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You Can't Buy Your Way to Social Justice

You Can't Buy Your Way to Social Justice

Why the activism of some fellow Americans scares me.

I'm afraid of some American Christians.

I am an American, but I haven't lived in the United States in a while. I live in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, and when you pick me up at the Minneapolis airport, I might invite you to coffee and suggest the wrong place—you know, one that doesn't serve fair-trade coffee. I will arrive wearing the wrong jeans—ones sold by companies that don't offer fair wages. And I won't use the right vocabulary—the language used by Western bloggers to talk about social justice.

I've spent more than a decade living among the wealthy and the poor and the uneducated and the doctoral students and Christians and Muslims. I'm trying to figure out how to love radically like Jesus and how to be radically in love with Jesus in a place with 60 percent unemployment, where the oldest university recently turned 13, and where 99.99 percent of nationals don't look like me, talk like me, think like me, or worship like me.

But I haven't read up on fair-trade coffee or researched human trafficking statistics or purchased fair-wage clothing. Partly, I haven't had time. Partly, I haven't had opportunity. My green coffee beans come from an Ethiopian woman on the side of the street. My beef was roaming Main Street yesterday. My clothes are whatever I could fit in a suitcase. I don't know the right way to talk about gender injustice, even though I talk with friends about female genital cutting in everyday conversations.

It used to be that people returned from humanitarian or faith-based work overseas with dowdy haircuts and last decade's fashion. Now, I'm afraid I will come back and not know foundational things like what or where to eat. I won't know where to shop to update my outdated wardrobe. I may very well be judged as wasteful for taking a long, hot shower (for the first time in two years).

And so some American Christians scare me. Passionate blog posts about offensive words like "the voiceless" and beautiful photos of homemade clothing and inspiring essays about living off the land inspire me to make more informed choices. But they also make me nervous about my ignorance after years of being outside this milieu and evolving language. They leave me with a pressing question and, at the same time, provide part of the answer.

Remembering Risk

If my generation cares so deeply about global issues of justice and poverty that they are willing to change eating, clothing, and living habits, where are they? A significant challenge for nonprofits and ministries remains recruiting people who will commit to serve long-term outside the United States.

I know there are a plethora of good reasons that concerned American Christians can't just uproot and leave the States, from family to health to finances. I know I simplify. But I have a theory about what is partly contributing to the dearth of young Americans willing to spend their lives on behalf of others.

They think they already are.

They think that with their pocketbooks and food choices alone, by sewing their own clothes and purchasing fair-trade coffee, by boycotting Wal-Mart and preaching that as gospel, they have already done their part to address global injustices.

In Nicholas Kristof's documentary Half the Sky, actress Meg Ryan also thought she was doing her part to highlight child trafficking in Cambodia, but then declines to go on a brothel raid. She says she doesn't have the "adventure" gene. I appreciate her honesty. I have less appreciation for her ignorance. What did she think fighting sex trafficking would be like, if not going to brothels themselves? Her reticence is symbolic of goodhearted people who have forgotten about risk.

Buying fair-trade coffee, boycotting Gap jeans, and eating only organic vegetarian foods can be important and valuable decisions. They cost time, money, comfort, and an established worldview. But they cannot be the end of our response to the deeply systemic and complex issues that allow human suffering to persist the world over. They don't require risk.

But these things do: Moving your family across the nation, to the inner city, or to the other side of the globe. Letting juvenile delinquents play basketball in your church gym. Inviting pot-smokers and pregnant teenagers to Thanksgiving dinner. Letting a homeless man get in your car.

The Good Samaritan wasn't good because of the origins of his food or because he sewed his own tunic or because he moved to Canaan. Instead, he looked around him, around where he lived and worked and traveled, saw a human in need, and got involved. He gave up time, money, and most likely status and respect in doing so. As he went about his day, perhaps commuting on the dusty roads between two meetings for a high-powered job, he loved someone.

This kind of direct, relational service is risky because it involves people made in the image of God. People about whom Jesus says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." The Jesus who says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Consumer activism comes with the inherent danger of separating us from the very people we want to serve. To buy fair trade coffee, for example, we might need to drive across town instead of sitting in the corner café where people in our neighborhood mingle. We can buy that fair trade coffee and never know the family in Burundi who grew, harvested, washed, and roasted the beans. And still we can feel that have done our part.

Whether in a rural, urban, suburban neighborhood or among coffee farmers in Burundi or among university students in Djibouti, we must not forget that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking—or ultimately of moving from one place to another—but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We must remember that

"The purpose of eating more healthfully is not because it will change global food systems or politics or social structure, but because it allows us the health and energy to live life to the full, i.e., be co-creators with God in a beloved and merciful community that includes all humanity- regardless of where they shop for food or what they eat." So says Shoshon Tama-Sweet, who is featured in Christianity Today for his work fighting child sex trafficking in Portland, Oregon (and who, for full disclosure, is my brother-in-law).

Tama-Sweet is a man who loves as he goes, who doesn't mask the aftershocks of living and loving with risk. It affects his marriage and parenting, his faith. He shares how God meets him in the broken places of himself and his city because Jesus also said, "I will be with you."

While remaining passionate and continuing to gently educate the ignorant (like me!) about how our purchases affect the world, we also need to ask whether current trends are becoming a convenient excuse not to delve into the complexities of social justice. We need to ask whether our consumer choices distort the words of Jesus, and whether they help us enter relationships or separate us from others.

As Matthew Lee Anderson notes in his recent CT cover story, Christians begin to fulfill the command to love our neighbor as ourselves "not when we do something radical, extreme, over the top, not when we're really spiritual or really committed or really faithful, but when in the daily ebb and flow of life, in our corporate jobs, in our middle-class neighborhoods, on our trips to Yellowstone and Disney World . . . we stop to help those whom we meet in everyday life, reaching out in quiet, practical, and loving ways."

While it is practical and loving to use our purchasing power to make wise choices, let us also consider how to be actively involved with the people in our communities. By laying down more than our fashion and our tastes, laying down more than our judgment of those who eat and dress differently.

By laying down our lives.

Rachel Pieh Jones has written for The New York Times, FamilyFun, Literary Mama, Brain, Child, Running Times, Relevant, and EthnoTraveler. She is a regular contributor to SheLoves and A Life Overseas, and she blogs at Djiboutijones.com about being an expatriate, development work, faith, family, running, and writing.

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Comments Are Closed

Displaying 1–94 of 94 comments

KEVIN W ANDERSON

June 05, 2013  3:14pm

GO, Paul Schryba~! :)

yvette moore

May 25, 2013  8:46am

Welcome home, Rachel. The church is growing faster in Africa and Latin America than in the US, apparently without the presence of lots of U.S. mission workers. If longterm mission work is your calling, by all means go. But in the 21st century, it’s often more effective and respectful to support the efforts of Christians working in their own regions. If physically going to an impoverished country would bring just change, Haiti would be a world power. Moving your family across town or world may change you and those you meet, but these acts--risky and well meaning--will not create the SYSTEMIC change needed to improve the lives of coffee growers or impoverished youth. During the SA anti-apartheid struggle poet June Jordan likened the position of US citizens to US slavery when slaves working in the big house had access to power etc field hands didn't. Some helped field hands, some didn't. US is now the big house, she said. We can use our access amplify ignored voices for systemic change.

