The Common Good

The "Un-Economy"

Sojomail - October 20, 2011

 QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We should never adjust to one percent of the people controlling 40 percent of the wealth. I hear my father say, ‘We must have a radical revolution of values and reordering of priorities of this nation.’” – Bernice King, at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington D.C.

- (Source: New York Times)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

The "Un-Economy"

 

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support
Sojourners

In an international meeting last week with economists, business executives, non-profit organizational leaders, and theologians, my colleague Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Institute succinctly summed up the problems of the current global economy: it’s unfair, unsustainable, unstable, and is making many people unhappy. These issues of the “un-economy” were at the heart of our discussions at the World Economic Forum, and the Occupy Wall Street encampment I just visited in New York City.

Unfair.
Since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, the talk about inequality has been greater than I can remember it being for a very long time. This has been the elephant in the room in our discussions about the economy that nobody wanted to say out loud. In the last hundred years, there have been two peak periods of great inequality in American society—just before the Great Depression, and in 2008, right before our current Great Recession. And in the mysterious and secret global transactions between investment bankers and hedge fund traders, the profits continue to grow.

From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money making more money for a new class of super rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle class insecurity, and shamefully, rising poverty rates.

Opportunity is a lost hope now for many now, as social mobility in America is now less than in Western Europe. And if you search the scriptures, you’ll find that God not only cares about poverty, but especially, unfairness and inequality. That’s what the young people at Wall Street are angry about.

Unsustainable.
If everybody had a Ferrari, the planet could not survive. And the earth groans as the ethics, or non-ethics, of endless growth are measured only by corporate shareholders in quarterly profit and loss statements. “Short-termism” was a term I heard over and over in the broad conversations about values at the World Economic Forum. A global economy based on dirty energy and creating unjust regimes, angry populations, endless terrorism and war, and dangerously warming the planet (apologies to those presidential candidates who have disavowed science) is clearly unsustainable. Add to that an advertising industry that systematically, psychologically, and even spiritually turns “wants” into “needs,” is a formula for human and ecological disaster.

It’s time to move from a narrowly defined shareholder economy to a stakeholder economy that includes workers, consumers, the environment , and future generations -- all in our economic calculations and decision-making.

Unstable.
Another conversation that is taking place alongside the values discussion, both at the World Economic Forum and at Occupy Wall Street, is about the dangerous and growing conflicts over the resources of food, water, land, and energy. Conflicts, both present and future, will not be over ideology alone, but over survival in the face of resource scarcity or resource mal-distribution. Contrast that to the two principles of God’s economy: There is enough, if we share it.

Much of the most hopeful talk at the Occupy movement sites is about new economic approaches based on local, cooperative, and sustainable models of market activity. My god-daughter, Korla Masters, is engaged in the mushrooming urban gardening movement in my home town of Detroit, and she tells me that if only half the vacant land in the city were cultivated, it could provide up to three quarters of the need for vegetables and fruits in the Motor City—imagine non-petroleum based food economies with little transport involved.

Unhappy.
Being rich doesn’t make you happy. Of course, happiness and well-being are connected to a modicum of economic security that we all need. But “enough is enough” is proven to be a better guide to a happy life than the maxim “greed is good.” The logic and metrics on a manic consumer economy is that you are never supposed to be satisfied with what you have, but that you always demand more. That endless striving and never ending desire is not making people happy, but rather is highly pressured into a lifestyle of constant stress. In Detroit, we are seeing the burgeoning urban gardens producing several things: jobs, good and clean food, and a sense of community—all of which are ingredients for a happy life.

So here’s our mission.

1. Don’t expect the Occupy Wall Street movement and sites across the nation and world to produce a set of demands. They are instead raising some fundamental questions about the un-economy, and creating the space for a new cultural and political conversation about it. It’s our job now to push that conversation forward— an especially good role for the faith community as our biblical values and theological assertions are integrally involved in these matters. It’s time to put our faith values forward in the midst of what could become a new global conversation about what a fair, sustainable, stable, and happy economy might look like.

