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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A different kind of economic space…

Written by: on February 23, 2017

[Just A Quick Note: This week we had two works published by William T. Canavaugh Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire and Torture and Eucharist. Both are great and so thought provoking! For the sake of this post, I am focusing my discussion on his Being Consumed. ]

The church is called to be a different kind of economic space and to foster such spaces in the world.”[1]

In the book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, William Cavanaugh takes an interesting approach to addressing economics, free market, consumerism, globalization and scarcity. He chooses to take a binary approach to his discussion throughout each chapter–negative freedom and positive freedom, detachment and attachment, the global and the local, scarcity and abundance. [2] In addition, he creatively (in my opinion) interweaves the worship ritual of the Eucharist into each discussion throughout the book. He doesn’t just discuss theory and theology but provides practical examples for Christians to consider and apply on a daily basis. In presenting practical examples, he concludes that “I hope they will provide inspiration for the Christian imagination to envision and enact new kinds of practices. Taken together, these examples indicate that the Christian vision of economics that animates this book is not impractical but may in fact be the most practical of all ways to live out the Christian life.”[3]

After reading  Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion, I could go on and on about consumerism and Cavanaugh’s discussion on attachment and detachment. Even in his discussion on global and local he hones in on the issues of attachment and detachment; however, with his binary approach, Cavanaugh doesn’t try to pit global and local against the other but yet he holds the two in tandem. He is more focused on how the two are related than opposed.  He writes “Christ is the key, therefore, to the sustenance of a sane culture in a globalizing world.[4]  I spent some time pondering on that simply stated spiritual notion. I found myself affirming that  “yes of course Jesus is the answer but why is it so?” By no means was my question an attempt to discredit placing Christ at the center but I wanted to understand how Cavanaugh came to this conclusion. At times, I have found that it is often the go to approach to use Jesus as a scapegoat to avoid the deeper complexities of issues. In this case, I do to presume that he is intending to do so by making that statement in this manner.  He asserts that:

But Christ, of course, is not isolated, not merely a unique “freak of nature,” because Christ is, precisely as unique, the fulfillment of all partial truths contained in the religious myths of the world. As the absolutely unique, Christ is the center to which all the relative uniqueness of all the other forms and images of the world are related.  Christ is the infinitely integrating one who makes room in himself for everything truly human. Other forms are not simply false and thus excluded; their fragmentary truth is illuminated by the comprehensive truth of Christ, and in Christ they are brought fully to themselves. Their differences are not simply obliterated; in them the whole Christ is revealed.[5]

 

In reading a book like this, I will ask myself the question”So what?” What is the takeaway that I can apply to my life? I found it interesting how he brought his discussion full circle to Christ being at the center an not confined to space and time.  Globalization in and of itself cannot be an end all solution when addressing the one to many, which allows for homogenization of culture to align with what he calls a “consumer subject”. In the same manner, local only as an means of redemption to globalization, does not fully provide a suitable solution. As Christians , Cavanaugh used the Eucharist as the unification and recognition of Christ  in how we relate to one another. He writes

The eucharist is the marvelous means of freeing Christ’s historical humanity from the confines of space and time, of multiplying mysteriously its presence without forfeiting its unity and, since it is given to each Christian as his indispensable nourishment (John 6:53-58), of incorporating all into the body of Christ, making them in Christ one body through which courses the divine life. Through the eucharist the Church comes into being as the body of Christ; and while the one flesh of the Lord is multiplied, mankind divided is unified in it.

Christ’s  life, death and resurrection bear witness not to self sacrifice but to a truth that his uniqueness is not other but the body of Christ is a realization that we are a part of one body which is the same body. It is only when we see Christ universally in all aspects our life, world ,etc that we see our role as ushering in a new kind of economic space. We participate in the system not solely by replacing it but by participating through self-giving and mutual exchange while not perpetuating self interest.  I think this quote sums up the point he was intending to make and what I will carry with me and discern how to apply. “The call to Christians is not so much either to embrace or try to replace abstractions such as “capitalism” with other abstractions. It is rather to sustain forms of economy, community, and culture that recognize the universality of the individual person. “ [6]

 

 

[1] William T. Cavanaugh, Being consumed: economics and Christian desire (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009), Kindle location 29.

