Posted by: rogermitchell | November 24, 2009

more on money

More on money

Big thanks to Johnny for his comments that are so wonderfully indicative of his ongoing gift of push you pull me! Before I begin to add fuel to the fire, as David Leigh’s encouraging comment puts it, I would like to explain how I see this blog working. My hope is to be a catalyst for collaboration on a journey of discovery. My desire and anticipation is that the destination is the fulness of the kingdom of God. To this end I am beginning to put together a number of pages that act as background for my more immediate outbursts and reflections. The brief outline on the my thesis page hopefully makes clear that I am emphatically not talking about or recommending western individualism in my recent post about money. Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous servant describes money as unrighteous mammon and only redeemable by making friends out of it [Luke 16:1-13]. In the history of the modern west the link between money and mammon is total. As I understand it, modern money is essentially a confidence trick promoted by the failing partnership of church and empire or in other words Christendom, at the end of the 17th century, in order to finance war and sell sovereingty to produce and maintain the nation state. This state is itself the progeny of the miscegenation (cross-breeding of different species) of the ecclesia and empire. This trick has effectively displaced Christ and his Spirit as the means to the kingdom of God and is producing in its place a world system ultimately destructive of creation and humanity. It is this that has produced the modern western individualism which is so opposite to the kingdom of God. This western empire of capital is soon coming down, together with all other forms of empire. The ecclesia of God is intended to be a little stone hurled at the basis of the edifice of empire [Daniel 2: 31-45]. So in my reflections about money and faith I am not advocating a return to an individualistic abuse of gift, relationship and communication in order to manipulate the western capital based economy. Phew, something else I’ve got off my chest!

But what was I trying to say in my encouragement to trust God for financial supply? It was the sense that for some of us who God is currently repositioning in the world for the world, there is evidence of the rediscovery of the base line of the divine economy, which is faith not fear. From this base line there are going to be a variety of different ways of operating within the increasingly global financial system of the west as it shakes and falls. It is important that these different ways of cooperation access this base line otherwise they will rapidly default to or reconfigure the empire of mammon. My concern here is certainly not to discourage exercises in community living. These need as far as possible to be made up of individuals who are personally trusting God for their daily needs and not trusting somebody else’s vision and direction. As I see it absolute dependency on others is necessary either at times of total immaturity, as with a baby, or in illness or disability, or as the result of the destructive effects of empire. The kingdom of God is about mutual interdependence and collaboration and works to the fullest possible expression of it that can be achieved in the circumstances. For me this is the positive aspect of the story of Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:1-11] which reveals the base line of personal faith that underlay the first experiment in Christian community [v4]. This is not at all the same as western individualism. My final reflection for now is to note that in the birth of the nation state both individual sovereignty and corporate sovereignty were equally destructive, which is why both the French revolution and the development of the British constitutional monarchy had some of the same negative repercussions. The history of Soviet communism that has done so much harm to the reputation of Marx, who I take to be a serious secular prophet who we ignore to our great loss, reveals that the power of the People is equally destructive to that of an individual dictator. This is precisely what many of our experiences of the oppressive power of the local church, denomination or network has taught us. If the ecclesia is to be set free, then we must rediscover the base line of personal faith in God’s supply from which to move out into our experiments in survival and divine economics.

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Responses

  1. I match my enthusiastic:

    Wow, wow, wow!

    with an equally intense:

    How, how, how?!

    Shake the fear out of me Jesus!

    Good stuff Roger!

  2. Very interesting and helpful stuff Rog and I think I understand some of it reading it third time over!

    However I think in this discussion there is a misinterpretation of understanding total dependance and mutual dependance…

    You say:

    “As I see it absolute dependency on others is necessary either at times of total immaturity, as with a baby, or in illness or disability, or as the result of the destructive effects of empire. The kingdom of God is about mutual interdependence and collaboration and works to the fullest possible expression of it that can be achieved in the circumstances”

    However I don’t know if we are honest enough in our own total dependance on the system? I don’t think we are and I am not sure my musings previously are heard when I say these things. We are all dependant on the system with or without Jesus.

