moneyless man

Freeconomy

Mark Boyle’s radical experiment in living without money in an alternative “Freeconomy” may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I certainly don’t foresee myself living off the grid in a converted caravan, foraging for food, cycling 100 miles a week and brushing my teeth with crushed cuttlefish bone. However, even if I never “opt out” of the current economic system to the extent Mark and others have, my soul resounds with the justifications for these radical shifts in living which Mark has made. Money, he suggests, has fundamentally disconnected the consumer from the consumed. We are no longer aware of the direct repercussions that our purchases have on people, animals and the environment. Money has facilitated that great divorce between our consumption and the embodied energy and physicality of the world. Secondly, Mark suggests that money has replaced community as our primary source of security. He describes this relational and spiritual disconnect in a jarring analogy: “Prostitution is to sex as buying and selling is to giving and receiving”.  Mark, the “Moneyless Man”, is on a quest to bring into balance his head, his heart and his hands; to start asking “How much can I give?” not, “How much can I get?”; to reconnect his consumption to the physical environment and interpersonal relationships. That I can get on board with. How...

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moneytalk

Money talks: the language of transaction

Economic talk pervades our language: our relationships are all about “give and take”, we ask ourselves “is it worth it?”,  when evaluating someone’s value we ask, “what do they bring to the table?” (and if it’s not “enough” we feel we got a “raw deal”) and when we want to be let into someone’s deep meditations we offer “a penny for their thoughts”. We define our own worth in economic terms – we “feel like a million dollars”. We rarely take things at “face value” and when we mess up we like to “pass the buck”. “The bottom line” is that a language of transaction permeates our relationships and interactions. We don’t only talk using money phrases but we interact with others with a transactional mindset, keeping a balance sheet of rights and wrongs. Our relationships often look like little black books of debits and credits. Or as Micah Bales puts it in Money is our Language and our Love, “It has emerged as the communication system of an entirely new way of seeing the world: The entirety of God’s creation becomes capital to be exploited and property to be owned by individuals and corporate entities. As a natural outgrowth of this worldview, today every square inch of the earth is theoretically owned by someone. Every living thing, every...

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jesusbobblehead

The Commodification of Christianity

We’ve all seen them. The christian marketplace is literally saturated with religious products – from the crass to the kitsch to the corny. These Christian trinkets are concerning not only for the cultural messages they portray but for the erroneous theological points they make. Or, as Matt Capps – in Kitsch, Trinkets, and the Commodification of Evangelical Christianity – puts it, “the commodification of the Christian message not only exploits the faith to consumer capitalism, but it also sentimentalizes and trivializes the gospel.” What is this industry currently worth? The numbers are hard to find and very outdated. CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, reported that in 2006 the Christian Retail Industry stood at $4.63 billion. 30% of that was related to books. Leaving a cool $3.2 billion that was spent on must-have items like these (and yes, that’s a bobble-head Buddy Jesus): When I think of it, I can’t decide which offends me more: “In God we Trust” on a $1 bill created by the Federal Reserve, or Jesus’ face on a novelty bill created, and sold, by Christian industry. We don’t need more christian stuff; we need more Christ-following. We don’t need this written on our things; ” It should come out of our own mouths. It should be written all over our lives!”...

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breaking bread

The Liturgy of Abundance and The Myth of Scarcity

Our fundamental beliefs about how the world is structured and the principles which underpin it inform how we interact in it. Walter Brueggermann, scholar and theologian, posits that our interactions with resources, need, consumption and stewardship are determined by our belief in one of two key positions: the liturgy of abundance or the myth of scarcity. Either we believe that what God has created is good, that He has set in motion principles of abundance which He sustains with his hand, and that the bountiful creation he placed into being has enough for all of us. Or we believe that there is a insidious famine in resources, that there is not enough to go around, and that we must hold on to as much as we can against that day when it all runs out. The choices that face us are no different than those facing the Israelites as the Manna fell each day. Those who believed in a God who had created and sustained an economy of enough, took only as much as they needed each day and those who had little did not have too little and those who had much did not have too much. But those who believed in an economy of scarcity took more than they needed and hoarded it till the next day,...

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GDP image

Measuring Well-Being, beyond GDP

For decades the Gross Domestic Product has been the gold-standard for measuring economic health, wealth and progress. GDP has become entrenched in our discourse, but it is a remarkably narrow measure of a nation’s overall well-being. It defines progress through the narrow lens that more is better – more consumption, more production, more exports. GDP entirely neglects indicators such as income inequality, the cost of underemployment and pollution, environmental impact and resource depletion or a broad range of social indicators including the cost of crime, the value of volunteerism and leisure time, education and community. As a measure of “progress” and national “health”, it is sorely lacking. Which is why many are looking toward alternative measures of well-being, that take into consideration economic, environmental and social indicators. Here are two short video clips which explain why and how GDP fails to paint a complete picture of growth, progress and well-being in the new economy, and how alternative measures such as Gross National Happiness or the Human Development Index can help us. Check out these videos and we would love to hear your thoughts: Well-Being in the New Economy What is Gross National...

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