Paul Schryba

May 24, 2013  9:58pm

Roger: Scientific statements and results are supposed to be verifiable. You consistently fail to provide references and confirmations for your beliefs. You dismiss the Brookings Insitution study as 'socialist' by way of response: you could have stated that statisical analyses do not prove causality. You could have mentioned that the study itself does not advocate minimum wages. Here's there overall conclusion: "Although the recurrent result is that minimum wages and poverty are inversely related, one cannot conclude that a rise in the minimum wage is the most cost effective way to reduce poverty. We do not estimate the efficiency losses that may result from higher minimum wages. Also, this empirical exercise is subject to all the caveats associated with cross- section analysis. Even if minimum wages can reduce poverty, they may not be the most efficient way to achieve this objective.’ " Socialist, right?

Paul Schryba

May 24, 2013  2:28pm

Roger: Low productivity is not THE cause of low wages- it is A cause of it. "In any market transaction between a seller and a buyer, the price of the good or service is determined by supply and demand in a market." (http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/suppdem.htm) Workers are the product- wages the price- employers the buyers. There is no DIRECT correlation between productivity and demand. The DEMAND for productive workers, will be determined by how much the buyer-employer- values increased productivity, and how much the seller-worker- charges for the increased productivity. Where supply far exceeds demand, wages will remain 'low'. I have already cited a study from Fordham, were greater supply correlates with lower wages. Further, the migration of the job to the 'poor person'- means the unemployment of the skilled, productive worker and their impoverishment.

Roger McKinney

May 24, 2013  9:38am

Yes, there is a correlation between minimum wages and poverty: if the minimum is above the market rate, unemployment and poverty increase. If the minimum is at or below the market rate for unskilled workers, which it is in many countries including the US, then poverty falls. Minimum wage increases tend to follow development, not lead it. See, Brookings refuses to tell you the rest of the story. Clearly you want to help the poor and that is admirable. But you need to know what really helps and what doesn't. Free trade doesn't and socialist policies severely hurt the poor more than the rich. There is abundant evidence in developmental economics if you're interested. But you won't find any of it at the socialist Brookings Institute.

Roger McKinney

May 24, 2013  9:36am

So now you’re interested in economics? At least enough to learn the basics of supply and demand. But if you would read a little further in an economic text book, you would learn what determines supply and demand. Demand is low for labor in poor countries because the productivity of the workers is low and capital is scarce. They need lots of training and investment in capital to provide them tools to work with. I see you learned your tiny bit of economics from the Brookings Institute, one of the most socialist think tanks in the nation. Their economics is mostly half-truths. They won’t tell you an outright lie, but they won’t tell you the rest of the story that would change your mind, as in the supply-demand principle for labor. They stop with the supply-demand principle and ignore what determines supply and demand, leading you to draw the wrong conclusions.

Roger McKinney

May 24, 2013  9:35am

Paul, I speak of business owners in poor nations because I know from experience, having lived in several, and from reading what they are like. I’m sorry you don’t know much about the poor world, but your ignorance does not make my evidence mere assertions. BTW, the foreign companies who purchase products are not business owners by definition. Yes, they know about the corruption. But they also aren’t as arrogant as most Americans and assume they can change the local culture. They have two choices, buy or not buy. If they buy, they help the poor. The benefits to the poor outweigh the negatives.

Paul Schryba

May 23, 2013  11:00pm

Your assertion that low wages, etc. are necessary to combat poverty is also open to question. A study published by the Brookings Institution (http://www.fordham.edu/economics/mcleod/Lustig&McLeod_small.pdf) concludes: "Our main empirical finding is that minimum wages and poverty are inversely related: that is, an increase in real minimum wages is accompanied by a fall in poverty." The study is not advocating increases in minimum wages, nor are they arguing that they are most efficient- but "an increase in real minimum wages is accompanied by a fall in poverty." I am not advocating mandated minimum wages; only advocating making informed, conscious decisions to value decent wages, safe workplace conditions, and environmental safeguards- as I believe your fellow conservative, Jim Ricker, did earlier.

Paul Schryba

May 23, 2013  10:27pm

Let's continue: "Corruption causes the unsafe working conditions and environmental problems, not the low wages." "Exploitative jobs at subsistence wages...Increasing demand for certified goods made at fair wages, in decent conditions, with environmental safeguards will create more jobs with those conditions." The statement was "Exploitative jobs AT subsistence wages..." not "Exploitative jobs CAUSED by subsistence wages..." Point being, that providing safe conditions and environmental protections all cost money, placing those companies who provide such at a cost disadvantage compared to those companies that don't (where laws governing same are either largely absent or unenforced, which I are presuming in this case). What you are consistently implying in all this, is that low wages, poor working conditions, and environmental exploitation are necessary to provide jobs for the poor under the conditions that are assumed.

Paul Schryba

May 23, 2013  9:54pm

not whether or not those conditions existed because of lack of awareness/ability of local business owners awareness/ability to deal with the situation. Foreign companies choose to buy products from those countries, knowing widespread corruption exists. That is my assumption, based on your own stated knowledge of conditions in those countries and my assumption that smart, ethical businessmen/women do not purchase without investigating first. You assert-absolute statement- that "The low price in poor countries is due to low wage rates, which are due to low productivity." There are many reasons for low wage rates; one of them is an excess of labor (supply) over demand. Here's one example were excess supply coincides with low wages: http://www.grady.uga.edu/annualsurveys/Supplemental_Reports/SupplementalRpt _9.php With what certainty, and on what do you base your assertion that it is low productivity that causes these low wage rates, and not other factors?

Paul Schryba

May 23, 2013  9:33pm

Roger: Let's take things, one by one. You are given to making absolute general statements, which are as such untrue. You say, in so many words, "business owners" are aware of corruption and do all they can to combat it. That is an unreferenced belief/assumption on your part. It is unreasonable to assume, given human nature, that business owners (generic, all encompassing term) are ALL aware of it, and are doing ALL they can to combat it. Assuming you meant that MOST business owners are aware of corruption and do ALL they can to combat it, on what to you base that? What studies? What percentage of business owners have done/are doing ALL they can? What determines that they are indeed doing ALL they can? Have you personally talked with the majority of business owners and confirmed that? To clarify for you, my point was about the AWARENESS of FOREIGN companies who purchase products from developing countries, that such widespread conditions exist- (cont.)

Roger McKinney

May 23, 2013  3:53pm

I guess the poor people who live in corrupt governments aren't worth of our love.

Roger McKinney

May 23, 2013  8:36am

Paul, I didn’t write that the business owners are unaware. Of course they know about the corruption. Everyone in the world but you seems to know about it. They do all they can to combat it, but fail often. The low price in poor countries is due to low wage rates, which are due to low productivity. Jobs in the clothing industry help improve their productivity and lift they wages. Purchasing goods from those countries still help the poor workers because it raises their wages and gives them new skills. Corruption causes the unsafe working conditions and environmental problems, not the low wages. I think “fair” trade is more a way for first world people to ease their guilt than to actually help anyone.

Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:10pm

I will try to 'love my neighbor', by buying items I can have some surety were not made under environmentally and humanly exploitative conditions. You can continue to buy goods you can reasonably assume were made under exploitative conditions because they 'provide jobs'. I think that the worker I support will be happy with my choice.

Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:00pm

That is what fair trade and organic certification attempts to do; provide reasonable evidence that goods are produced in an environmentally and humanly non-exploitative manner. To my simple understanding, a business must have income to survive. If people do not buy the product, no income, the business goes under. To not buy fair trade items, means they will go out of business. Those businesses that operate with reduced costs due to illegal, exploitative practices will remain in business. Your logic infers and assumes supporting exploitative businesses is necessary to provide jobs for the poor. Exploitative jobs at subsistence wages will not lift any out of poverty- the poor will remain poor, providing profits for the wealthy. Increasing demand for certified goods made at fair wages, in decent conditions, with environmental safeguards will create more jobs with those conditions. Less demand for non-certified goods will result in the reduction of jobs made under exploitative conditions.

Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  9:40pm

For the moment, I will accept your implication that corruption and illegality is rampant in third world countries and that business owners there are unaware of it.("...builder has a thousand ingenious ways to cheat the owner and he will rarely discover them. If he asked the questions you propose, the builder would just lie to him." "And whose job is it to police theft and fraud, such as committed by the builder? It’s the state, not the market!") I will presume that those in the business community, whose business it is to know these things and not profit from illegality for the reasons Rick stated earlier, are, as you, not ignorant of such conditions. Given that awareness, to purchase from those countries is to reasonably assume that low price is due to illegality and poor conditions. If American businesses were primarily concerned about the conditions that go into making products they buy, there does exist a means to do that- independent, outside verification of wages and conditions.

Roger McKinney

May 22, 2013  2:42pm

There is some truth in what you wrote about why the prices of consumer goods from poor countries are so low. Those are legal matters for the government, but the US companies who buy from the poor people in those corrupt countries have no control over laws concerning minimum wage, safety nets or pollution. Given that state of affairs, what would happen if Walmart refused to buy anything made in such a country? The people would have no jobs. Nothing would change in the government. There would still be no safety net, no minimum wage, no pollution laws, but the people would be much poorer. You American paternalistic arrogance accomplishes nothing but making miserable lives even more miserable.

Roger McKinney

May 22, 2013  2:41pm

Paul, You clearly don’t know much about doing business in the poor world. If the business owner contracted with a builder, the builder has a thousand ingenious ways to cheat the owner and he will rarely discover them. If he asked the questions you propose, the builder would just lie to him. It happens a lot in the US where we have much better controls. There is nothing wrong with maximizing profit as long as you don’t cheat or steal to do so. And whose job is it to police theft and fraud, such as committed by the builder? It’s the state, not the market! You are witnessing another massive failure by the state that you want to blame on the market. Only the state has the power to reduce such corruption. Self-interest becomes greed only when it becomes immoral. Love as a motive is important for Christians, but how do you deal with the 90% of the world that isn’t? You can’t make them love others. Competition reduces greed far better than states.

Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:42am

And just to be fair, let's go back to the 'consumers'. Do consumers question why prices are low? Our capitalist society does not educate to do so; only to look for 'bargains'. What is one reason why prices are low? Because, ceteris paribus, products made in countries that have no minimum wage, that have no government safety net (funded through taxes), that have no laws against pollution, cost less than those that do. "Hey- I got a real deal on this." Could it be, because there are millions of Chinese willing to work for subsistence wages, in unsafe condtions, where there are no costs of environmental regulation? And what of the Americans, who live in a country with minimum wages, workplace safety and environmental laws, who are unemployed as a result? "Don't ask, don't tell- ignorance is bliss." As grace allows, I choose to support by my purchases those businesses that I have reasonable assurance pay a decent wage, that do not put carcinogens and otherwise pollute the environment.

Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:12am

Roger: Your last statements are complete conjecture. Taking them as they are: "The contractor did shoddy work..." Why? because he wanted to cut costs to maximize his own profit, or he 'low balled' his bid- to make money. The contractor bribed the officials-why? To 'make money'. "The business owner probably knew nothing about it..." The business owner never visited the construction site? Or never questioned why the bid was so low? The business owner never investigated the reasons for the safety violations? The business owner was making money, so no need to ask any questions, right? It all goes back to 'maximizing profit'- the failure to understand that work is to meet human needs, to be motivated by LOVE, as Jesus commands, and not to 'make profit.' The US companies did not know about the unsafe conditions. Did they ever bother to ask? Did they ever bother to investigate? Did they ever even question why the price for the goods was low? Nope. The priority is; make profit.

Paul Schryba

May 21, 2013  9:38pm

Rick: There would have been no loss of profits, had not a catastrophic event occurred. The building was known to be unsafe as constructed, and violated safety standards. The decision to build and to continue to operate could have been the result of only two things; first, is the inability of the owner to spend more for a safe building. In that case, concern for the workers should have never permitted the building to have been built in the first place; or, it was decided to build cheap to reduce building costs to the owner-and increase profits. As long as enough profits were made before the collapse, the owner will make out fine. There continue to be businesses that operate worldwide that permit unsafe conditions, subsistence wages, that harm the environment- because they bring immediate, maximum profit to the owner. And where the number of workers far exceed the available jobs, reduction of the workforce is of no concern whatever.

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  9:22pm

Rick, yes the building collapsed because the contractor cut corners, did shoddy work, and probably bribed the inspectors to ignore it. The business owner probably didn't know anything about it. Neither did the US companies buying the products. Such corruption is a big problem in poor countries, but punishing the workers by refusing to buy their products will not change things.

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  9:20pm

Paul: "but to placing maximizing material gain as the primary goal of human economic activity." Of course that is idolatry and there will always be idolaters and always have been. As the Bible says, greed is a form of idolatry. What does that have to do with our conversation? What does it have to do with the economics of helping people in Bangladesh? Are you saying that American Christians are idolaters because they buy what poor people produce and thereby help them feed their families?

Rick Dalbey

May 21, 2013  8:39pm

Paul, the unsafe building in Bangaladesh destroyed profits, reduced the pool of workers, and triggered regulation. In the long run, it does not pay to build unsafe buildings or to abuse your work force or to operate outside the law as they are finding out. Profit is the reward for building safe buildings and having a willing, healthy workforce.

Paul Schryba

May 21, 2013  7:17pm

Reference to the conditions in Bangladesh: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/bangladesh-building-collapse-highlights- unsafe-conditions-in-$20bn-clothing-industry/1/267596.html

Paul Schryba

May 21, 2013  7:16pm

I believe that what I said was perfectly clear, in attributing the idolatry not to economics, but to placing maximizing material gain as the primary goal of human economic activity."The purpose of work is for love and service, to share our gifts and talents. To reduce human work to the primary purpose of maximizing material gain, is idolatrous. ("You cannot serve God and money.") A method of distributing goods and services are needed; 'economics' in that sense in not evil, but necessary." God wills us to love; we are new creations in Christ, and the decisions we make are to be guided by love, not 'maximizing material gain'- profit. The owners of the shop in Bangladesh that collapsed placed material gain- higher cost for a safe building would have reduced profits- first. Those conditions are widespread in Bangladesh, which you imply we must support because they provide 'jobs'.

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  2:29pm

Biblical writers did not know about the possibility of lifting people out of poverty by increasing per capita income any more than they knew about modern medicine or physics. I suspect that the freedom and respect for property that God built into the original Israeli government were intended to produce such a result. And it might have had Israel remained loyal to God. Ignoring modern economic science is no more absurd than ignoring modern medicine. Both are gifts from the same loving God. So if someone wants to help the poor, they need to do so with knowledge, not just zeal. They need to take into account modern economic knowledge as well as the Bible. After all, no one would send a doctor to Bangladesh with instruction to limit his medical care to nothing more than prayer and anointing with oil or pouring wine on wounds. So why ignore 300 years of God-given advances in economics?

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  2:23pm

Until the birth of capitalism, the world knew of only one way to help the poor and that was through charity. No one held modern ideas of progress. As Solomon wrote, there was nothing new under the sun. People living in 1600 had the same standard of living as people living 10,000 BC. Then in 1600 something dramatic happened. Suddenly per capita income took off sharply. Economic historians call it the hockey stick because of the shape of a graph of per capita income. People had little understanding of what was happening, but they like it and wanted more of it. So the best minds set to work trying to discover how this amazing reduction I poverty happened. Adam Smith was one of the first to really grasp what had happened and he described it in his book “Wealth of Nations.” He got some things wrong, but it was a very good start. Since then, Western society has understood that growing per capita income lifts more people out of poverty than any amount of charity, forced or otherwise.

