Last week I read an article in Rolling Stone about Goldman Sachs (ht Br.Maynard) and the massive economic failure resulting from unchecked greed and corruption. Some of the comments after the article indicated that a revolution – an overthrow of the controlling powers, both political and economic – is the only solution. However, the controlling powers assure us that this is simply conspiracy rhetoric and that we should continue to trust them.
A few days later, I read both of these posts:
SERENE JONES: Right now, the whole system’s collapsing and the margin looks like a very big space. And a Christianity that speaks to those margins can be a powerful presence in that.
GARY DORRIEN: You get an economic oligarchy, a financial elite that rigs the game and its system. And they pile up a mountain of debt and they overreach in good times. And then the whole house comes collapsing down on everybody else. And then you end up having to deal with, you know, the mess.
And if you’ve got an oligarchy, which you always have in these cases, they are always very good at taking care of their own. That’s what elites do. And so, the question becomes, are you going to let them organize the recovery on their terms? Or are you going to break the power of the oligarchy. And then maybe get or build something better than what you had before.
CORNEL WEST: The question will be for churches, you can’t have a prosperity gospel anymore. The prosperity’s gone. You can’t have a market spirituality and an imperial religiosity because the empire’s in trouble. It’s wavering and wobbling. And the market is no longer a model, at all.
So where do we go? Transitional moment. This is a moment of the interregnum. We are looking for new ways.
BILL MOYERS: And, yet, the prosperity gospel, the gospel that began in a lot of big American churches, saying that God wants you to be rich, is spreading like wildfire to the rest of the world.
SERENE JONES: That is what turbo capitalism does – the biggest, sort of, war zone is interior to us – it takes over your desire. And it’s in the churches that another kind of desire should have been being crafted.
The Practicing Church – Tyler
Czech president Vaclav Havel and other dissidents began to ask, ‘How can we live the truth in a culture based on a fundamental lie, especially since the lie is in our heads? How can we begin to live into the truth? We desire so much more than just things. We want something to hope in, a reason to believe.
So in his country as in other iron-curtain countries, people began to set up what he called ‘parallel cultures.’ It was not a counterculture because, he said, it was impossible for us to live totally outside the system.
You cannot live outside a culture. But you can create within it zones and spaces, where you can become who you really are. It is in such places that one can speak the truth, where one can gather with others who share that truth.
This went on for years, not without difficulties, but for years. Over time, the truth became stronger and stronger, and at a certain point people began to walk in the streets and to say to the system, ‘We don’t believe you anymore.’ And the system fell.
It fell, not because of the power of Western nuclear equipment, but because the people said within the system, ‘We don’t believe you anymore.’ It was a vision that had been nourished within those parallel cultures.
I don’t know if there is hope for economic and political change or revolution in that arena. That isn’t what I want to address. These articles highlight the depth of failure by the church to model an alternative truth.
A few thoughts…
- The dominant cultural model of our churches has been to copy the models of corporate business in organizational structures, leadership styles, productivity, performance, and marketing.
- Perhaps those systems that mirror the corporate culture will also mirror their collapse.
- Should we look to these same systems to organize the recovery of a church that could be different?
- The church that exemplifies the kingdom is not conducive to the powers of an elite oligarchy.
- The church that is an alternative witness to this culture will look radically different than the celebrity-led, consumer-fed, mega-campus complex.
- God forgive us for the turbo-capitalism that drives us to success rather than faithfulness.
Sometimes the failure of all that previously worked is the doorway to an opportunity to be stripped of what is unnecessary and introduced to the beauty and simplicity of life in the kingdom. I have a glimmer of hope that the church is being turned in this direction.
Honestly, I feel like I only scratched the surface of all there is to say about this.
So have at it!