From Main Street to Church Street

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Now where were we?

Alright. So, listen. My last post dealt primarily with the issues of corporate greed and some potential actions that we can take to get government representatives and corporate executives to respond (not simply react) to these large issues.

I went on denouncing the Wall Street prophets of doom, and forwarded that thesis that what’s going on with the $700B bailout in the United States is a Dirty Deal being presented as the Only Option for Economic Salvation. To sum up, I think that this is dangerous.

In one of my final remarks, I stated:

The fear mongering has to stop. And we have to stop allowing such fear-creating tactics to scare us. We must respond and ask government, as our representatives to act justly.

What I now want to do, is to go back and say that our duty isn’t over when we sign such petitions. It’s not simply about asking government to respond. It’s not simply about pointing the finger at the Big Bad Corporations.

Snide Aside: “Is that the government in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

We can think about it in a number of ways. But writing to whoever reads this blog, generally, and more specifically to those who profess Christian faith, I want to point out that a part of the fault lies with us. We are not blameless in this.

One of the things I was struggling with when writing the last post, was how to deal with the recurring conviction that while we do have a responsibility to call on our government to enact change on our behalf, this is not enough. It’s a part of the solution, but not all of it. I wanted to take more time talking about the economics of Jubilee, about an economy of care.

I wanted to talk about those things because another large piece of the puzzle has something to do with our individual and community responsibility to live more simply. “The economy” can’t be wholly to blame when we, as individuals, have idolized the acquisition of more stuff. As “consumers,” we support a consumptive economy.

And where do we worship? To what and to whom do we ascribe the most value? Is ours the church of Christ, or the church of consumerism?

We can blame economics and economists all we want for their “unquestioned commitment to growth at all costs.” We can. But we need also to look in the mirror to examine our own commitment to consumption at all costs.

A bigger house. A new car. The latest, greatest mp3 player/cell phone/organizer/wireless email device. Whatever it is, the implications and responsibilities are personal as much as they are corporate.

And the church is not free from these implications and responsibilities. If anything, the church catholic, the body of Christ, should be leading the way in living more simply. In celebrating what it is that we do have. In recognising that all we have is gift. In recognising the gracious gifts of God in our lives, and in saying, rather counter-culturally, “this is enough.”

But more than that, I hope that in this circumstance, we find a call – a crystal clear clarion call – to the renewed transformation of our lives. This can manifest itself in many ways, but today, and in the wake of our current economic situation, I refer specifically to our spending habits. In an email earlier this week, my friend Paul reflected on the current economic situation in the US:

I don’t think we can dismiss the underlining role that Christians (75% of the population) played in living beyond their means. The desire to buy bigger and better is what drove millions to attain credit for homes and cars they could not afford. This is not just an issue of corporate greed and mismanagement – this is a question of personal responsibility in light of the call to live the “simple way”.

And he’s absolutely right. Many of us Christians have lived beyond our means, and are also implicated in the current situation. In this we have failed to love God with our whole hearts, and we have failed to love our neighbours as ourselves.

We’ve spent too much time loving ourselves, lavishing ourselves with gifts we can’t even afford, that we have failed to extend this love to “the least of these” Jesus talks about in Matthew 25. We’ve failed to notice the bounty God has given us for free, all the while consumed with acquiring more of the latest whatever-it-is that we’re being sold.

So what are we going to do? Are we going to sign petitions and ask for governments to curb corporate greed? A good idea. But what else? What more?

What are we willing to do?

Who will put others first? Who will live out the year of Jubilee? Who will declare the year of the Lord’s favour? Who will respond, shouting from the hilltops and valleys, the city’s main streets and alleys with Radical Gratitude to the giver of all good gifts?

Will you? And if you will, how then will you live?

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Missioner to Valhalla Parish on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. Her previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at www.empireremixed.com, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

One Response to “From Main Street to Church Street”

  1. Benjamin Ward

    I appreciate your comments on the American economic crisis at present that is crippling the credit markets in the United States and now Canada as well (in relation to securing business loans and lines of credit) and its relation to moral depravity in our western culture.
    Financial institutions have overextended themselves within the Sub-Prime Mortgage mess with questionnably backed assets. But this is only the start of the problem. There is approximately 1 Trillion dollars involved in sub prime assets at risk of default. This is not lost money, this is money that has been defaulted on, the assets still have value on paper of at least 60% of their original value, which is only a write down of 40% which will be bought by the federal government at current market value which is not a bad idea as 700 billion is actually worth 800 billion, it is the opportunity cost of the 700 billion that will cost 100 billion so that is where the figure is derived from. The disturbing issue is not necessarily the bailout or the subprime problem which is backed by tangible assets. It is the next crisis. There is still another 500 Billion dollars in another crisis soon to hit called OPTION ARM financing. This program allowed individuals to borrow the full value of their home and not pay the interest on the principle amount for five years. So if you bought a home worth $300,000 and used OPTION ARM (reverse amortization mortgage) you now owe approximately 365,000 after 5 years on your initial purchase of $300,000 and your home because of market devaluation is now worth $240,000. In essence you would owe $125,000 dollars on your home more than its current market value and most people are walking away from these assets (such as in Merced, California). So in essence the banks such as Washington Mutual and Wachovia who hold these assets are losing 35-40% of their initial capital. Yes this is their fault for believing in the continued increase in home value, but it is the fault of main street. Main street wanted the new cars, new houses, new appliances, etc. They are the greedy ones, and I would argue that the protestant work ethic and values originated by John Calvin, later handed down through Benjamin Franklin and others are at fault.
    I blame Main St. for the problem. No one held a gun to American people’s heads and said go out and spend, spend, spend. They did it of their own volition and now are paying the price.
    The “bailout” is a good investment for the government to purchase equity at a premium discount as land historically doubles in value every 10-15 years. It is simply the opportunity cost of what could have been done with 700 billion in other areas that is so disturbing. Every american student could go to University or College for free! How pitiful that they wasted the money on DIY and new houses!!!

    Reply

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