More and more people are coming to understand that underlying the economic crisis is a values crisis, and that any economic recovery must be accompanied by a moral recovery. We have been asking the wrong question: When will the financial crisis end? The right question is: How will it change us? This could be a moment to reexamine the ways we measure success, do business and live our lives; a time to renew spiritual values and practices such as simplicity, patience, modesty, family, friendship, rest and Sabbath.
Just a reminder: when liberal Christians use the word “values” and “morals” we aren’t talking about gays and abortion and sex ed in schools--all that below the waistline stuff. We’re talking about broader issues like materialism and isolation and caring for those on the margins of society. We’re talking about heart stuff.
You know, the stuff Jesus talked about.
Just yesterday I was saying our economic measuring stick of constant growth is unnatural. Nothing in nature grows and grows and grows, unless it’s a tumor. Constant growth is a sign of disease, not health. Yet our economic barometers are all focused on the need for constant growth. Little wonder American life is so unhealthy, wrapped up in materialistic exercises like buying bigger and bigger houses to hold more and more stuff, then financing it all with ballooning debt.
Too many Americans live their lives on false promises and air; no wonder as a society we are alienated and retreat into our addictions: food, sex, substance abuse, gambling. These are symptoms of a larger disease in our country, one that is mirrored in our policies and the systems which support our institutions.
Is there a way to set an economic barometer focused on balance, instead?
In December 2008 I asked:
Instead of basing our economy on how much stuff people buy which they don’t need, how about basing the economy on creating jobs? On how many people are working? People need jobs, they don’t need new flat-screen TVs made in Taiwan.
Of course, I don’t think it’s likely our current systems and institutions will be replaced any time soon. But if ever we are to rethink how we do things in this country, now is the time.
And here's something else I love. I’m sure by now many people have heard of the “Move Your Money” campaign started by the Huffington Post (Mack linked to it the other day). Wallis takes up the rallying cry in his column:
When I recently told a few friends that my wife, Joy, and I had decided to close our little account at Bank of America and move our money to a local bank that has behaved more responsibly, I was amazed at the response. Religious leaders and pastors from around the country called to say that they, too, were ready to take their money out of the big banks that have shown such shameful morality and instead invest according to their values, by putting money into more local and community-based institutions.
So we've decided not just to remove our own money, but to invite other Christians, Jews and Muslims to do the same. Already we are hearing reports of whole congregations, groups of churches and faith-based organizations, from California to New York City, deciding to transfer their funds to local banks and credit unions.
The banks say they are "too big to fail." So let's make them smaller. We might finally get Wall Street's attention.
Wow. This is amazing. Just yesterday I wrote that boycotts don’t work, politics doesn’t work, and along comes someone with a movement that people just may be embracing. The universe has seen my cynicism and raised me with a boycott of BofA. I love how this instant karma stuff works! Tell the world something can't be done and watch it reply with an "Oh yeah? Watch me!" LOL.
I'm going to withhold judgment on the "Move Your Money" thing to see if BofA changes their evil ways. But I admit to being encouraged that the progressive faith community has embraced the idea.
I can already tell it's going to be an interesting year!