    My interest lies in how we subvert this systemization on our lives and it’s dependency culture that creates a gravitational pull to contract at independence without exploring interdependence and collaboration, words that I think might be the keys unlock the Kingdom we are hankering for.

    I still don’t think we are answering what are we doing with what is already in our hands? It suggests we are sterile in imagining something of a more kingdom culture often by the very fear we identify, without confessing?

    I am not asking, as some might think, for extremism. I am asking for an honest appraisal of the ecclesia to recognize our own contagiousness and as a carrier of this fear, and the low standards we often display when reflecting a more creative promotion of this most excellent description of yours on the Kingdom.

    I am reminded of Bruce Willis in sixth sense. All through the film he thinks he has been helping this little boy come to terms with his paranormal gift. Right at the end he realizes that he himself is dead! Sometimes I feel we reflect and diagnose the effects of empire without ever recognizing they have killed something in us and that we need a remedy.

    This is most surely my confession and I am keen to find other pilgrims who share this, looking to find and share peace and healing to this world in the valley of uncertainty.

    Some of our responses to difficult and painful challenges like these suggest that we do not have a deep enough level of self awareness in our corporate soul to even acknowledg that this is a deeply painful road you are provoking conversation around. It worries me that we are therefore anesthetized to the issues. When awoken, it seems like we use old charismatic consumer language that seemingly still plagues us. We reduce the issues and discussion to sound bites and blind faith in Jesus, who seemed to spend a large amount of his life trying to open our eyes!

    So I do appreciate your deep calling and intellectual processing in this Rog and hope that my contribution has questions that keep us sharpening one another to flesh this our in the displaced wastelands of empire.

    I know I am woefully inconsistent in this challenge.

  3. You are, as expected, keeping up the pull me push you very well here! Not so much of the woeful inconsistency as I see you either. The discussion will need to focus on how what I’m calling the base line of faith relates to collaboration and interdependence. As I see it this simultaneously reaches back into the corporate psyche and calls for yet more deliverance while at the same time pushing us forward into friendship based collaborative action for the health of creation, contemporary culture and the blessing of the poor. Or something like that!

  4. Rog – nice finally to get round to reading your new blog!

    Very interesting discussion here. This question of money is so very fundamental and gets to the heart of our more basic everyday self-interest (forgive me if I sound like I’ve been reading Hobbes… I have!). I’ve also been re-reading some Jonathan Sacks (the rabbi, not the economist) and am provoked by the degree to which our historical economic orders have been shaped by religious ones, mostly for ill.

    Rediscovering *personal* faith in God’s supply is potentially important but such a rediscovery without being fully for and on behalf of the others surely still resonates too readily with individualism? I like (well, you know what i mean) what Sacks talks about in terms of one of the worst things about the capitalist system being the breakdown of social solidarity. It is clearly not good enough for me to believe that God will supply *my* needs but much better that he will supply *ours* (where our = of we and those we identify with, such as the poor) etc. But then, shall I show you my faith by my works? Oh dear.

    So I am drawn towards some of Johnny’s questions about dependence on the system, though by no means want to co-opt them into my thoughts hegemonically(!) and, right now, with little else to contribute. Except perhaps to say that, aside from the brute facts of exchange/trade etc., the ‘capitalist’ idea is a social construction that serves the powerful as long as it exists in our heads. We can and must think differently and we can work creatively and subversively with parts of the system (which themselves exist whether or not we give credence to the system) in order to start discipling (as Sue might put it) the way we/they use the world’s resources. Our economic system lays bare a vacuum that begs to be filled… enter deconstruction/reconfiguration.

    Anyway, I think we need to answer Johnny’s question of what are we doing with what is already in our hands but I also think I need to sleep so I’ll leave it here.

  5. “Anyway, I think we need to answer Johnny’s question of what are we doing with what is already in our hands.”

    Very much a question in my mind at the moment. How do I responsibly invest what God has blessed me with. The glib response in many circles is to say “well you can always give it to me”, a rather selfish and unhelpful response. And there are plenty of black holes where investment of time, money and thought can go never to resurface.


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