Read this piece in der Spiegel: “The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Role.” It may be one sided, nonetheless it summarizes a lot of what I perceive has been going on for quite some time in the world and its attitudes towards U.S.A. Yet it has now exploded for all to see in the events of the last three weeks for it is as if the “emperor wearing no clothes” has been revealed in the horrible financial shakeout being experienced around the world. Even with all this however, there are attitudes and ideas that remain unshakeable among many of us in the ways we see the world. I want to urge therefore that we have discussions around a few issues at this time lest the American church misses a crucial opportunity to reassess what we are supposed to be doing during this time. I offer the following topics:
1.) Is America the richest nation on the earth and does this change how we think about Global Mission? I keep hearing people on both the right and the left persist in calling America the richest nation on earth. I contend we are not. We are broke. As a nation-state we are the most indebted industrialized nation on earth. Per capita, we are the most individually in debt. We are broke! The debt loads on individuals are suffocating. And so the expectation that the U.S. should be the economic engine for world social justice and democratic reform, or more importantly, global mission, must come to an end. Granted, our insatiable consumerism, and morally bankrupt Christian discipleship when it comes to money is coming home to roost. The fact still is however, at this time and place, we are broke and we cannot expect the churches of undisciplined desire (my nomenclature for late- American evangelicalism) to provide the moral or material capital for world mission. Brazil, India, China and even Russia have more money than the U.S. In some ways, if individuals of the third world have no debt and a sustainable living wage, they are wealthier than the people who can no longer afford their “upside-down” mortgages on these 5 bedroom, 2-3 garage homes in the suburbs. For these people are left enslaved to their debts for at least the next 10 years.
It is time then for American churches, mission organizations to rethink our place in world mission. I know this is old hat, but we need to rethink America as a Mission-sending country. The current financial crisis is the time to come together to remap world Mission. We, in post Christendom N. America, have become a mission field and we must take our place alongside all other countries as mutual participants in the Mission of God.
2.) Do the fears of market capitalism influence the way we do church too much? (The first paragraph here is a good definition if you need it of capitalism). Perhaps we have become too over confident in our faith and trust in market capitalism? Is this possible? Has it influenced the way we organize ourselves socially and economically even among the people of God? Amidst the demise and/or corruption of capitalism (depending on where you’re coming from) how do we become churches that display a Christian economic in these times of financial crisis? How do we display ways of exchange, participating mutually in God’s bounty that free us from the fear of losing our own financial security? Why is it we hide our finances from even our closest Christian friends in the same church? Why do we not know who is hurting and being foreclosed upon even in our own church? How can we resist and indeed overcome the ways the “System” is falling apart and indeed taking down many people with it? We had a meeting at our church along these lines this past Sunday.
Any other issues this article brings up? Any answers/disagreements to these questions?