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

BEING CONSUMED

Written by: on February 23, 2017

Cavanaugh states, “In the ideology of the free market, freedom is conceived as the absence of interference from others.” (Cavanaugh, Kindle, Location 81)

Cavanaugh says, “Augustine’s view of freedom is more complex: freedom is not simply a negative freedom from, but freedom for, a capacity to achieve certain worthwhile goals. All of those goals are taken up into the one overriding telos of human life, the return to God.” (Cavanaugh, Kindle Location 138-139)

“Free market is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents.” [1]  Free is not always free; there is a cost for everything, read the fine print. I have heard that statement a few times in my life. There are many gimmicks that use the word ‘FREE’ just to get your attention. A few examples: (1) the cell phone companies would offer free cell phones, but you are required to sign a 2-year contract; (2) one month free, if you sign a year lease; and (3) Free trial but we need your credit card information. The free market is a voluntary transaction between those involved. Voluntary is free of choice, but is it? If you wanted to purchase a particular item but did not want to pay the price requested, your choices are either to pay the requested price, try to haggle to a lower price, or not pay the price. Is that voluntary or are you between a rock and a hard place?

Cavanaugh quote Friedman as saying, “if individuals are voluntarily entering into exchanges from which both parties expect to benefit, then the market is free. An exchange cannot be free if one party has deceived another.” (Kindle, Location 95) Using that analogy, receiving a cell phone for free is a benefit and the seller benefits by you providing them monthly funds for a two-year period. Your signing a year lease guarantees to lessor rent for twelve months, whereas you received one-month free rent. Now on these online free offers, you must raise the disadvantage of signing up for a free trial when asked to input your credit card. If you do not cancel after the free period, you are charged a fee for the next month. Been there, done that. This is not an example of a voluntary contract; they should notify you that the charge will happen if you do not cancel after the trial period. Cavanaugh states, “a free market has no telos, which is, no common end to which desire is directed. Each chooses his or her own ends.” (Kindle, Location 112) Is the FREE market really free? Is it voluntary? I believe with some deals; there are some situations this may be true – what deals can you think of?

Now from a Christian point of view, Cavanaugh says, “the churches should take an active role in fostering economic practices that are consonant with the true ends of creation. This requires promoting economic practices that maintain close connections among capital, labor, and communities so that real communal discernment of the good can take place. Those are the spaces in which true freedom can flourish.” (Cavanaugh, Kindle Location 387-389) He believes the churches have to lead this practice in the past and would be the best to lead it now.  Cavanaugh believes that “the church must seek to support and nurture alternative forms of economics which testify to God’s reign. By doing so, the church acknowledges the constant in-breaking of God’s reign even outside the church. Even in cases where economic practices are ‘consonant with the true ends of creation.’” (Cavanaugh, Kindle Location 386) He encourages the church to take an active role in support. His phrase ‘true ends of creation’ created a desire in me to understand what he meant by that with no positive results.

Inez Tan suggest there are “two economic goals of the Christian perspective: equal opportunity and egalitarian outcomes. Depending on your personal view, this could mean anything from better public school systems to free universal healthcare…It will be harder to bring about egalitarian outcomes. Egalitarian outcomes that imply the equality of people are another way of saying, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  [2] America currently is facing the challenges of better public school systems and universal healthcare. We have yet obtained free healthcare. America will always battle the equality of pay among genders and ethnicity. There will never be equality of pay for all occupations.

Cavanaugh expands his view on the Christianity perspective saying, “A sacramental view of the world sees all things as part of God’s good creation, potential signs of the glory of God; things become come less disposable, more filled with meaning. At the same time, a sacramental view sees things only as signs whose meaning is only completely fulfilled if they promote the good of communion with God and with other people.” (Cavanaugh, Kindle Location 645-647)   Sweeden says, “Cavanaugh believes a church must be a witness in its own transactions and exchanges by demonstrating how the story of abundance reverses the construct of scarcity which produces the ‘have and have-nots.’ The significance of the Eucharist ‘as an economic act’ is taken literally.” [3] Sweeden referenced Author Yoder saying, “It is that bread is daily subsistence. Bread eaten together is economic sharing. Not merely symbolically, but also in the face, eating together extends to a wider circle the economic solidarity normally obtained in the family.” [4]   The church places emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to support the believer’s participation in the sacramental act of worship. It promotes a closer relationship with God or one becoming one in Christ. You are repeatedly reminded that Christ’s commanded believers to partake in this act during the meal he shared with the disciples before his death.