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  2:23pm

In context, I don’t see how to take what you wrote differently. If you didn’t mean that, then why didn’t you tell me what you actually meant in your last post? The verse in Matthew has little to do with economics. It’s about worry and trusting God to provide your needs. At the same time, no one would assume Jesus meant for his followers to quit working because the Paul makes it clear that God’s primary method of providing for our needs is through our work. Economics is about how to organize society in such a way that the workers can perform that God given assignment as well as possible. History and the science of economics have proven that free markets and private property excel at freeing people to be Godly and perform their God-given duties.

Paul Schryba

May 21, 2013  12:19pm

Roger: Please read what I wrote again. I never meant or implied that "ECONOMICS...“reduce[s] human work to the primary purpose of maximizing material gain.”" What does Matthew 6, 25-34 mean to you with respect to our economic choices?

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  9:25am

Paul, you’re doing battle with a straw man of your own fevered socialist imagination. Economics does not “reduce human work to the primary purpose of maximizing material gain.” Economics merely assumes that most people despise poverty and shows how to reduce it. No company, except a government established monopoly, can make a profit without serving customers better than competitors because customers can choose not to buy a service or product. Profits demonstrate who serves people the best. I don’t understand why Christians accept crude economic illiteracy as something spiritual but would find other scientific literacy shameful.

Roger McKinney

May 21, 2013  9:25am

No leading free marketeer has ever advocated for totally unregulated markets. All have insisted on the rule of law punishing theft and fraud. The Popes are either dishonest in promoting the straw man fallacy or ignorant. The Church’s policy seems to be that the state should limit markets to the point that people begin to starve to death then back off a little. I don’t need to provide references because there are dozens of articles on the internet about it if you cared to do a little work. To understand why your activism hurts poor people, you need to understand basic economics. Once you understand economics it’s just common sense. Choose what you want to believe. I don’t care. Destroy the lives of poor people all you want and tell yourself you did it for their own good. Stubbornly refuse to understand how economies really work. But I don’t see how ignorance makes someone more spiritual.

Clark Coleman

May 21, 2013  7:33am

Has it occurred to the purchasers of fair trade coffee that coffee is a silly luxury, not to mention the fact that it is a chemical dependency? Would it not be better for them to take their coffee budget and use it to give extra money to the church? With all the talk of how Christian stewardship should point us to living more simply, I would think that coffee would be on the list of things to eliminate from our lives completely, so I don't see how drinking any particular coffee is all that righteous.

Paul Schryba

May 20, 2013  9:54pm

All economics, beyond material availability, is based on human behavior. Human economics has no existence apart from human behavior. Material consumption is based on human choice. Christian doctrine affirms that humans have free will. Human beings are commanded by Christ to love- not to maximize material gain. The purpose of work is for love and service, to share our gifts and talents. To reduce human work to the primary purpose of maximizing material gain, is idolatrous. ("You cannot serve God and money.") A method of distributing goods and services are needed; 'economics' in that sense in not evil, but necessary. However, when people are reduced as means to material ends, where maximizing material gain becomes the PRIMARY goal, then man serves economics- not the other way around. The purpose of GM is to provide transportation; if it does it effectively and efficiently, it is rewarded with profit. In our idolatry, the purpose of GM is to make money-transportation is the means.

Paul Schryba

May 20, 2013  8:59pm

Roger: If you read Catholic teaching, you will see that Catholics are not at all opposed to 'free markets'- only unregulated free markets where the desire for 'profit' harms human dignity. Catholic teaching does affirm a greater role for government intervention in the economy than your beliefs allow. According to you, you imply that purchasing goods that are made at fair wages, in good working conditions, and with environmental considerations will hurt the poor by increasing unemployment. You give no references. If that will hurt the poor, than that implies that buying goods made at bare subsistence wages, in poor conditions, created using environmentally harmful methods alone will help the poor. I do not believe that is true. I do not believe that is morally defensible. I will choose to support, where I have a choice, those businesses that pay a just wage, with good conditions, made in an environmentally friendly manner. Love my neighbors-not seek to maximize profit from them.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  8:24pm

There is no science that Christians are prepared to ignore other than economics.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  8:22pm

By all means read Catholic social teaching. The Acton Institute at acton.org is a very good source. And Paul is right. The church since has turned against the Salamancan scholars and become very anti-free market. The Popes oppose communism and free markets equally. They don't use the term, but the best expression of the Church's economics is the market socialism of Europe and the US where the government leaves as tiny a space for markets as possible. Like other socialists, the Catholic Church sees markets as a necessary evil, necessary to keep people from starving to death but not good for anything else. If you have to have an authority tell you what economics to follow, then you may be interested in the Church's social justice doctrines. If you can think for yourself and appreciate the science of economics, you'll be much more interested in the scholars of Salamanca.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  8:16pm

Paul, you can believe whatever you want, but certain economic principles apply that are as impossible to defy as gravity. Tell yourself that you're not harming poor people all you want, but the fact is you are. Clearly you are one of those Christians, like Jim Wallis, who thinks economics is evil. That's a very medieval attitude.

Paul Schryba

May 20, 2013  6:59pm

Actually, I often bicycle to town; I carpool as well, and combine trips. I would suggest you read Catholic social teaching (which Roger refers to as 'the church') since Salamanca; "Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret" by De Berri and Hug would be good. If you accept the teaching authority of the church, it didn't stop with Salamanca. You might find E. F. Schumaker's 'Small is Beautiful' and some of Hazel Henderson's work (http://www.ethicalmarkets.tv/archives/category/words-from-hazel-henderson- past-and-present) challenging.

Rick Dalbey

May 20, 2013  6:17pm

So Paul, by shopping at your nearby independent bookstore you are rewarding innefficiency, penalizing technology, using more resources in bricks, mortar and real estate, not to mention auto pollution and congestion, depriving yourself of selection, keeping the costs of books artificially high and waging a one man losing war with progress and innovation by tilting at windmills to forestall the inevitable. A Luddite. Myself, I use Amazon. My Christian Bookstore, Lifeway, is driven by a particular kind of narrow dispensational doctrinal agenda and even then has no selection in that niche. Or I go to Powells used bookstore, the largest used bookstore on the planet.

Paul Schryba

May 20, 2013  5:52pm

Every purchase is an investment; investment in the product, in the company, and in how it produces the product. It is my responsibility to see that what I choose to invest in supports my Christian values; that of loving my neighbor, respecting and caring for the the creation that sustains us. I do not permit my choices to be solely determined by low price as the marketplace and economics would dictate. I will not buy from companies, if at all possible, that violate those values. I most often choose to buy books and gifts from my nearby independent bookstore (the last of two in the county) and the closest remaining Christian bookstore. It would be cheaper and more convenient to buy from Amazon.com; however, Amazon does not employ my neighbors (and incidentally does not employ as many people per volume of sales), and does not put into the local economy. I do not believe that I am 'destroying jobs' in so doing. I am supporting MORE jobs, and local, than Amazon.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  2:01pm

Jim, You’re right. Capitalism requires shared morality. Capitalism was a brief flash in the pan. It happened in Western Europe and the US because we adopted the Biblical principles of property and markets as discovered by the theologians at the School of Salamanca. But as we have become less Christian we have abandoned freedom for socialism, just as Israel did when it rebelled against God and demanded a king. Envy keeps most people in the world poor and is the power of socialism. As Schoeck wrote, the genius of Christianity was its ability to restrain envy. I realize you have good intentions, but the actions you recommend will only hurt the poor of the world more than doing nothing.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  2:00pm

Paul, I’m not saying any such thing. I’m saying it’s none of my business. I think it very arrogant of Americans to try to rule a foreign country from 3,000 miles away through our purchasing decisions. We should have more respect for the people of other countries and let them run their countries as they see fit. They know far more about it than we do. I’m asking Christians in the US to have a tiny bit of humility. We don’t know the situation or how best to solve the problems. But I know this: destroying jobs that feed families is not the way to go about helping the poor.

