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Changing Our Economy

Friday, June 29, 2018

Economy: Week 1

Changing Our Economy
Friday, June 29, 2018

Pope Francis often says, “This economy kills.” [1] The divide between the wealthy and the poor in the United States continues to grow. A handful of billionaires are literally “making a killing,” while millions who live below the poverty line are “making a dying,” and very few make a fair living. Just one tangible example: without access to affordable health care, roughly “40 percent of Americans [take] on debt because of medical issues.” [2]

The Vatican recently called attention to the poverty of ethics and morality within the global economy. Their report states: “No profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor.” The economy must “aim above all to promote the global quality of life that, before the indiscriminate expansion of profits, leads the way toward the integral well-being of the entire person and of every person.” Markets, the Vatican observes, “are not capable of governing themselves,” and so it is our duty as citizens of Earth and followers of Jesus to hold businesses, banks, and political leaders to higher standards. [3]

How else might we participate in co-creating a new economy that is equitable for all? Jim Wallis writes, “While it is good to protest, having an alternative is better.” [4] The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. More and more companies are practicing fair trade, reducing waste, using renewable resources, and investing in healthy communities and ecosystems. Support or start one of these businesses!

As Paul Hawken suggests, “We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. . . . One is called restoration and the other exploitation. . . . The world begs for dreamers to set up shop, invent a new product or social technology, and create the kinds of breakthroughs that will bring us together to act responsibly as passengers on this magnificent place we call home.” [5]

Jesus invites us to stand in solidarity with the poor. We must come close to real people who are hurting. We then can amplify their authentic stories of suffering and cries for change. The Poor People’s Campaign did just that this spring:

It shows us that poor and marginalized people from all backgrounds, all places, and all religions are organizing and fighting for their lives, rights and deepest values. It insists that all humans have dignity and that life is sacred. . . . [6]

We know from history that when those most impacted by injustice band together with moral leaders, clergy, activists, and all people of conscience—that is when we can make a change. That is when our country gets better for everyone, not just a select few. [7]

[1] Pope Francis outlines key economic struggles in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), his first Apostolic Exhortation (November 24, 2013),, 53-60.

[2] The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality,, 10.

[3] See

[4] Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (Harper Collins: 2005, 2006), 280.

[5] Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Revised Edition (Harper Business: 1993, 2010), xxiii. See also

[6] The Souls of Poor Folk, 17.

[7] Ibid., 113.

Image Credit: Oil Slick in the Timor Sea, September 2009 (detail), NASA Earth Conservatory, US Government.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
It was inconceivable that the vast plains and forests . . .  could be exhausted, or that the abundant new fuels of coal could produce enough waste to foul the air and the seas, or that the use of oil could eventually lead to global climate change. —Paul Hawken
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