Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Rage and Economics.

How should a Christian view the economic crisis?  What should our reaction be?  I suspect we are all troubled by these thoughts today.

There is the knee-jerk feeling of rage at politicians, bankers, rioters, and even just plain-old rich folk that we all know we have to confess and ask to be freed from.

And just in terms of practical things there are decisions to be made, for instance: do I buy ethical and fair-trade goods, or do I cut my bills by buying goods whose price makes me suspect that have an element of unfair trading, or even sweatshop labour in them?  Easy to answer this when you are sitting reading my blog, but much more difficult when the kids need food on the table and the budget is running out.

The right approach, it seems to me, is to start with repentance, and to make the difficulties an opportunity to make a new start.  I don't know if God has sent this crisis as a test for me, but I can at least act as if it is a test and ask that "what would Jesus do?" question as often as I can.

The only person whose reaction to these events that I can affect is me.  It's only me that I can change, and even then I can only do that by asking for the Holy Spirit to do the actual job.  I will never stop my knee-jerk feelings of anger at the seeming injustice of things myself - oh I might stop it going further than a feeling, but to stop having the feeling itself - no chance.

I am sorry that I hold people to blame for the crisis, truly I'm sorry, but I still do hold them to blame. I know also that I have a lot of guilt myself - my western, centrally-heated, adequate-pensioned, well fed and clothed lifestyle has come about by plundering the world, both the animate and the inanimate over centuries, but especially over the last 60 years (I'm 62 next February).  I could make a change today: I could just eat a Monk's rations, turn the heating down to 10 degrees Celsius and put on some more old clothes, but I shouldn't.

In fact if we all did this, instead of the world quickly becoming a better place, it would descend very very quickly into chaos.  Billions of people would starve, most livelihoods would disappear overnight.  Supermarket businesses would crash, hauliers would be out of work, ships would be empty of cargoes, the FTSE would go below 500 (it's 5400 today, down from about 7000 at it's peak in 2000), and millions of businesses worldwide would be bankrupt.  The people who would starve first would be those in the 3rd world, and the starvation and death would be worse than WW2.  A world war would also be inevitable as nations would try to steal from others, it might even go nuclear.

It seems to me that we have a terrifying future, and unless the world economic cycle turns upwards again soon, there will be much misery famine and death.

So what do I do?

After a lot of prayer, I think (and God please correct me if I am wrong about this) that I have to continue to be a modern economic entity.  I have to take my income and spend it on ethically produced goods and services, saving enough for me to provide for a moderate but not profligate old age which is not a burden on anyone else.  I have to keep up my charitable giving, not make that the first place to cut, but increase it if possible.  Above all I have to continue to pray.

The very last thing to do is to hoard, that really is the worst thing to do.  To some extent the liquidity crisis in the world economy is down to the retirement savings of billions taking economic resources out of the market.  Money in a bank is just a waste unless it is used to enable economic growth.  A risk-averse banking system is just a reflection of our old-age-centred western economies.  When I was young I had nothing, and could happily risk it all. Now I am old I want security, I want guarantees, but in truth there is no security, and all human promises, except one, are worthless.

Only one human has ever made a promise that was worthwhile believing.  It's that Chap on the icon to the right of the Holy Doors.

So within that understanding, it only makes sense to pray that I will do what Jesus would do in my place.