Roger McKinney

May 20, 2013  2:00pm

Rick, here is a link to a good intro article that contains a few books: http://mises.org/daily/3787/The-World-of-Salamanca. Also, the article in Wikipedia about the School of Salamanca is good. Deirdre McCloskey, econ prof at Chicago, comes at it from a different perspective in her series “The Bourgeois Values.” The bourgeois values are Christian values about commerce. She traces them back to the Dutch Republic of the 16th century. She doesn’t call them Christian or make the Christian connection, but anyone who has read the history of the Dutch Republic understands how godly the founders were. They considered their nation to be a new Israel. The Dutch rejected the old world ways of getting wealth through war and kidnapping and implemented the principles of the School of Salamanca.

Jim Ricker

May 20, 2013  8:17am

One can agree with Roger's points but in order for capitalism (as described by Roger in its original state) to work, it must be borne on a basis of a shared morality. We do not have a shared morality any longer. So the question is how would be be able to bring capitalism (in the purest form) back and maintain it? Maybe we need to be mindful in our activity (economic and otherwise) and require ourselves to be the example (treating others properly and not seeking cheap goods made via slave labor (China for example), practically slave labor (China in other areas, Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc) or asking desperate peoples to become toxic waste dumps so we can have iPods and leather handbags (for example). To expect the USA and the rest of the world to go back and doing nothing in the meantime to foster proper treatment of His creatures is not rational nor does it work. Maybe the answer is yes and yes.

Paul Schryba

May 19, 2013  8:56pm

Roger: With respect to mindful purchasing, what you are staying is, that when you purchase, you will not support a company paying a decent wage, that has safe working conditions, that doesn't pollute, but instead purchase from a company that keeps its employees in poverty, in unsafe working conditions, that is environmentally destructive...? Is that how you 'love your neighbor'? Increased demand for responsibly produced goods will result in a loss of jobs that keep people in poverty- but an increase in jobs that give people to opportunity to get out of poverty.

Rick Dalbey

May 19, 2013  8:48pm

God bless you Roger. There is a huge need for your insight in the church today. I love the brief thesis you give here. Is there a book for a layman level that would delve into the history of free market capitalism and its Christian roots that you might reccommend?

Paul Schryba

May 19, 2013  8:45pm

"19 You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. 20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest,..." Deuteronomy 23:19-20 ESV "35 If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit."Leviticus 25:35-37 ESV "25If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him." Exodus 22:25 ESV God does not expect the poor to be taken care of by 'the marketplace'. Only foreigners- not Israelites- were to be charged interest under Mosaic law. This doesn't support Capitalism.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  7:23pm

Rick, yes I teach economics. My main focus is on economic history and developmental economics. I am passionate about capitalism because it came out of Christian thought in the 16th century. By capitalism, I don't mean the current system in the US. That is properly called market socialism. Real capitalism is free markets with the rule of law and honest courts. Church scholars at Salamanca, Spain (the top university in the world at the time) determined that just prices can be found only in free markets with the rule of law and respect for property. The very Godly Protestants of the Dutch Republic were the first to implement the thinking of the scholars.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  7:18pm

Yes, "mindful purchasing" will force businesses to close and end the work that very poor people depend on to feed their families. It will do far more harm to the poor than good. If you really care about the poor, why focus on activities like "mindful purchasing" that hurt the poor? Why not champion free markets, the only method that has ever helped the poor on a large scale?

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  7:16pm

Paul, you have to look beyond a superficial reading of the Torah. The whole point of selling oneself into slavery or selling one's land was to pay a debt. The payment was based on the number of years to freedom or Jubilee. No one would loan more money to someone than the debtor would repay in the period left until freedom or Jubilee. Any loan larger than that payment would be simply charity. More than anything, Jubilee and the slave laws placed severe limits on the size of loans that poor people could borrow. All of that is clear from the verses telling how to value land until Jubilee. And you can't read the Torah as if it was written today. You have to study the culture and Jewish writings about it. Yes, God mandated the poor laws, but the courts did not enforce them. Judges left the enforcement to God. Jews never considered all the laws equal or applicable by the courts. The courts enforced only the civil laws.

Paul Schryba

May 19, 2013  1:46pm

Roger: With respect to 'mindful purchasing' affecting poverty; your analogy to 'foreign aid' does not apply. 'Foreign aid' is done by governments and is not an exchange for goods and services. How effective 'mindful purchasing' is, depends on how many people are mindful. If enough people refused to buy items made with slave labor, or was made by destroying the environment, or produced in unsafe conditions (Bangladesh)- those businesses would fail. (No demand- right?) That is one concrete way to 'love your neighbor'; purchase on the basis of God centered, love your neighbor values- and not just on the basis of materialistic price. It should be your moral obligation as a Christian to know how the products you buy are made and whether 'low price' is the result of failing to pay adequate wages or are made in other ways destructive of God's creation.

Paul Schryba

May 19, 2013  1:30pm

Roger: You overlook some things. Land was not distributed according to a 'free market' system in Israel. "52 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 53 “To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names." (Numbers 26 NKJV) It was inherited, a right of family and not subject to the 'free market'. “Basically, these verses indicate that the Jubilee requires all debts between Jews to be annulled. Also, any Jew that sold his or herself into slavery is released, whether they worked the amount of time they promised, or not.” Rabbi Shragi Simmons.[http://judaism.about.com/od/prayersworshiprituals/f/jubilee.htm] That isn't simply completing a payment. You ignore that caring for the poor- distributing wealth to them- was not just a moral obligation, but mandated in the Torah (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 previously cited; tithes were required).

Rick Dalbey

May 19, 2013  10:34am

Roger, I know your comments are long and their length may upset some, but the City section is the dusty back corner of the shop that never gets much commentary. I appreciate your reasoning and insights. You must either teach or work in Economics. The Psalms say God sits in the heavens and laughs. He is laughing at the foibles of people. In the name of compassion Mao created the greatest famine in human history. In the name of social justice Marxism/Leninism became the base for the worst tyranny in history. We are so easily manipulated by our feelings and it really pains me to see the church open our doors to mush headed liberal thinking when we have the antidote to the infection of sin, the cure for the disease that ends in hell. The Q conference, Catalyst, the Social Justice conferences, Wild Goose, Sojourners have all taken the young Evangelical church by storm. I know Soros funded Sojourners and Wild Goose. Makes you wonder. “Christian” books like this are a Trojan Horse.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:44am

I find the economic ignorance of Christians just astounding. One thing and only one thing has lifted people out of poverty over the past 50 years and that is freer markets with the rule of law and less corruption. India and China have proven it. Even the World Bank has recognized it. Foreign aid has been a colossal failure. One of the greatest failures in the history of mankind. Yet what do we hear from Christians? Nothing but an unending stream recommendations of failed strategies. Charity is important, but it is a spiritual discipline that does more for the giver than the receiver. It never has and never will make a dent in poverty. Why do "Christians" who claim to want to help the poor oppose the only method that has proven to end poverty and promote demonstrated failures?

