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Economy: Old and New
Departing the Consumer Culture
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Authors and scholars Peter Block, John McKnight, and Walter Brueggemann partnered to write An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture, which describes the shifts in thinking that could create a post-consumer economy. It sounds a lot like the Gospel to me.
Economic systems based on competition, scarcity, and acquisitiveness have become more than a question of economics; they have become the kingdom within which we dwell. That way of thinking invades our social order, our ways of being together, and what we value. It replicates the kingdom of ancient Egypt, Pharaoh’s kingdom. It produces a consumer culture that centralizes wealth and power and leaves the rest wanting what the beneficiaries of the system have.
We invite you to a journey of departure from this consumer culture. We ask you to imagine an alternative set of economic beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable—a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. . . . This departure into another kingdom might be closer to the reality of our nature and what works best for our humanity. . . .
Luckily, the exodus from a consumer, globalized culture into a neighborly, localized communal and cooperative culture has begun. We join the chorus of other agents of the alternative economy: food hubs, cooperative and social enterprises, the climate change activists, health activists, [etc.]. . . .
Neighborliness means that our well-being and what really matters is close at hand and can be locally constructed or produced. In this modern time, neighborliness is considered quaint and nostalgic. To make neighborliness the center of our social order requires an act of imagination. It is counter-cultural. It is also a form of social interaction that is built on a covenant that serves the common good. . . .
The consumer and market authority we live within violates neighborly relations by stratifying social power according to money and its attendants—privilege, competition, self-interest, entitlement, surplus. The dominant modes of current social relationships fend off neighborliness at all cost, and at great cost.
The [current] market ideology says that neighborly relationships are no longer required. That we are best ordered by commercializing all we can. That what we needed from neighbors can be obtained anywhere. . . . The major early step toward the modern cultural reality was “enclosure,” the privatizing of the common land. . . . Every human endeavor is monetized. . . . When a person’s effort was converted to wage earner, a person became an object. . . .
We moved away from the neighbor as a source of culture, memory, sense of place, and livelihood. . . . The casualty was a loss of a sense of the commons. What is at stake in the renewal of neighborliness is the restoration of the commons.  The free market consumer ideology has produced a social disorder; people are no longer embedded in a culture that serves the common wealth, the common good.
 “The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons)
Adapted from Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight, An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture (John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: 2016), xiv, xviii-xix.
Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
What is the future of Christianity?
Next year will mark 50 years since I was first ordained in my home parish in Topeka, Kansas. Over the years, God has allowed me to speak, write, and learn from so many people and cultures around the world. Because I rarely travel or teach on the road now, the Daily Meditations are one of the primary ways I can keep sharing what I’m learning each day.
I have always had excellent partners in my life and ministry. But something in the last few years has started to emerge that encourages me deeply. I am now surrounded by teachers and staff who are building a humble, inclusive, non-imperial Christianity in service to the healing of our world.
We now have a core faculty of five in the Living School, dozens of brilliant writers and role models in the Daily Meditations, a strong and capable team in New Mexico, and hundreds of thousands of people like you who are bringing forward the gifts of the contemplative tradition—peaceful change and healing. Gosh, does that feel like an important task at the moment! With all that is going on in the world today, it takes every one of us playing our part.
Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support to continue this work. If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations, please consider donating. A contribution of any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all.
It seems that God is blessing this ministry—and it is my honor to serve alongside it. As Jesus said:
When we have done all that we are obliged to do, we should each say, “We are all merely servants, and we have only done what is our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
I hope that the Center for Action & Contemplation helps you find what is yours to do in the face of a complex and chaotic reality. Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below about how you can help and the really important gift we’d like to share.
Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring why it’s crucial for us to engage contemplatively in politics.
We are honored that you are one of the nearly 400,000 people who read and share our Daily Meditations.
When the Center for Action & Contemplation started sending these messages twelve years ago, we never could have imagined the reach and impact they would have in people’s lives. But we now believe we’re only just beginning. With the reality of global climate change, systemic injustice, and fear driving so much of the politics around the world, can wisdom of the ancient perennial tradition speak directly to our current situation? This has been the goal of this year’s Daily Meditations—to show the truth that emerges in every age, vocabulary, and culture in a direct, powerful, and meaningful way to today’s context. Thank you for sticking with us through some challenging subjects.
