a small commitment on the part of unhappily prosperous people who will never pause from their quest for the latest redemptive gadget to consider the needs of the least of these. This latter is a condition that has been called “affluenza,” and according to Jesus, it is terminal.

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