2. Don’t worry about endorsing the Occupy Wall Street movement (all the diverse elements involved wouldn’t even endorse each other!), but rather engage it. I asked a young African American man I met at Occupy Wall Street what churches could do to help. He suggested three things: inspiration, consultation, and presence. I think that’s a very good guide. Worship services are already being held at many of the sites led by local clergy of many faiths. Take a potluck meal down to the site as a chance to sit, eat, and talk with the people there. Take your youth group, or members of your congregation down there after church just to see, meet, and listen. Offer the occupiers support—material and spiritual—along with prayer and love.

portrait-jim-wallisJim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

 

E-mailE-mail this article to friends
FacebookShare this article on Facebook
CommentComment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


 ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Standing Up to Bullies on Spirit Day: What Would Jesus Do?
by Jim Wallis

The fact that bullies target gay and lesbian people should mean that Christians give extra attention to protecting and standing up for them. The fact that any community or group of people is regularly the target of harassment and hate means Christians should be on the front line of defense against any who would attack.
+ Click to continue

Caryn Rivadeneira answers, "What is an Evangelical?"
by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

Although I had grown up in a Christian home, gone to church all my life, attended a Christian school and even a Christian college, the word "evangelical" wasn't part of our language. Or at least, I never remembered it being so. Evangelicals had always seemed like the "other" Christians.
+ Click to continue

Do Evangelicals Hate Smart People?
by Tim King

Do Evangelicals hate smart people? No. But it is such a persistent rumor that it might take something as momentous as another Protestant Reformation to see it die. Why? Because there are folks out there that do hate smart people.
+ Click to continue

Left, Right and Christ on Social Issues: #OccupyWallStreet
by Lisa Sharon Harper

HuffPost Religion is running a series of posts by Sojourners' Director of Mobilizing Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes, her co-author on the new book, Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics, about how Christians should view social issues. Their first issue is Occupy Wall Street.
+ Click to continue

Greg Fromholz answers, "What is an Evangelical?" with "Evangelical in a Box" film
by Greg Fromholz

Greg Fromholz is a musician, author, speaker, filmmaker, and director in Ireland. He created this video for our ongoing series asking leading thinkers, clergy, activists, artists and others (who self-define as "evangelicals") to answer the question, "What is an Evangelical?"
+ Click to continue

Deconstructing Harry: Is Jim Wallis' Ideology Really "the Doctrine of Devils"?
by Tim King

Bishop Harry Jackson is not shy about stirring up controversy, but he stops short when it comes to preaching about greed. The Maryland bishop said he encourages his congregation to get through the great recession by saving and sharing.
+ Click to continue

#OccupyWallStreet: Without a Vision, the People Will Perish
by Cathleen Falsani

Michael Ellick has been involved with the Occupation, as it's come to be known, since its genesis. While he doesn't camp at the park and isn't there each day, he is a part of a larger organization of clergy and spiritual leaders who have made a point of showing their solidarity with demonstrators and pointing out the parts of the movement and its concerns that have deep moral resonance.
+ Click to continue

Prayers, Songs and Sukkot: A weekend at #OccupyWallStreet in NYC
by Cathleen Falsani

Video of prayers from the weekly Multi-Faith Service, led by the Rev. Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial Church.
+ Click to continue

Faith and #OccupyWallStreet: "This is a Holy Spirit moment."
by Anne Marie Roderick

As the #OccupyWallStreet protests have continued to gain momentum around the country and around the globe in recent weeks, I have heard individual people and communities of faith asking two questions: 1) Is this a spiritual movement? and 2) What can communities of faith offer this movement? The answers? Yes. And, lots.
+ Click to continue

SOJOURNERS EXCLUSIVE: Salman Rushdie at #OccupyWallStreet
by Cathleen Falsani

Sunday afternoon in Lower Manhattan, I ran into Salman Rushdie, who was walking nonchalantly through Zuccotti Park with his son. Read more about how Rushdie and others came to express their support.
+ Click to continue

