Saturday, May 05, 2007

“Wealth, Spirituality, and Anabaptist Community”

I enjoyed reading through your outline Merle, I think you make some important observations as to the purpose of wealth, power, relationships, and the importance of community. I especially liked your delineation between the “Master-Steward” model and the “Co-Heir with Jesus” model. I think the importance of this distinction is often overlooked and under-analyzed. Sons of God are no longer delivery boys, but part owners of our material reality, how wealth is distributed is our responsibility. Unlike what market libertarians would have us believe, the market should not be treated as if it was supernatural – as an (in)visible hand must be classified.

Wealth does bring power, access to opportunities. In a world in which those with the most money (mostly men, mostly white, mostly Western) forget that others are made in the image of God; that, we are not in fact gods, who can exist as ends in ourselves, we need reminders that we are consciously-embodied humans that need intimacy, trust, and deep love in order to live an un-simulated real life. The objectification of others, denying them power and respect, squelches the possibility for overcoming or living beyond our “natural” self-worshiping subject position. Money is an objectively valuable signifier, a symbol that can be exchanged for useful objects, but it is meant to serve the needs of conscious human subjects, not merely fix “problems” so we can live as we desire. The objectification of others and the worship of the self is what denies this service and, in turn, love for others.

Wealth does not descend directly from Above. Often it is a reward for honest labor; but it can also be the product of dishonesty. Thieves are not blessed into their wealth. They are just rich because of the way they can manipulate or ignore the rules (or are bad thieves). There is though some dangers in the activism of the “Co-heirs” model as well. If we mistake Christ for ourselves (as is often the case), we run the risk of adopting a neo-conservative Bushian strategy of bring liberty (of markets), freedom, and prosperity to the world because this is what the Global South secretly wants whether it knows it or not. Following Christ we must always start from a deeply relational position, not one in which we think we have all the answers and don’t need to carefully observe what is happening to and desired by the people we are reaching out to – and you say this well in point III.A.4. In this case, beggars should be choosers. The purpose of capital is not to make more capital exactly, but to serve the needs of people who help invent it. The purpose of wealth (if there is one) should not be a fulfillment of desire for power over others, but a means by which to rectify disparity and love your neighbor as yourself. The purpose of wealth is to de-center its power; give it away!

Cherry Blossom Festival!
My walk home from work in Central Park.


Blogger Meredith said...

I'm thinking you should decentralize the power of refreshment of those lovely blossoms and ship some up this way! I guess you have via photo. I am the pleased steward of blooming crocuses and Siberian Squill these days. How nice it is to have Spring again! MIL

7:43 AM  

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