The banner over each Better Capitalism blog reads, “Talking Money, Religion, & Politics” with the open invitation “Sound fun? Join in!” Why? Because we recognize that when any of us talk or argue about money, religion or politics we’re really talking about the kind of world we want to live in. Credit and appreciation to our friend Brian McLaren who helped us recognize this insight particularly as it regards religion.
Many of us were taught that religion (or theology) primarily explained the unexplainable and shaped beliefs. In the former sense, religion can be viewed as backward looking: When and how did the earth come into being? Is there a Creator or are we here by accident? In the latter sense, religion can be viewed as forward looking: What are the guidelines to being a good person? How do we behave in community?
But, as Brian explains in the Foreword to Fr. Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ, religion is about something deeper, more practical, and even subversive if not dangerous. “Religion is about creating the world that we want and future generations will inhabit.” Pause and think about that with us. That perspective shines some real clarity on the role of religion, doesn’t it?
If we want a world and future where men have a voice and women are silent, religion can help us make that happen. If we want a world and future where only certain people are financially rich and the rest financially struggle, religion can help us make that happen. If we want a world where we’re allowed to exploit and trash the earth itself in order to maximize shareholder value, religion can help us make that happen as well. And doesn’t that describe the flavors of religion we’ve been tasting ... hmmm ... seemingly forever? Yes, that’s a sweeping generalization, but not unreasonable given humanity's collective experience.
This helps understand why people get so passionate, angry, and even violent regarding religion. When we collectively talk or argue about religion, we really aren’t having theoretical discussions around deities, piety, sacraments, and liturgy. No! We’re having religious battles (which we hide behind the phrase ‘culture wars’) about the kind of world we want to live in with individual, community, political, economic, and generational consequences. From family and tribal bickering thousands of years ago to Crusades and Jihads hundreds of years ago to World Wars within recent memory, religion has long been used to manipulate those battles, both verbal and physical.
But there's the opposite side of the religion (or theology) coin, the gift tied up in the conflict that too frequently goes unnoticed: Just as religion can be used to harm, religion can be used to heal.
If we want a world and future where men and women treat each other as equals and partners, religion can help us make that happen. If we want a world and future where our economic systems don’t intentionally create financial inequity, religion can help us make that happen. If we want a world where we don’t allow each other to exploit and trash our earth in order to maximize shareholder value, religion can help us make that happen as well. And doesn’t that describe the flavors of religion we’ve been longing for ... hmmm ... forever? Yes, that’s a sweeping generalization, but not entirely unreasonable given humanity's collective yearning.
As Brian further observes, “Yes, bad religion can hurt you – really hurt you. But good religion can help you – really help you ….” We could change the invitation on our banner to read, “Talking Money, Good Religion, & Politics” but we don't think there is a need. Instead, as you read each of our blogs as well as our book Better Capitalism, we trust you see we’re talking partnership money, healing religion, and rational politics.
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