Richard recently summed up the current Christian situation like this:
Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided actually changing lives. One could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain in most of Christian history and still believe that Jesus is “personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
Our faith must show real fruit. The Center for Action & Contemplation is committed to supporting the continued evolution of Christianity and the transformation of consciousness. Your contribution will help us build and grow this work by making these teachings accessible to new people in new ways.
Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift. If 5% of our readers donated as little as $15, it would fully fund the Daily Meditations’ production, allow us to offer more scholarships, and share transformative teaching with more people. Will you contribute and invest in the future of this work? If you’re able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Ongoing support helps create the stability we need to spread this vital message to more and more people around the world.
This issue of our bi-annual journal directly takes on the question of how this tradition can meet the needs of the present moment and prepare us for what is to come.
We are deeply grateful to be on this journey together.
Peace and Every Good,
Executive Director, Center for Action & Contemplation
P.S. Please consider making a contribution to the Center for Action & Contemplation (tax-deductible in the United States). We invite donations of any size. You can donate securely online at cac.org/dm-appeal or send a check (USD only) to CAC, PO Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195. Learn more about charitable giving at cac.org/support-cac. Email us at [email protected] if you are considering making a legacy or estate gift. Thank you.
Thank you for making our work possible!
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
I am so honored that you take the time to read my Daily Meditations! As I grow older and limit my travel, they are one of the most meaningful ways I can continue teaching and ministering.
You may wonder, as many have, if I am personally writing and sending these emails precisely at 12:00 midnight U.S. Mountain Time each day. Well, let me assure you I do not have to do it alone! A dedicated team from the Center for Action and Contemplation helps me curate the meditations, bringing new life to previous writings, clarifying and fact-checking, and incorporating other authors I deeply respect. Every week I edit and refine each meditation before it goes out to you.
While all religious language is metaphor, I believe that words are important. We have all seen the damage that a mis-use of the Bible can cause. The words I use aren’t dictated by any religious institution or outside influence. I simply try to be a conduit (as my German last name suggests) of Spirit and share my evolving understanding of Scripture, the Christian tradition, and my own experience. I believe the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better, even when it’s unpopular.
We have you and over 320,000 people around the world in mind—and prayer—as we craft messages that we hope will heal your heart, challenge your thinking, and move your body toward compassionate action. I know that each person comes from a different perspective, be that religion, age, or geographic location. And yet, somehow, we are all connected and part of the universal Body of Christ.
Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. Take a moment to read our Director Michael’s note below about how you can help. Tomorrow we’ll continue reflecting on Jesus’ crucifixion as we look forward to Easter.
If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations, please help the Center for Action and Contemplation continue this labor of love. To the team that helps me publish these messages day in and day out, thank you! And to you, a reader and supporter, thank you for making our work possible!
Father Richard often describes his work as keeping God free for people and keeping people free for God.
In this year’s Daily Meditations, he’s helping us move beyond harmful ideas about God that have locked us in fear and violence. At the same time, he’s reclaiming timeless wisdom from contemplative Christianity to help us connect with our truest selves, each other, and God. Will you help us keep the Daily Meditations free with a donation?
I love this familiar saying Richard quotes in his new book The Universal Christ:
Everything will be all right in the end.
If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end.
Sometimes it’s hard to hold out hope for our politics, our planet, and even our faith tradition. Thankfully, we’re still in the midst of evolution. This is not the end.
I can’t predict the future, but I know that our participation fundamentally matters. Our community’s past generosity helps us keep resources like the Daily Meditations free for hundreds of thousands of people. You fund scholarships for our conferences, online courses, and Living School. You help us provide a living wage for our staff and help us create free resources to help spread transformative teaching, like our newly released Universal Christ podcast and companion guide.
Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring, monthly gift! If just 5% of our readers donate, it will fully fund the Daily Meditations’ production, allow us to increase our scholarships, and share transformative wisdom with more people! Ongoing support helps us plan and forecast.
As director of the Center for Action and Contemplation, I hope to see this work protected and continued to serve future generations and to help shape a more transformative and hopeful Christianity.
Thank you for being an agent of peaceful change in this ongoing evolution of Christianity and the world!
Executive Director, Center for Action and Contemplation
P.S. Please consider making a contribution to the Center for Action and Contemplation (tax-deductible in the United States). We invite donations of any size! You can donate securely online at cac.org/dm-appeal or send a check (USD only) to CAC, PO Box 12464, Albuquerque, NM 87195. Learn more about charitable giving at cac.org/support-cac.