"Courageous": A Sermon Wrapped in a Movie
by Jack Palmer

From the faux manly banter that permeates the dialogue to the "strong man getting in touch with his emotions" scenes, the film doesn't say much that is new, interesting, or remotely revolutionary.
+ Click to continue

#OccupyWallStreet: Zuccotti Park Cleaning Cancelled Early Friday
by God's Politics Editor

News that the city had backed off its plans to clean the park seemed to allay fears that the "cleaning" -- which would have displaced protesters -- could have sparked hostile, perhaps even violent confrontations between Occupiers and NYPD.
+ Click to continue

Statement from Jim Wallis on Friday's "Cleaning" of NYC's Zuccotti Park
by Jim Wallis

Throughout the history of social movements, those in power have tried to find ways to slow or make legal protest more difficult. For the health of our democracy, political leaders need to do whatever they can to protect the Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly -- not make them more difficult.
+ Click to continue

 SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS

+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

A conversation about a just economy gets a helping hand
Embassy

Years ago Wallis began preaching the Gospel to whomever would listen by bringing with him an edition of the Bible that had had all the words about justice for the poor, the stranger and the marginalized, and fighting greed and oppression cut out of it. With all of those sections scissored out of it the book was so badly damaged that it was barely readable. The Bible was in tatters. And Wallis' point was made.

+Click to continue


What Occupy Wall Street and the World Economic Forum have in common
The Washington Post

While the two forums couldn’t have been more different, I was surprised to find that the heart of their concerns were the same. Both groups believe that our current governmental and economic systems are broken and that change will require both structural and moral overhaul.

+Click to continue


What Makes Jim Wallis, Joe Scarborough, and Tavis Smiley Say "Amen"?
Faith in Public Life

"The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience" was the focus of five special episodes that aired last week on PBS, the last of which featured the Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners and tireless champion for the poor.

+Click to continue


The Evangelical Rejection of Reason
The New York Times

Publications like Books & Culture, Sojourners, and The Christian Century, offer an alternative to the self-anointed leaders. They recognize that the Bible does not condemn evolution and says next to nothing about gay marriage. They understand that Christian theology can incorporate Darwin’s insights and flourish in a pluralistic society.

+Click to continue


What Would Jesus Occupy?
Patheos

With the Occupy Wall Street protest entering its fifth week, there is no shortage of commentary reflecting Christian perspectives. Some, like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, are generally sympathetic to the protests.

+Click to continue


Occupy Together - the Spiritual Dimension
The American Muslim

Tim King, the communications director at Sojourners, joined the protests. He said one of his goals is to look for God’s presence amidst the event. “I believe it’s often easier to find God on the streets than in a sanctuary. We serve a God who shows up for those in need, and for those who stand with them.”

+Click to continue


10 Things Christians Should Know & Do about the “Occupy” Protests
Patheos
We’d also do well to heed the words of wisdom from veterans of those movements such as Jim Wallis – especially his reminder of how essential nonviolence is to effective protest. +Click to continue


 

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

 
 

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!
 
 
 
  

Books to Feed the Soul. Moon Blue: A WWII hero with PTSD returns home to battle racial prejudice. The Ring and the Cross: A poet and a queen-turned-nun become peace activists in 6th-century France. http://www.spiritbooks.me
 

Free Gandhi poster with a new subscription to Sojourners magazine! Learn more.
 

Christians and Islam: Do we share more than we realize? This discussion guide looks at the shared history, theological similarities and differences, and hopes for social justice that both Christians and Muslims share. Download now.
 

New Item from Sojourners! Send a message from Dorothy Day with your reusable, packable, durable Tote/Grocery Bag for all your stuff. Available exclusively from the SojoStore.
 

Your morning coffee - with an attitude. Let others know you're a Sojourner with this exclusive travel mug complete with Jim Wallis quote. Microwavable, dishwasher safe and comes with a lid for commuting. Click here to order.

 

  
 

Click Here!
 

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.