Economy of graceMICHAEL COREN
Just as it's usually only beautiful people who pretend that good looks don't matter, it's generally the rich who tell us that money isn't particularly important.
Well, it is if you don't have any. And those drowning or swimming for their lives in the current economic storm know that unemployment, pay cuts and evaporating savings are more than mere dents in their hobbies. So when, for example, various Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders in Britain said recently that there were in fact "positive aspects to the recession" they were dismissed as religious clowns and out-of-touch dreamers.
Actually some of them are. It's the churches, however, that will be at the forefront of caring and coping in all this mess, and all that these men were correctly arguing is that such a massive shock to the system might deliver a spiritual reboot; might force us, perhaps kicking and screaming, to revaluate the meaning of life, the universe and the banking system.
Nietzsche said that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I know this because it's up there on the movie screen at the start of Conan the Barbarian. In fact what doesn't kill us makes us poorer. Then again, Nietzsche said that God was dead. He's not, but Nietzsche is.
And this is the essence of what the bishops were trying to explain. The sudden realization that material wealth is transitory and that earning, spending and saving are as much symptoms as they are solutions should lead us to grapple for the greater and grander things in life. Such as God, faith, family, community, the spiritual and the knowledge that this is the land of shadows and that real life hasn't begun yet.
At its most cynical it's a suburban version of the bunker syndrome. There are said to be no atheists when bullets are flying and death appears imminent. In other words, the propinquity of eternity obliges someone to consider where they will be spending it. A ravished economy is not the same as a filthy battlefield but it still lunges at complacency. The foundations of our very being -- purchasing power, pensions, the car, the vacation and, at its most severe, a roof over our head and food for the family -- are shaken if not destroyed.
The inherent danger is the appearance of exploitation. The ugly spectacle of the evangelist failing with the healthy but converting the sick. A liturgical dance through the ruins of people's lives. Yet that is not really what the argument is about. It's using, not abusing, the change in climate to readjust focus and lead people to ask the most profound questions. Questions about first things, permanent things: Whether God exists may be more significant an issue than whether the GST should be lowered by a percentage point; and whether we are made in the image of God to worship our creator and love our neighbour as ourselves more relevant than any debate over selective import controls.
If nothing else the fundamentally contrary opinions of internationally respected economists regarding how to respond to the financial crisis has shown us that even the most informed do not know what to do. No compelling responses either from the social scientists, the politicians or the modernist gurus. We look elsewhere. We look. We see. See meaning instead of motive, people instead of crowds.
The economy will surely recover and the buttons will be turned back on. After the forced hiatus the world will probably be a very similar place. What is infinitely weightier -- the weight of glory -- is whether we will be the same people. It's about the economy of grace rather than the economy of money. Always has been, always will be.
Michael Coren. "Economy of grace." National Post, (Canada) February 24, 2009.
Reprinted with permission of Michael Coren and the National Post.
Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.
He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.
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