God speed the year of jubilee, the wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppressed shall vilely bend the knee
And wear the yoke of tyranny, like brutes, no more
That year will come, and Freedom's reign
To man his plundered rights again, restore.
William Lloyd Garrison, 19th-century abolitionist
"We read the gospel as if we had no money," laments Jesuit theologian John Haughey, "and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the gospel." Indeed, in most North American churches today, it is exceedingly difficult to talk about economics. This topic is more taboo than politics, more even than sexa subject with which our churches have recently become all too preoccupied. Yet no aspect of our individual and corporate lives is more determinative than the economy. And few subjects are more frequently addressed in our scriptures.
The pre-eminent challenge to the human family today is the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and power. Since statistics are wearisome, a few must suffice to capture this drift. The United Nations reported in 1992 that income disparities between the world's richest and poorest have doubled since 1960. Today the wealthiest 20 percent of the world's population receives almost 83 percent of the world's income, while the poorest 20 percent receive less than 2 percent! In 1965, the average U.S. worker made $7.52 per hour, while the person running the company made $330.38 per hour; today, the average worker makes $7.39 per hour, the average CEO $1,566.68 per hour212 times more!