Re-engaging Religious Teaching on Consumption: Ched Myers and Sabbath Economics

By Gary Gardner, Worldwatch, pp 26-30. 5 pp.

In his book God’s Politics,evangelical minister Jim Wallis describes an episode from his seminary days when a fellow student took scissors and snipped out of an old Bible every verse that focused on poverty and wealth.The remaining text was tattered and fragile,reports Wallis;these economic themes occur in the Hebrew scriptures more often than any topic
except idolatry,and in the Gospels account for as many as one in seven verses.The eviscerated Bible was an effective prop for his sermons. “I’d hold it up high above American congregations and say ‘Brothers and sisters,this is our American Bible; it is full of holes,’”the empty spaces constituting the mute teachings that favor the poor and outline the economic obligations of the wealthy.

Recovering the lost economic teachings—not just of the Jewish and Christian traditions, but of many of the world’s faiths—could be enormously valuable to a global economy faced with unprecedented ethical challenges. Mass consumerism in wealthy countries has already broken the ecological bank, with a crippled climate, extinct species, scalped forests, and drained or polluted rivers standing as red ink. Now billions of citizens of China and India demand a piece of the global consumption pie. How can the legitimate aspirations of emerging nations be met without further damaging the planet—while safeguarding opportunities for the world’s poorest, especially in Africa, to stake their consumption claims?

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