Should Christians Live In the Suburbs?

Let me start with full disclosure here; I live in the suburbs. All around me are pristine sidewalks, manicured lawns, and SUVs. I live here for what are probably the same reasons as most people. First, I am raising a family. And secondly, because I could. However, I have begun to wonder if I am just another person contributing to the problem. More so, I am wondering if I can really follow Christ in the suburbs. White Flight Here in America, we have a phenomenon known as “white flight.” It is the somewhat obvious fact that whenever an area starts to have problems with poverty or social integration, the solution to those with resources is to, well, leave. This “flight out of harm’s way” removes the ability for money to flow across economic and social classes, making the poor even poorer. The suburbs are an unofficial “boundary” keeping out those without the money to afford the price of entry. Segregated Community While there aren’t any more laws keeping us apart, we are doing a great job of it on our own. Within 10 miles of my house are FIVE megachurches with huge university-like campuses, the parking lots of which are their own satire of suburban life, looking like a SUV dealership. Within the churches, are a sea of people...

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Investing well

What if we pushed pause for a second and reframed some of our questions. Instead of asking “How much do I need?”, let’s ask, “How much do I have?” Instead of wondering if investing falls in the “storing up of treasures” category, let’s consider the impact we could have with our dollars if we aligned our investments with our deeper values, our hope for creation and our participation in the restorative activity of God in our world. Let’s shift perspective on the power our resources have to effect change. Socially Responsible Investing is by no means a new concept (this video tells us what it’s all about in plain English), and has been explored and practiced by many faith-based individuals and companies. At its core, SRI focuses on sustainable, socially conscious, environmentally aware, and ethical investing. As Tom Krattenmaker puts it, “Instead of obsessing over how little we possess and how much more we need, faith- and spirit-based investment advisers urge investors to be grateful for how much they have and imagine the good they could accomplish if they invested it generously.” What becomes possible if you considered reorienting your investment strategy, perhaps even risking a reduced financial return, in “exchange for a better social...

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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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Is Economics a Religion?

Is Economics a science or a religion? Economists have fought hard to have their discipline recognized as a hard science, sometimes even looking down on softer disciplines such as sociology, due to the empirical and data-driven nature of their research. However, in a recent article in the Economic Times, Mark Buchanan (the physicist and economic commentator; not to be confused with the pastor and spiritual author of the same name) makes the case that economics is not as objective as it seems to appear. He notes that economics is very goal driven; once an economic goal is selected, economists general do a good job of finding the mechanics and principles to maximize efficiency and increase output. However, Buchanan asks, how are the initial goals selected? His argument: faith. Advancing a similar thesis put forward by economist Robert Nelson, he maintains that most Western economists have a set of values that they believe are unquestionably good, and that these guide the entire economic discipline. Economic policy is thus not devoid of subjectively selected values, but rather is instead “dressed up to look like objective science.” He discusses, as two brief examples, the ideas of labor unions (which most economists think are bad) and the encouragement of privatization in Russia at the end of the cold war (which most economists thought...

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A Pontiff for the Poor? Is There Any Other Kind?

In his short tenure, Pope Francis has redefined and breathed life into the papal office. As a result, a office that many saw as dead and irrelevant; is now brimming with life. While we at Two Cents applaud much of what he has done, we are especially interested in how he views the intersection of faith and economics.  In a recent article entitled The Economic Vision of Pope Francis, a Pontiff for the Poor author Michael Sean Winters articulates much of what Pope Francis believes about this intersection. Check out the article and tell us what you...

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