[2] Ibid, 38.

[3] Ibid,71.

[4] Ibid,651.

[5] Ibid, 832.

[6] Ibid. 911

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

8 responses to “A different kind of economic space…”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    “The church is called to be a different kind of economic space and to foster such spaces in the world.” Christal, I agree especially how you drew out the takeaway for us as Christians. I think in the other book, ‘Torture and Eucharist’, the going got a little heavy, but eventually Cavanaugh gives as a suggestion the ‘space’ we create is to be unselfish and Christian, because we take Christ into those situations with us.
    I loved the way he used Dorothy Day for an example. I truly believe that if all Christians really started following Jesus in word and DEED we might transform some of the helplessness in our society. What if every Christian just picked one thing and did it? Would the cumulative effect be good?

  2. Christal, spoken like a smart business woman: “It is only when we see Christ universally in all aspects our life, world ,etc that we see our role as ushering in a new kind of economic space.” A tasty, thought-provoking statement. Two questions come to mind: How do we concretely see Christ in every aspect of our lives, and secondly, what would that economic space look like? Such an entertaining thought to ponder an economic space stuffed full with the essence and ethos of Christ. Makes me want to be stuffed full of Christ so I can be a part of creating that space wherever I go. A great place to start is the relational spaces of those near us. Thank you, Christal, for your fresh business perspecitve. I really enjoy it.

  3. We participate in the system not solely by replacing it but by participating through self-giving and mutual exchange while not perpetuating self interest.
    This statement I love. If we as believers in Christ and God’s economical package truly trust God’s system, we would not be borrowers but lenders who would forgive the debts. Jesus included this in his sampled prayer. If we gave to those in need, God provides for our needs.

  4. Jim Sabella says:

    Christal, I like your statement: “It is only when we see Christ universally in all aspects our life, world, etc that we see our role as ushering in a new kind of economic space.” It the thought of not being of the world but in the world. It is the difference between salt and sand, light and darkness. I agree that Christians must lead the way, and it begins by understanding that Christ is and should be in every aspect of our lives. Thanks Christal!

  5. “We participate in the system not solely by replacing it but by participating through self-giving and mutual exchange while not perpetuating self interest.”
    This is such an important thought, Christal. There seems to be a Christian tendency to create “Christian” versions of market items – Christian movies, Christian food co-ops, Christian publishing companies – which perpetuates a fortress mentality. Cavanaugh’s and Miller’s ideas of creating spaces in industry that sanctify all life move to fulfill the now-but-not-yet Kingdom.

    • mm Katy Lines says:

      Oh, I really like that, Kristin. Christal’s comment and and your examples, “which perpetuates a fortress mentality” seem like an apt description of “Christian culture” today in America, whereas “Christian” was never meant to be an adjective.

  6. mm Katy Lines says:

    “Christ being at the center and not confined to space and time.”
    I’m fascinated by Jesus being omni-temporal, as that’s not something we talked much about in any Sunday School classes. Yet, today’s lectionary gospel reading was on the Transfiguration, where Jesus meets with Moses & Elijah on the mountain. When we consider Jesus not confined to space or time, we can imagine him being YHWH who appeared on Mt Sinai to give Moses the tablet, and to Elijah on Mt Carmel as a still small voice. No wonder Jesus’ disciples were so confused!
    But my point– if Jesus truly is omni-temporal, then he is present now, which is how and why we can partake of the meal he gives us, with him serving as our Host.

  7. “The call to Christians is not so much either to embrace or try to replace abstractions such as “capitalism” with other abstractions. It is rather to sustain forms of economy, community, and culture that recognize the universality of the individual person. “
    – I think this is the heart of the matter…. for me the question is, are there forms of economy that are better suited to that than others? IF capitalism is really the ‘best’ system we have come up with, what can we do to mitigate the ‘known issues’ with it?

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