On the globalization of economy

Tom Sine's Mustard Seed Versus McWorld is an essential book for Christians to understand the future effects of the developing global economy, and offers very practical ideas for Christians to offer Christ's "Mustard Seed" faith within it.

Here's a couple quotes from Sine:
"One of the essential conditions of economic globalization is that all businesses have unlimited access to the global labor pool to produce goods as efficiently as possible. This viewpoint insists that the employer has no responsibility either to the worker who loses his job in a car plant in Flint or to the worker who replaces him in Juarez. The employer’s singular responsibility is to show shareholders a profit. It is up to the free market to sort out the future for those in Flint whose jobs went south. And it is up the free market to set wages of workers in Juarez, even if the going wage is not enough to provide a decent way of life for their families.” (p. 59)

"Is the ultimate vision of 'something better' to be defined primarily in terms of economic growth, centralization, and efficiency, or is there something more?...Many of the advocates of this new global order define the ultimate primarily in economic terms. It appears that we are traveling into a future in which virtually everything in God’s creation, including human beings, will be reduced to a commodity and assigned a price…Deep down I think that most of us are not keen to see our lives and God’s creation reduced to an economic value, and McWorld is not our home. As followers of Jesus Christ, aren’t we sojourners in search of a better homeland?” (p. 67)


N. T. Wright on Redemption

Here's some of what N. T. Wright says in his excellent lecture, Creation and New Creation in the New Testament

Redemption is not:

  • just making life in creation a little bit better (as the optimistic humanist or evolutionist would suggest)…
  • a matter of rescuing spirits and souls from the evil of a material world (as the Gnostic would suggest)…

Redemption is:

  • the remaking of creation once evil has been dealt with.
  • the remaking of creation began with Christ's resurrection (inaugerated eschatology), in which God redeems his image-bearing people (Christians) to begin the work of redemption in creation here and now (that's why we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven")
  • the remaking of creation will come to fruition (future eschatology) when Christ returns to eradicate evil once and for all.
  • Therefore it is not one extreme or the other (as the two sides above indicate), but something else altogether (which those two extremes hint at). God is indeed (a) calling us to work toward doing good in the creation today seeking to improve the condition of life (though we do not expect to ultimately succeed in creating a utopian existence without God's future intervention), and (b) we await a time when we will ultimately be made anew by God (though not in some diembodied spiritual future, disconnected with our created physical existence in creation).
Western Christianity has been influenced by Greek philosophy: we've bought into Plato’s vision of disembodied souls entering bliss rather than the biblical picture of a physical "New Heavens and New Earth."

Romans 8:19-22 is not treated with the weight it needs to have—it teaches the renewal of all creation. Yet this section of Scripture is treated as mere embroidery around the edges of what we feel is "really important": the emphasis on individual, personal hope of heaven (at the expense of the larger picture of God’s redemption of all creation.)

"19For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. 21All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:19-22)

By the way, this has implications on my "environmental wackoness":
“If the second coming is about people being snatched away from this present world to live somewhere quite other, you probably don’t need to bother too much about transforming this world; if the second coming goes with the expectation that God is going to redeem creation, we have a mandate already.” --N. T. Wright

see www.vanguardchurch.com for more


Knowing the "Right Answers" does not mean you "Believe" them

“Knowing the ‘right answers’-knowing which ones they are, being able to identify them-does not mean we believe them. To believe them, like believing anything else, means that we are set to act as if they (the right answers) are true and that we will do so in appropriate circumstances. And acting as if the right answers are true means, in turn, that we intend to obey the example and teachings of Jesus…

The idea that you can trust Christ and not intend to obey him is an illusion generated by the prevalence of an unbelieving ‘Christian culture.’ In fact, you can no more trust Jesus and not intend to obey him than you could trust your doctor and your auto mechanic and not intend to follow their advice. If you don’t intend to follow their advice, you simply don’t trust them. Period.”

–Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p.88


Am I an Environmental Wacko?

I've heard it from more Christians than I'd care to count: anybody who stands up for the ecological issues is an "environmental wacko."

I think it is unfair rhetoric to call all who are concerned with the environment a "wacko."

I agree that secular environmentalists are often guilty of turning the environment into a god to worship--which is idolatry, and is certainly "wacko."

But I am an environmentalist not in that same vain as that. I am an environmentalist because my Christian Theology demands it. Humanity's original mandate is to be the Image of God, which means (among many nuances) that we are God's vice-regents, having dominion over the planet--we are to "take care of" God's creation (Genesis 2:5).

In redemption, God's purpose is to restore our original nature--the image of God in us is redeemed. We are to again be his vice-regents in the Kingdom of God, doing God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. We are to live as an eschatological people--we are to live in the here and now as the incarnation of our future hope, living out our mandate to reflect God as His Image (back to God in worship, and out into creation in "taking care of it” by reflecting God's love and care and compassion and grace).

