Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Macro, I have not missed you!

Written by: on January 24, 2019

To summarize the text, Polanyi writes this alleged classic about the industrialization of Europe leading to the collapse of civilization in the 19th century. The balance of powers failed to prevent a war between the great powers, the gold standard failed to maintain the world economies, the markets failed to self-regulate, and liberal states became internally conflicted. Polanyi shows that when economies are controlled objectively, without due concern for the welfare of all, they end up favoring the wealthy and ignoring the poor.[1]

In my limited view of macroeconomics, this is a global view of both historic and burgeoning economic and political undercurrents in the view of the writer. My one mandatory macroeconomics course in my MBA program (1979-1982) only taught me that I seem to have little interest in macroeconomic theory and alleged practices. I find this topic, in general, to be highly subjective and difficult to comprehend much less understand. Perhaps most poignantly, I see little practical application or more importantly, resolution of real problems for real people. So obviously, our assigned source for this week would not be a part of my research relative to adaptive leadership development in the local church.

The only item I remember from my one macroeconomics course was when the professor startled us in our first class by illustrating the amount of money spent on US welfare programs annually divided indiscriminately on a per capita basis across the US population. While I forgot his original quote, I looked up the numbers for 1980. While the US population was 226.5 million, some $226.6 billion were spent on the social welfare programs. If the US government gave this to each in the form of income, this computes to a per capita annual income of $1,013, or some $4,100 for a family of four when at that time the family of four poverty threshold was $7,450.[2] I have no idea why this startled me or why I still remember this illustration, but this is my only memory of my one exposure to a masters level macroeconomics course. Again, curious but not particularly helpful in answering rampant questions of methodology or resolving issues of systemic poverty.

Confessing my lack of macroeconomic or political curiosity, I must say I am troubled by the writer’ statement, “Robert Owen was the first to recognize that the Gospels ignored the reality of society. Owen recognized that the freedom we gained through the teachings of Jesus was inapplicable to a complex society.”[3] I have no idea what Polanyi was trying to accomplish by referring to Owen’s alleged realizations. For some reason this quote made me reflect upon our visit to Linklater’s law firm in Hong Kong. I recall how our presenter remarked how his Christian faith compelled him to leave Hong Kong in a better place through his exemplary legal work. I believe Tim Keller and others who are far more articulate than I would refute Polanyi calmly yet vigorously and declare that the teachings of Jesus have and will always apply to every human complex society.

[1] Amazon Prime Customer Review of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, by Jerry Woolpy February 13, 2015

[2] Social Security Bulletin, August 1983/Vol. 46, No. 8, 9.

[3] Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2001) 268.

About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

6 responses to “Macro, I have not missed you!”

  1. Jenn Burnett says:

    Harry I feel like you have just given the rest of us permission to wrestle with this text given you have a MBA and work as a Pastor of Business Administration! Thank you! I also appreciate you drawing out the Owen quote. I suppose I liked it, but acknowedge that we could be understanding it quite differently. My take away was that Jesus painted a picture of how to live faithfully in society rather than a model of ‘Kingdom of God as new world order’. Perhaps he meant that freedom in Christ doesn’t translate into freedom in a complex society? That is that those rich in Christ will not equal monetary wealth and free in Christ will not necessarily translate into social mobility. I wonder if Owen isn’t drawing our attention to the idea that Jesus’ teachings transcend society, leaving the possibility of, for example: a Christian version of Capitalism or a Christian version of socialism or Christian triabalism. ‘Christian’ (or in imitation of Jesus’ teaching) thus remains a modifier of society rather than a societal construct in and of itself. Or maybe I’m just reappropriating his words to be more palatable in order to offer a generous interpretation. Polanyi emphasised the need for economics and politics to be mutually informing. Do you think that economics and religion should be in a similar dialogue? I always appreciate your wisdom my friend!

    • Harry Fritzenschaft says:

      I honestly am not sure how I feel about Polanyi in particular or the pursuit of these concepts in general. It always feels like much words without any actions. From my own very limited frame of reference, Christ like actions take place at the local levels, gather allies and resources and momentum and then impact larger segments of society. While concepts, discussions, and conjectures take place at macro levels of society; effective action seems to roll “up” rather than “down” hill. These probably are my own conundrums and challenges but through which I review, consider, and “feel” my way along. Much appreciation as always for your amazing combination of passion and intellect.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    It’s so funny that I can read this whole post with your voice in my head and it makes it even greater!

    Yes, this text gave me a headache, no seriously, but I probably shouldn’t have tried to read it on one of my busiest days.

    I think part of the reason Dr. J assigned this book is that “money” plays a huge role in all of our lives. Even now in the shutdown, while we may or may not have people in our care as leaders who are affected by it, it brings to light once again, that most people live paycheck to paycheck and that stress leads more people than Spirit at times.

    So I guess my question would be, in adaptive leadership, would it not deal with the stresses of life which could include economic issues?

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I believe money or resources totally matters to God and his historic, present, and future interaction with this people. This is why more is recorded in the bible about these topics than salvation or eschatology. My stubborn contention is that collaboration of those who have resources and the deployment of these resources is only effective locally, however you want to define that. I am sure I am much too far on the application of here and now, but I fail to see how debating the historical interaction of political, economic guesstimates within studied societies accomplishes anything at the local level today and moving forward. To those who declare the adage “we are doomed to repeat our mistakes unless we learn from our history”, I ask “Who wrote the history and what role does God play?” This is why I have little time for the most popular and well known personal finance and debt- reduction celebrity of our time (at least within the US), he totally leaves God out of the process and instead appeals to vain human emotions of pride, arrogance, and independence. Forgive me for my rant, but I guess I will always ask of academics, “How does it work at the local level?” The corollary of that for me within the Church, is “What can and should churches be doing at the local level to collaborate to serve the (fill in the blank)?” Thank you Sean for taking us there for what is being done in the Tacoma area. Mario, you are smart and obviously appreciate this topic and this text far more than I. I appreciate your friendship and your scholarship.

  4. Mary Mims says:

    Harry, thank you for the post. I think it is interesting how economic professors will harp on welfare, but not focus on other ways government funds are wasted and abused. I know you are just referring to this as an example, but I feel it speaks to what the book is about about how economics can be manipulated to show what people want to show. And in the end, we press on and know that Jesus Christ is indeed the answer for the problems of the world today.

  5. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    You are so wise and so right. Economic theory and alleged empirical evidence are the fodder for so much manipulation and self-fulfilling agendas today (and perhaps always.) We must remember we are called to a heavenly citizenship that is lived our in local communities to serve the poor and disadvantaged.

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