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:26am

Paul: "How much of poverty could be eliminated by putting values first in the myriads of purchases we each make?" Almost none. You need to read the history of foreign aid. It has been almost a total waste. How much less wold "mindful purchasing" accomplish. The only thing that has lifted people out of poverty in the past century has been the adoption of free markets, especially in China and India where over 500 million have been lifted from starvation to relative wealth in a generation. The World Bank reports that China and India have cut world poverty in half through freer markets.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:23am

Yes, the Torah mandates wealth redistribution, but Jubilee wasn't part of it. But as Jewish historians have noted, the poor laws were considered moral laws and they left the enforcement of them up to God. The courts did not enforce the poor laws, so no one can argue that forced redistribution through power of the state is Biblical. As I wrote, Israel had no state until it rebelled against God and chose a king. So there was no one to enforce the poor laws and force redistribution of wealth. Giving to the poor was always a test of the giver's love for God and was always voluntary. God has always hated compulsory giving.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:19am

Yes, Jubilee was a negation of debt, as I wrote. It was a mortgage burning. The debt that Jubilee dismissed wasn't just written off, as our modern bankruptcy does. The selling of the land and the slavery paid the debts. Jubilee recognized that payment. Of course, few would loan to the poor more than could be paid by the slavery or harvests from the land they would receive until Jubilee. That's why the Bible tells the Israelis how to prorate the value of the land by the number of harvests left until Jubilee. To dismiss the Jewish authors of the article in the Oxford Manual without even reading it only advertises you lack of interest in the truth.

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:12am

Paul, your understanding of Jubilee is superficial and violates one of the prime principles of hermeneutics, which is to interpret scripture in light of the culture and historical setting. The Torah is the most free market, capitalist document in the history of mankind. There are no price controls, no regulation of business beyond enforcing laws against theft and fraud, which all free marketeers have insisted on. There was no state, no executive branch, no legislative branch, no standing army and no police. Only courts existed, and according to Jewish historians the courts did not concern themselves with religious law or moral law, but only the civil law. The original Israeli government was a libertarians dream!

Roger McKinney

May 19, 2013  8:07am

Paul, yes the Popes have all endorsed the market socialism of Western Europe and the US. They opposed atheistic communism, but had no problem with socialism implemented through democracy. Of course, no free marketeer from Adam Smith on has endorse the kind of capitalism the Popes describe. Capitalism has always and everywhere required the state to do its job of protecting life, liberty and property. The "capitalism" the Popes understood only existed in the dishonest minds of socialists.

Paul Schryba

May 18, 2013  5:08pm

Kevin, thanks for your wonderful postings! Leaving the capitalism/socialism debate, back to the article. The author is right that Christians should not feel that mindful purchasing is enough to witness to social concerns; however, in my experience relatively few are even concerned with that level. How much of poverty could be eliminated by putting values first in the myriads of purchases we each make? Millions making mindful choices can effect great change, without obviating the call for a greater witness. The global 'economy' is nothing but the sum of billions of individuals making one choice at a time...

Paul Schryba

May 18, 2013  1:24pm

"(Leviticus 25:10-13) Basically, these verses indicate that the Jubilee requires all debts between Jews to be annulled. Also, any Jew that sold his or herself into slavery is released, whether they worked the amount of time they promised, or not." [http://judaism.about.com/od/prayersworshiprituals/f/jubilee.htm] Note that declaring Jubilee means a negation of transactions made in the 'free marketplace', and that there is no mention of the 'free marketplace' and 'capitalism' by name anywhere in the bible. The effect of cancelling debt is wealth redistribution. "At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied." Deuteronomy 14:28-29 That is wealth redistribution mandated by the Bible; there is no requirement of 'merit' or 'work' for the fatherless and widows.

Paul Schryba

May 18, 2013  1:01pm

From Pope John Paul II: "In fact, although decisively condemning “socialism,” the church, since Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, has always distanced itself from capitalistic ideology, holding it responsible for grave social injustices (cf. Rerum Novarum, 2). In Quadragesimo Anno Pius XI, for his part, used clear and strong words to stigmatize the international imperialism of money (Quadragesimo Anno, 109). This line is also confirmed in the more recent magisterium, and I myself, after the historical failure of communism, did not hesitate to raise serious doubts on the validity of capitalism, if by this expression one means not simply the “market economy” but “a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality” (Centesimus Annus, 42)." Pope John Paul II, “What Social Teaching Is and Is Not,” in Origins, Vol. 23, No. 15, September 1993, pp. 256-58, at 257.

Roger McKinney

May 18, 2013  9:38am

On Jubilee, I found a great article "Land Concentration, Efficiency, Slavery, and the Jubilee" in the Oxford Handbook of Judaism and Economics. It offers some good insights into the culture and meaning of Jubilee. In short, Jubilee had nothing to do with wealth redistribution as so many socialists claim. It was more like a modern mortgage burning ceremony. People didn't sell their land as we do. They sold it for the value of the harvests until Jubilee in order to pay off a debt. The debt was paid off buy the time of Jubilee, the "mortgage" was torn up and the original owner returned to farming his land.

Roger McKinney

May 18, 2013  9:32am

Someone should stop Kevin before he hurts himself. Clearly he doesn't want to have a discussion, but to vent his fevered mind.

Rick Dalbey

May 18, 2013  1:03am

God bless you Kevin. I feel sorry for Franky, I loved his Dad and Mom and think Francis was speaking to our time...in other words, prophetic. I bought Franky's book. There is a certain wistfulness at the core of his skepticism. I really don't know whether he knew the Lord or not, not my place to know. But his essay on his blog about his Mothers passing a few weeks ago was really moving. I always felt like so many of the right-wing evangelicals (even though I am a conservative evangelical/pentecostal) surrounding him were flim flam men. They used him and he used them and it was evident.

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  10:34pm

In reading some of below, all I have to say is 'Boo-hoo for your widdle guilt fweelings' The Bible talks about those "who are poor because you are rich" A clear example would be Native Americans. If the concept didn't exist, it wouldn't be mentioned. Also, factor in NAFTA and the havoc in wreaked on the Mexican cornfields, caused migrant workers to flood our borders. You think it dampens "achievement?" Try being homeless for awhile. I spent 10 years as a musician in church that focused on the homeless & mentally ill. In any case, this "envy" thing is just opinion AFAICS, not one formed by those who've been on the frontlines of ministry. Plus your bemoaning the loss of "achievement" smacks of Randian Atheism. Conservative/Libertarian economics is Atheistic in it's nature. The Christian saints of the past new nothing of our modern concepts of Republican Democracy, the Bible is refreshingly free of it's polluting influence. Think not? Try selling your snake oil to the Catholic/Orthodox.

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  9:54pm

Other point I should mention: The Bible doesn't really support the modern concepts of Private Property. Ultimately, the Children of Abraham were to look at their land as given to them by God and that they owed him for it. That is no different than the modern concept of a nation allowing you to manage a piece of land, but you owe the government who protects you for it. As well as builds your schools, roads, sewers, water, etc. One of the most righteous Kings of the OT - Josiah - engaged in government seizure and destruction of private property. So Exra 10, which includes voiding marriage contracts. Before anyone gives me the "Theocracy" argument, remember that Israel was never properly a Theocracy after Saul was appointed king. Our own Constitution, which grants freedom of religion, could have and never would have been written by the great men of faith in the Old Testament. Or the New Testament. Or Jesus, for that matter. The Bible does not say "freedom" it says "worship Yahweh or die."

