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The Economy of Salvation

In the Gospel of Mark, the story is told of Jesus’s encounter with a blind man at Bethsaida.1 Jesus touches the man’s eyes, and as a result the man begins to see. However, his sight is not fully recovered. He can see people, but they look like walking trees. So Jesus lays hands on him a second time, and the man is able to see clearly (Mark 8:22–25). The economy of desire—capitalism—produces a kind of virtual reality, and as a result we do not see what is really going... Read More

The “Righteous Rich” in the Old Testament

Much is written and preached about the problem of poverty from a biblical perspective, and much of what is written and preached acknowledges the fact that most poverty does not just happen—it is caused. There are, of course, those who are poor for reasons that have little or no human or moral causation (e.g., as a result of devastating weather, disabling illness, disastrous bereavement, or the aftermath of locusts or blight), but it is still the case, and probably always... Read More

Silver Linings in Dark Financial Clouds: Discovering Spiritual Gold in the “Economic Crisis”

Like the worst of rubber-neckers passing a twenty-car pileup on the interstate, I have watched our nation’s recent economic turmoil with a strange mixture of sorrow, fear, and (here comes the strange part) relief. As reports of plummeting home prices and consumer spending, as well as skyrocketing joblessness rates and national debt, stream continuously over the airwaves, I have alternated between burying my head in the sand, hoping it will all work out, and running to Sam’s... Read More

Flirting with Money

What is money for? The question may sound odd as it suggests that money might have a “nature,” a given essence that defines its proper use and goal. Even realists, who still think of things as having natures, would be hard-pressed to think of money this way, because money, especially paper money, only exists as part of a humanly constructed symbolic system of value and exchange. And yet both Aristotle and Aquinas imagined that money had something akin to a nature; that... Read More

Christ and Capital: Money Changers and the Lord’s Table

He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables . . . —John 2:15 But now the money changers no longer need to be driven from the Temple of God because they have built another, more impressive temple, exchanging grace for credit and the perpetual promise of something new. Indeed, for city and suburban dwellers, for texting crazed teens and overworked office managers, for over-styled moms and trying-not-to-be-too-savvy dads, the only place of worship... Read More

Screwing with Idols: A Targum (Romans 1:16–32)

Ancient texts were not always ancient. That may seem rather obvious, but it is worth remembering. Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Rome was once a piece of contemporary correspondence to a particular community in a particular place and time. And like our time, theirs was a time of empire. What would happen if a letter like this were written to us in the context of our current global economic crisis? What language would the author use if he listened to contemporary... Read More

Hope (A Zen Perspective)

Hope is not about some future meadow. Hope is not a triumphal march toward some brighter, bloodless field. Neither is it lighting a candle or cursing the darkness or calling the glass half full. It is this half-empty tumbler turning cartwheels above the chasm. You, for example— poised above your own private precipice, bruised and bloodied, sifting through the ashes of ten thousand burnt offerings. Don’t scatter those ashes; don’t stuff the corpses into body bags just yet.... Read More

Common Ground: Symmetries of Land and Culture after Economic Change

After living on a farm in Lockport, Illinois, for seventy-three years, Harlow Cagwin sold his family land to a subdivision developer. Shortly thereafter, Amanda Grabenhofer and her family settled into a newly built home upon the land that once housed the Cagwins’ cattle. Together, the stories of these families are the subject of Scott Strazzante’s fifteen-year photography project, Common Ground, in which the juxtaposition of photographs reveals differences, complexities,... Read More

Love and Hope in Benedict XVI’s Vision for Human Development

Since his election to the papacy in 2005, Benedict XVI has written three encyclicals: one on love (Deus Caritas Est), one on hope (Spe Salvi), and one on human development (Caritas in Veritate). Though primarily intended as instruments of official magisterial teaching rather than as forums for one’s personal opinions, these encyclicals nonetheless incorporate elements of Joseph Ratzinger’s thought that had been developing before he was elected pope and adopted the name... Read More

A Tale of Two Cities

There are few air hops that will give you a greater contrast than the four-hour trip from Nairobi to Dubai. Nairobi is the capital of one of the poorer nations in the world, the home of the infamous Kibera slum, and a textbook case of how population growth, rapid unplanned development, and massive environmental degradation result in poverty and human suffering. Flying out of Nairobi, you can see signs of distress in every direction just by looking out of the plane window. Dubai... Read More