In his book, Torture and Eucharist, he speaks on the Eucharist and how the churches beliefs affect the people’s vision of life. “They become Christ members of the body of Christ as the Eucharist.” [5] In the taking of the bread and wine, the Catholic Church believes it transforms into the body of Christ. He shares the views on the torture committed by the Pinochet reign in Chile wanting to keep it silent to prevent the victims from being viewed as martyrs.  This challenge for the state was to destroy the churches’ Eschatological view from gaining power among the people. The church struggled with the view of its position on their relationship with the victims on viewing them as martyrs as well as addressing the act as being Disciples of Christ and his death. If those tortured were considered to be martyrs, their death would strengthen the power of belief that if one dies in Christ, he shall live again. The state was desired to weaken the church. The churches power over the people was seen as a threat to the survival of the state’s power and needed to be destroyed. [6]

 

[1] Murray N. Rothbard. “Free Market” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. David R. Henderson, ed. Liberty Fund, Inc. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty, accessed 20 February 2017,  http://www.econlib.org/ library/Enc/FreeMarket.html .

[2] Inez Tan, Ethics and Economics: Why Self-Interest Is Not Enough, accessed 02/2/2017, https://williamstelos.wordpress.com/ ethics-and-econ/.

[3]  Joshua R. Sweeden, The Church and Work: The Ecclesiological Grounding of Good Work, (Oregon: Pickwick Publications), 2014, 127.

[4] Ibid.

[5] William T. Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ, (London: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing), 1998, 64-69.

[6]  Ibid.

 

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

8 responses to “BEING CONSUMED”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Lynda, you really packed a lot in there but one thing really stands out as so practical for us is – “By doing so, the church acknowledges the constant in-breaking of God’s reign even outside the church.”
    I like the way you turned the popular term ‘egalitarian’ into what the Bible calls it, “love your neighbor as yourself”.
    It’s kinda mystical, but I think that the Church breaks in to society because we are “Jesus” to the poor and the needy. Even if society doesn’t believe in all of this ‘spiritual’ stuff, we are the Church. We meet their needs and then invite them in to become part of it!

  2. Lynda, a simple yet profound purpose statement of the Eucharist: “It promotes a closer relationship with God or one becoming one in Christ.” As we share in the body of Christ we share in His nature and in the essence of who He is. I’ve been pondering when is it good to take communion and how often? How is it implemented at your church?

    • Hi Jennifer,

      As a congregation, it is scheduled for every first Sunday during regular worship service, Resurrection Day and I believe on Good Friday.
      As an individual, I believe Christ is not interested in it being as a ritual. He said as often as I do it, remember him. Although he did it with the disciples, there is no rule by Christ saying you can’t do it alone.

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Great post Lynda! I think you expressed a major point of Cavanaugh’s books when you highlighted the thought that “the church must take an active role.” It’s that active role that makes all of the difference even on a local church level. When a church begins to focus inward, and the people start to ask, how will the church take care of me and my needs, that is often the beginning of the end. If the leadership in the church are asking that question, is the end; they just don’t know it yet. It’s that outward active role that breaths life into a church and into a faith community. Thanks for an excellent post.

  4. mm Katy Lines says:

    “Cavanaugh believes that ‘the church must seek to support and nurture alternative forms of economics which testify to God’s reign. By doing so, the church acknowledges the constant in-breaking of God’s reign even outside the church. Even in cases where economic practices are “consonant with the true ends of creation.”‘ He encourages the church to take an active role in support. His phrase ‘true ends of creation’ created a desire in me to understand what he meant by that with no positive results.

    That’s a good question, Lynda. I, too, would be curious to know what Cavanaugh meant. When I read that phrase, what comes to mind is “shalom.” Shalom (Hebrew), translated into English is “peace,” but it’s not just ‘peace’ like the Pax Romana (Latin)– enforced peace by military means (or lack of warfare), or ‘peace’ like eirene (Greek)– like ‘peace of mind.’ Rather, shalom is ‘peace’ in the sense of “the way that God intended.” Rightness. God’s desire for all of creation. So we can offer it as a prayer of blessing, but also a posture of action– the Kingdom of God enacting what God desires for creation

  5. “Augustine’s view of freedom is more complex: freedom is not simply a negative freedom from, but freedom for, a capacity to achieve certain worthwhile goals. All of those goals are taken up into the one overriding telos of human life, the return to God.”

    This notion of freedom is very important to how we are able to see our active role in being a witness to the world of a renewed economy. Changing the narrative of free market from negative to redemptive places God at the center and allows for us to actively pursue our return to Him in our engagement within the market. It also challenges how we see our role as a consumer.

  6. Geoff Lee says:

    Cavanaugh says, “Augustine’s view of freedom is more complex: freedom is not simply a negative freedom from, but freedom for, a capacity to achieve certain worthwhile goals. All of those goals are taken up into the one overriding telos of human life, the return to God.”
    Yes, this longing for God is what ultimately counts. As someone once wrote (source is contended):
    “…the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”

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