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In the last quarter of 2008 we have witnessed a frightening deterioration in the leading western economies and even the
burgeoning economy of China saw its exports register the biggest decline in a decade. We have encountered previously
unthinkable figures like $700 billion rescue funds and the International Labour Organization reporting that as many as 51
million jobs worldwide could be lost in 2009 because of the global economic crisis.
The temptation in the current crisis is to succumb to a mood that the world of macro- economics is too complex to
grasp and we ought to leave it to the experts. The problem is, some of the “experts” are culpable for the financial crisis
and as Christians we should be calling for a closer relationship between morality and the free market. Many Christians
support a free-market system (where goods and services are traded on an open market with little interference from central
government), but the current crisis underlines the need for some major reforms.
The current free market system is wrong-
1. It is destroying planet earth
2. It is sustaining global poverty
3. It is undermining peoples’ lives by making them work too hard
4. It permits a tiny minority of wealthy individuals to control vast sums of capital
5. It is a profoundly unjust system where the poor are exploited
We need to support those Christian voices who are calling for new international trade rules. Stephen Rand is a Baptist
who has been in the frontline of campaigning for greater justice for the poor of the world. In an interview with Christianity
magazine he says he finds it obscene that the system of free market capitalism is one where a child dies every three
seconds and he wants the system changed.
He tells the story of people like Nandi. She is dying and her mother does not have the food to feed her. The farmer
who used to employ her has gone out of business because cheap imports of grain from a wealthy first world country have
undercut his prices and made it impossible for him to compete. Those imports were so competitively priced because
international trade rules imposed on Nandi’s country prevented it from subsidizing local farmers while at the same time
allowing wealthy first world countries to do just that.
The global credit crunch will have profound effects on members of the Baptist family in many parts of the developing
world as the commitment of rich countries to meet their aid targets comes under pressure because of a failing domestic
economy. During my recent visit to Egypt I spent time with the Zabbaleen, the garbage people of Cairo, who are employed
to collect and dispose of much of the city’s waste. The Zabbaleen generally perform this service very cheaply or for free,
making a living by sorting the waste materials for reuse or recycling. Their income is little more than $1 per day. Every
year is a credit crunch for the Zabbaleen people.
The BWA has addressed complex issues in recent years drawing on the expertise of gifted practitioners. This is
the season when we need to bend our minds to consider what a global “Kingdom Economics” might look like. The
challenging task of debating the strengths and weaknesses of a capitalist system needs to be supported by some careful
self examination of personal lifestyle.
Christian disciples should accept the fresh challenge of adopting a personal lifestyle of simplicity, contentment and
generosity. Thirty years ago Dr. Ron Sider wrote his Lausanne paper on “Living more simply for Evangelism and Justice”
where he outlined a number of important definitions about personal lifestyle:
“We also accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols,
modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine and between the service of God and slavery to
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