Our Western Christianity does not take Romans 8:19-21 ("the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay") seriously, thinking that this created world is not part of the redemption of Christ, that our souls will be whisked away and this physical world will be destroyed and replaced. We have a tendency toward almost a Gnosticism (thinking that the physical world is evil because it is material, and the spiritual world is good because it is immaterial) instead of remembering the biblical teaching that God created a physical world that was “very good.” We forget that redemption (as found in the end of Revelation) includes a renewal of the entire cosmos. Redemption is the remaking of creation once evil, which has distorted and defaced creation, has been dealt with. As N. T. Wright says in his lecture Creation and New Creation in the New Testament, “If the second coming is about people being snatched away from this present world to live somewhere quite other, you probably don’t need to bother too much about transforming this world; if the second coming goes with the expectation that God is going to redeem creation, we have a mandate already.”

As we live out this mandate in the here and now, we are going about the work of pronouncing the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. In our participating in doing God's will on earth, we are involved in God's Kingdom invading and taking over the evil Kingdoms of this world. Kingdom work is not only “saving souls from Hell and getting them into Heaven” but also participation in every way God’s will needs to be done on earth RIGHT NOW as it is done in heaven.

One of the "kingdoms" of this world (among many) that destroy lives which God wants to liberate people from is the Kingdom of Greed/Unfettered Capitalism/Economic Globalization (see Tom Sine's book Mustard Seed vs. McWorld).

Here is why I am offended with being called an environmental wacko:
When corporate greed (and our greed in wanting fat portfolios because of the stockholder economy we live in) overrides our mandate to care for God's creation, it is THEN that we are being idolatrous!

In our proper fear of being idolatrous of the environment, we are not taking seriously enough our idolatry of what causes ecological destruction. “Since the leaders of McWorld view economic growth and efficiency as the greatest good, creation is viewed as simply a resource to be used in the cause of accelerating economic growth. This has fostered a reductionistic view of God’s creation and has placed major areas of the environment in peril.” (Sine, p. 63)

Or, as the National Association of Evangelicals say in the new statement For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, “Human beings have responsibility for creation in a variety of ways. We urge Christians to shape their personal lives in creation-friendly ways: practicing effective recycling, conserving resources, and experiencing the joy of contact with nature. We urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats.”

This statement by the NAE is not “environmental wackoness.” It is sound theology applied to a desperate situation in our nation and world today.


Bush is the Winner! Kerry is the Loser!

I find it amazing how all the news channels and talk shows are talking about the Bush campaign tactic of wooing the evangelical vote. It's the major news story of this election: Republican strategist Karl Rove's tactic of appealing to this group of people and getting them out to vote in reation to their feelings about abortion and gays.

According to this election, the only issues that evangelicals really care about are abortion and gay marriage. This is how the media sees it, this is how Karl Rove saw it, and the results of the election seems to prove it to be true.

The message that we championed (initiated and led by Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine) failed. tWe tried to get across the point that Christians need to be more than one-issue voters.

We were unable to get evangelicals to think more holistically about issues. The message we tried to tell people is that Christians need to define more broadly the important "religious issues" in our society.

The Bush campaign succeeded to team with the Religious Right to keep the focus solely on gay marriage and abortion. The Falwells and Robertsons and Dobsons even said that good Christians could only vote for the president, and let it be known that they were sure that Bush was God's candidate.

But Wallis rightly insisted God is not a Republican (or a Democrat).

He was also right in pointing out that poverty is also a religious issue, pointing to thousands of verses in the Bible on the poor.

The environment - protection of God's creation - is also a Christian religious concern.

And I am one of millions of Christians in America who believe the war in Iraq was not a "just war."

And I also contended, along with many (including PBS's Bill Moyers) that the Bush Administration lacked integrity in how they over-sold the war by stretching their intelligence reports to include Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear capabilities. (Now, Moyers and I may be wrong in that contention, but it certainly is worthy of Christian dialogue, instead of unquestioning loyalty to an "evangelical Christian" president.)

In any case, our message that Christians should be discussing many "religious issues" in this election (poverty, hunger, creation care, greed, health care, peace, along with abortion, stem-cell research, and homosexual marriage) failed.

But, to be honest, there is only so much that Wallis, et. al. can do if the candidate (in this case John Kerry) fails to embrace that message.

It was not until the very end of Kerry's campaign that he began to talk about his religious beliefs and how they might influence his decision-making. This was the most religiously-focused election in recent memory, and yet Kerry refused to engage in that conversation!

He deserved to lose because of that.

Until the Democrats come to terms with the fact that a vast majority of people in America are deeply religious, they will continue to fail to win their votes.

As Wallis famously said earlier this year, when it comes to the most important "religious issues" in our country, "The Republicans get it wrong, and the Democrats just don't get it." Bush defined religious issues as one or two things, and so he is the winner. Kerry refused to be aggresive in pointing at other issues as important religious issues, and so Kerry is the loser.

But until either party can more clearly communicate how their views will impact a complete range of Christian "religious" concerns, we are all losers.

go to my main website, www.vanguardchurch.com