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  9:23pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/us/20beliefs.html?_r=0 But “Sex, Mom, & God” is largely a story of Mr. Schaeffer’s doubts, which beset him throughout his career as a conservative activist. His break with conservatism, and with evangelicalism, came in the late 1980s. But he had long been skeptical of many of his bedfellows. He found the television pastor Pat Robertson and some of his colleagues to be “idiots,” he told me last week, when we met for coffee in western Massachusetts. Looking back, Mr. Schaeffer says that once he became disillusioned he “faked it the whole way... because it was easy, it was lucrative, and — rather poignant to say — he felt he had no other options. “Then there is Mr. Schaeffer’s more biting take, born of hard experience: “North Korea and evangelical empires have the same principle of leadership: nepotism to the nth degree. You may not get the call, but you inherit the mailing list.”

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  9:11pm

http://www.theird.org/page.aspx?pid=2285 "Schaeffer was once a self-described “founder” of the “religious right,” which he now vehemently opposes. His transition from “fundamentalism” to unbelief “wasn’t a crisis of faith, but a crisis of identity,” after he became deeply involved with the “religious right.” After reaching adulthood and leaving his parents’ home in Switzerland and coming to the United States, Schaeffer found himself “all of a sudden in Jerry Falwell’s private jet,” on a “high powered conveyor belt … that whisked us off to another planet of the religious right.” Schaeffer claimed it ultimately “turned out to be a mixture of power hungry lunatics, absolute flakes, money grubbing in a context that just blew me away … because my father was not a flake.” The major problem, he explained, was that “I was turning into a real jerk ...I’m not talking about a big theological deal, I just didn’t believe in this life.” After his father died in 1984, Schaeffer said he “began to ask questions I had never asked before, [like] what does it mean to follow Jesus? Does it mean billion dollar publishing business? Does it mean private jets?”

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  9:02pm

Any Christian who bemoans wealth redistribution and had benefited from the tax-exempt status of Churches, is a stinking hypocrite. Taxation *is* redistribution by definition, and affirmed by both Jesus and Paul as right for the State to enforce. If you get out of a tax burden, guess what? You've shifted that onto someone else who must pick up the slack. Right or wrong, Church tax exemption has benefited every American Christian. If you refrain from picking up what you dropped in your field so the poor can get it, guess what? You've redistributed wealth. If you've forgiven someone who owed you money - same thing. I'll not waste my time with 40+ y/o books by American Christian Capitalist Apologists, as I do not trust them to be objective and report without agenda. Frank Schaeffer was at the forefront of this, and now completely denounces it. Good for him. For good, clear-headed Biblical and Historical Perspectives, I recommend NT Wright.

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  8:26pm

I've been slowly but surely breaking with 'Social Justice Christianity' over their support of Feminism. It seems to me that North American Feminism is mostly politically interested individuals pushing a Trojan Horse for abortion, affirmative action, and general Female Privilege. Do a search for the effects of Fatherless Families on crime and poverty, and realize what No Fault Divorces and Court-Custody bias has wrought in society. Look up the Tender Years Doctrine and who started it (no it wasn't "Patriarchy.") Traditionalism is just as bad, however. Phyllis Schlafly admitted that her reasoning behind opposing ERA was to protect Female Privilege. Look for the following resources online: A Voice for Men, National Coalition For Men, Community of the Wrongly Accused (formerly the False Rape Society,) saveservices.org, and YouTube users Girlwriteswhat, Fidelbogen and Typhon Blue. Those would be a good start.

KEVIN W ANDERSON

May 17, 2013  8:22pm

I just checked through the Negative reviews on Amazon.com on Schoeck: I think I'll save my money.

Roger McKinney

May 17, 2013  4:22pm

More from Schoeck: "Anyone who harbours, or propagates, such guilty feelings must be suffering from a false perspective, explicable less in terms of ethics and theology than in terms of social psychology…It is possible to understand…people who…feel impelled to undergo some exceptional form of penance or expiation, go into voluntary exile in a place far removed from what we call civilization, where they devote their services to the people of the country. But it is not at all the same thing if, instead of undertaking such an ‘Albert Schweitzer mission’ oneself, one preaches it from one’s desk in London, Paris, Washington or Zurich as a duty universally incumbent on all other Westerners, so that anybody who cannot himself be an Albert Schweitzer or Peace Corps worker is ridden with guilt, and depreciates existentially whatever he is able to achieve within his life and his own field of activity." P. 322

Roger McKinney

May 17, 2013  3:33pm

Following up on the comment quoting Schoeck, I think many in evangelicalism want to place a burden of guilt on Christians that we don't deserve. We are neither responsible for the poverty and oppression of the poor world nor can we do much about it. Could we do more? Obviously! How much more? That is between each Christian and God. Schoeck thinks that people who feel guilty about the poor outside of their sphere of influence and responsibility fear the envy of others. Also, they have an unrealistic view of the world that believes all wealth should be evenly distributed and can be evenly distributed. The first is not true and the second is impossible. However, even if it were possible, it would increase, not decrease envy.

Roger McKinney

May 17, 2013  3:26pm

From “Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior” by Helmut Schoeck: “The duty to do a good deed, or to avoid a harmful action, exists in fact only if I can be causally responsible for something. Neither could there be guilt nor could I have a true sense of guilt that it would be wrong to exclude from my conscience unless I withdrew from that responsibility. Sometimes I can extend my responsibility to forebears and successors…Yet the guilt, conscience, responsibility, so much discussed today…have little in common with actual concepts of this kind.”

Roger McKinney

May 17, 2013  12:21pm

Rick, thanks for the link to the book review. McCarraher gets some things right and others wrong. He is right that most politics is controlled by corporations. In economics it’s called “regulatory capture”. He is wrong that the US has anything close to a capitalist system. FDR and Johnson destroyed the last vestiges of capitalism. Carter/Reagan made only slight changes. Today the US has what is called “market socialism” that leaves a small space for markets but is mostly controlled by the corporations through the state. Another name for our system might be fascism, but without the racial implications. He is wrong about the US melding Christianity and capitalism. Capitalism is Christian economics. It developed from Church scholars searching for the just price and finding it only in free markets. The combining of the Christian elements of respect for property, free markets and the rule of law in the Dutch Republic created the system we call capitalism.

Rick Dalbey

May 17, 2013  9:54am

Paul, you do not have to remember the review of Graeber' book. It is right here in all its glory in Books and Culture, May June. Click on the book review at the site here. Or go to http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/mayjune/love-stronger-than-deb t.html?paging=off

Paul Schryba

May 17, 2013  7:53am

Rick: I do not remember the review that you mention of Graeber's book. Thomas Merton was opposed to communism as an economic theory; however, he lived in a monastery where the Christian ideal from Acts was practiced; receive according to need, give according to capacity. He said that could only be achieved in a monastery. Christians are to be motivated by LOVE, not material gain. "You cannot serve God and money." "Love of money is the root of all evil." Christians by their very actions must transcend whatever economic system they are in. Free market capitalism is, like every other human ideology, flawed and imperfect. This article mentions that loving your neighbor (social justice) through purchases that consciously promote human welfare, rather than maximize profit or to maximize material gain, is needed. Its point is that that doesn't go far enough.

Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  11:44pm

Then there is the strange contest Christianity Today is sponsoring to send in the best story of an example of “the Common Good”. At the SAME TIME Jim Wallis Sojourners magazine is sponsoring a contest to send in the best story of “the Common Good”. Sojourners was given a $300,000 grant by George Soros, the atheist billionaire and promoter of global socialism a few years ago. Sojourners says "Rather than just offer you more “ideas” about “the common good, we are going to offer you some stories about how ordinary people are creating it. Watch. Listen. And then create your own story for the common good." This has been a key socialist phrase for over 100 years and was recently adopted by the Democrat party. Timing is everything. Jim Wallis’s newest book, released this week is titled, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good. The phrase was proposed by the democrats in 2005. Google; Common Good and the Daily Kos. This is getting scary.

Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  10:30pm

Huh! I was stunned to read a review of a book in Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine, Love Is Stronger than Debt, Against Chrapitalism by David Graeber. It is online, read it. He conflates Christianity with Capitalism to create the word, Chrapitalism. The entire book is a diatribe against the free market system and its close connection with Christianity. He promotes Communism as the answer for America. But the astounding thing is that the reviewer from Christianity Today agrees and closes his review by saying, "as Thomas Merton knew, "to be a Christian is to be a communist." And divine friendship is to live without debts by "throwing ourselves away"—giving (not charging) according to our ability, and receiving according to our need." I thought it was an anomaly, a lapse in judgment, but now I wonder.

Paul Schryba

May 16, 2013  10:23pm

Roger McKinney- your own knowledge of economics is suspect, as the following dialog indicates- Roger McKinney: Hermit, government ownership of the means of production is not socialism; it's communism. [continues] A Hermit: Mr. McKinney: Webster's New World Dictionary 1974 p. 710: "socialism: 1. any of the various theories of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society rather than by private individuals, with all members of society sharing in the work and the products." A Hermit: New World again: "communism: 1. a theory or system based on the ownership of all property by the community as a whole 2. a hypothetical stage of socialism, as formulated by Marx, Engels, Lenin, ..." Roger D. McKinney : Hermit, Your quote from Webster proves you are a socialist. [continues] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/december/notaxpayerisland.html?all comments=true&showall=true

Roger McKinney

May 16, 2013  8:40pm

Before a coup over a decade ago, the staff of CT openly promoted Marxism. It was forced underground for a while, but tends to leak out in articles and book reviews like this one. I think writers like this believe the old Marxist saying that we are rich because we stole everything the poor had, so justice can be nothing but giving it back. Those people hate the science of economics because it proves what ignorant fools they are. CT promotes every science, even insisting that science takes precedence over scripture in the area of origins, but denies the science of economics. For CT, the ideology of Marxism has as much legitimacy and the real science of economics.

Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  8:23pm

Vic, I see most of the social justice gospel nonsense coming from Andy Crouch and the departments he oversees (Cities, etc.) . I see Mark Galli, the editor of the magazine, as a theological conservative and sympathetic towards political conservatives and pentecostal or Charismatic believers. I see Tim Stafford, a major feature writer as a very fair, conservative writer. Hermeneutics has been surprisingly conservative (Good!). Gleanings has a decidedly liberal theological bias. The books chosen for review and the reviews themselves have been absolutely horrible. So it all depends on the subject area. I subscribe to the magazine because I want to know what my evangelical brethren are thinking and this is the key journal for that. It is disheartening to see the sad state of faith in the evangelical church and the disasterous and fatal adoption of social justice (which I regard as a false evangelical pentecost) which doomed mainline protestant church membership.

Vic Christian

May 16, 2013  6:11pm

Rick - do you see any pattern in today's "Christianity Today" articles? I mentioned before that I will not purchase the magazine, and only read the on-line material to see the unfortunate direction these leaders are pushing us. Both of your comments are right-on. Thank-you!

Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  4:02pm

Rachael says, "If my generation cares so deeply about global issues of justice and poverty that they are willing to change eating, clothing, and living habits, where are they? A significant challenge for nonprofits and ministries remains recruiting people who will commit to serve long-term outside the United States." Where is the generation that cares deeply about seeing those on the road to hell hearing the gospel, meeting Jesus and becoming born again? This is extremely sad. This is another gospel for sure.

Nathan Swenson

May 16, 2013  2:20pm

I too am afraid of American Christians. American Christianity is a disease that replaces the true Gospel with a gospel of feel goodism. Too many churches go on "missions" where they dig wells and make sandwiches and the pat the backs of the downtrodden and tell them God has a wonderful plan for their life, but never tell the soul changing Gospel. They tend to try and make life a little nicer place to go to Hell from, rather than proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Liberal Christianity and quiet "anonymous Christian" theology are rotting the Church.

Rick Dalbey

May 16, 2013  1:43pm

This is not Christianity. This is another gospel, a social justice gospel concerned with building utopias on earth. Alleviating global world poverty, redistribution of wealth, fair trade coffees, consumer activism, none of this is the gospel and it is a huge distraction from fulfilling the great commission. Sending youth groups on missions to build or dig wells is not the great commission and robs the kids of the experience of sharing the gospel. You find none of this kind of activity in the Gospels, none of this kind of activity in the book of Acts, none in the Epistles. I agree completely with Roger McKinney and J Thomas, social justice is a by product of the redeemed heart. The theologically liberal mainstream church (Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians) had a precipitous drop in membership and they’re the pioneers in social justice, that is their ONLY gospel. Now it’s being foisted on Evangelicals because we’ve failed to believe and preach the power of the supernatural gospel.

Roger McKinney

May 16, 2013  1:20pm

PS, another fantastic book is "Envy: A theory of social behavior" by Helmut Schoeck. Schoeck wrote that the genius of Christianity in the 17th century was its ability to restrain the debilitating effects of envy which has afflicted all people on earth since the creation. Envy does enormous damage and keeps poor people very poor.

Roger McKinney

May 16, 2013  1:18pm

I got into economics after several mission trips overseas and observing the desperate poverty of the people. It has taken me a decade of intense study of poverty and theory to understand why some nations are poor and others so unbelievably rich. I could recommend several books, but if you read only one on the subject I would recommend Acemoglu and Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail.” The authors show that escaping poverty and crime requires that a nation build certain types of institutions. What they don’t show is that those institutions first appeared in Christian nations of Western Europe and are based on Biblical principles of government, law and economics.

Roger McKinney

May 16, 2013  1:12pm

So when did the risk involved become a measure of spirituality? Where is that criterion in the Bible? I fear some Christians have become adrenalin junkies. Zeal is great! But as Paul wrote, zeal without knowledge is waste. Most of the things Rachel mentions as ways to “make a difference” won’t make any difference at all. Much of the world suffers from crime, poverty and oppression is because they refuse to accept Christ as their savior and are in active rebellion against the true God. Their suffering is the direct consequence of that rebellion. God allows such suffering as a merciful attempt to get them to end their rebellion. The only way to relieve that suffering is for them to end their rebellion against the true God.

Marilyn Gardner

May 15, 2013  1:53pm

I echo both Esther and J Thomas's comments on the "authentic challenge" in this essay as well as the importance of recognizing today's brand of social justice for what it often appears. I am weary - so.weary of blogs and a western church that holds to a particular brand of western Christianity. I know that sounds judgmental and I don't want it too yet it must be said that we have so few voices that give the global picture of the Church and so many voices that give a westerncentric picture complete with an evangelical lexicon of social justice and all the vocabulary and action that goes with that. I feel Rachel is particularly gifted with seeing both sides and calling us out ... I've shared the article and it's already been shared many times by people who have lived both sides of the globe and are weary of responding to the status quo.

J Thomas

May 15, 2013  11:36am

"Social Justice" in itself provides a barrier to truer devotion and a more honest expression of service. It's a contrived term for institutionalized assistance. Those institutions themselves become the veil between us and God. They provide us with the feeling of service with very little of the sacrifice. The worst part about "Social Justice" is that it removes from us the spiritual blessings that come from worship expressed as individual service.

Esther Aspling

May 15, 2013  8:57am

I love this! While I still want to follow consumer activism, I want my life show display 'in the trenches' activism as well. Our love for people, as Christians, should be infectious. The whole, "they will know we are Christian by our love" line should be more than that, it should be truth. Thanks for your authentic challenge! :-) http://forthisisthetime.com/

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