Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Forest and the Trees

Almost all of the articles in Zak's book on Moral Markets explicitly or implicitly dance around the possibility that values in a society have an exogenous component. As Christians, how could we believe otherwise? One place for a Christian to start examining the values that might influence the marketplace is the collection of shorter writings in the Old Testament known as the "Minor Prophets" (minor doesn't mean unimportant, it just refers to the length of the writings).

Motivated by the exogenous values issue, I've been reading through some of the minor prophets. Two things have jumped out at me:

1 ) It seems to be easy to mistake the trees for the forest. The underlying forest is the unfaithfulness of Judah and Israel. The trees are the particular manifestations of that sin. Each of the prophet portrays a different part of the forest, which is great. But that means that you can't absorb any one of the prophets in isolation. In the PCUSA there's a long tradition of studying and preaching from Amos, with his strong social justice lens on the people's unfaithfulness, but less attention is paid to Hosea, where the lens is sexual promiscuity. I wonder if there are other denominations where the opposite occurs?

Both witnesses (and the other accounts in the prophets) are "accurate" descriptions of the sins of Israel and Judah, but it's only when you read many of them (together with the historical connections in books like I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles) that the forest becomes clear. The root unfaithfulness of the people was that the Chosen People abandoned Yahweh. Once that was in process, the bribery, adultery, oppression and prostitution followed.

2 ) Israel and Judah did not abandon Yahweh for atheism or agnosticism. Instead, they moved into pantheism and syncretism. Specifically, they fell into the idea that there was nothing wrong with worshiping both Yahweh and Baal (the local fertility god) at the same time. Sometimes these practices are as simple as Baalist household gods. In other cases, it appears to have reached the level of child sacrifice and Baal-cultic prostitution. In any case, the sin of Israel/Judah was not they they came to believe in no God, but rather that they came to believe in every god.

In the next post, I will try to bring these idea into the current day and into the context of moral markets.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Memory = Identity?

Today at lunch Mark and I were talking about Christopher Nolan's latest movie Inception. The movie is great and Nolan might be the best director in Hollywood right now; but, we were talking about an earlier movie Nolan directed called Memento. Here is the description below:

"Memento chronicles two separate stories of Leonard, an ex-insurance investigator who can no longer build new memories, as he attempts to find the murderer of his wife, which is the last thing he remembers. One story line movies forward in time while the other tells the story backwards revealing more each time." -IMDB

We watched this movie in my Psychology 101 class at UCF and I recall the teacher saying,

"Who would you be, if you didn't know who you were? We are our memories." 

That is to say, our identity is equivalent to our memories. As I was talking to Mark a thought emerged about the Old Testament. Often the Jewish people are told, "for I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt."

We are called to remember the greatness of God because our identity as God's people depends upon it!

Panel Session

Below is a link to a short and informal paper written for the Southern Economic Association panel session on Individual Choice or Collective Action: Perspectives from Religion and Economics. This paper discusses how our individual choices (specifically with spiritual disciplines) feed into collective decision-making. This is a very small step towards understanding how our small choices play into the larger narrative about bringing God's kingdom on earth.

The Impact of Individual Choice to Collective Action: An Experimental Inquiry into Spiritual Disciplines

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Premeditated Love

We learn from teachings about submission to place others before ourselves. Jesus says, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24). Paul writes, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself" (Phillipians 2:3). The paradox of submission is often misunderstood. Losing my life seems like all pain-no gain. But, we must begin to understand that LOVE BUILDS UP. When we build others up with the love of Christ we gain big time! We begin to take on the characteristics of God and so do our brothers and sisters.

But, love is often suffocated by pride, pain, and anxiety. Nobody wants to be a sucker ---the doormat---the one everyone takes advantage of. But, in our refusal to be the sucker sometimes we lash out, lack self-control, gentleness, kindness, etc. What if we premeditated love instead? No matter what I choose love. Essentially we eliminate other possible responses ahead of time. With premeditated love we are not tossed by our feelings but we are warm and loving with full knowledge of our pain. How is the pain endured? We will have full knowledge that we are outrageously loved by God.