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All complex civilisations in human history have eventually collapsed. As the complexity of the Babylonian, Roman and Maya empires increased, their administration eventually became to costly and inflexible, leaving the whole system vulnerable to any famine, war or social uprising that would tear it totally apart. The inevitable collapse were seldom instantaneous, it could take decades or even centuries. What it always produced however was decreased complexity with more decentralised governance, more poverty, rural living and a smaller population.
I am fully convinced that if Jesus doesn’t return to end history soon, we will see modern civilisation collapsing. With modern civilisation I refer to the political and economic structure that is based in the “Western”, white part of the world but that influences all nations of the earth and use their resources. It is totally impossible for its complexity to remain on this level or even higher; sooner or later most of our societies will be thrown back to pre-industrial times, and millions will die.
This gloomy prediction of course contradict the myth of eternal Progress that has been a dominant paradigm in the West. Just like in the early days of the Roman empire, increased wealth, health, education and technology made people believe that the future will be eternally bright, everything will get better and more efficient.
This is very different from a Biblical worldview which predicts that the sinfulness of man will constantly follow and eventually consume us. The book of Revelation talks about how the pseudo-glorious city of Babylon, representing power, wealth and civilisation, will collapse: (more…)
Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
The Arctic is alarmingly warm this year, in fact, 20 degrees hotter than usual. What scientists have been warning us against for decades is becoming reality. If nothing is done, we might see an enormous climate catastrophe that would kill and displace hundreds of millions.
The vast majority of scientists have also been telling us for years that we do far too little to stop climate change. Even if the relatively ambitious Paris Climate Accord is implemented by all countries, it will not be enough. And the outcome of the American election puts into question whether the Accord even will be implemented.
The main root cause of these problems is an industrially driven economic growth that is not restricted to areas that seem necessary and beneficial like better healthcare and education. The astonishingly high consumption level that has driven climate change for decades deals a lot with fashion, technology, entertainment and luxury products that we, if we’re honest with ourselves, simply don’t need. (more…)
I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.
The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:
In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.
It’s funny, and a bit tragic, how some extremely radical words of Jesus which should make all rich people very uncomfortable, can be misinterpreted into some cosy, fluffy inspiration that rich people can quote on their living room wall and feel warm inside about. I’m specifically thinking on Jesus’ words about the birds and the lilies:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Notice the word “therefore” in the beginning of the passage. This is obviously a word that links it to what is immediately said before it, which in this case is:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
When discussing Christian community of goods, the term communism will inevitably pop up sooner or later. The Jesus Army, which has been practicing community for over 40 years, has many times been called communists by outsiders. They themselves don’t use the term, however, which is not so strange. Firstly, “communism” is to a large extent a pejorative in the western world, that is, a derogatory insult. Secondly, there are lots of different definitions and conceptions of what communism is about. Here are a few examples:
- That people commonly own the means of production.
- That people own property together.
- That people own property together because of coercion.
- That the state owns the means of production.
- That the state practices planned economy.
- That the state is run by a ruthless dictatorship which practices planned economy and kill lots of people.
- That workers revolt and install a dictatorship of the proletariat, which abolishes class society and make the means of production commonly owned, and then abolishes the state so that everyone can happily live in a communist utopia with no class divisions or oppression.
What all Christians practiced in the apostolic Jerusalem church was basically definition 2: “the ranks of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, and no one called any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common … None of them suffered any distress. All who had land or houses sold their possessions and brought what they had received for the sold property and put the payment at the apostles’ feet. And they gave to everyone according to what he needed. “(Acts 4:32, 34-35). (more…)
Many of those who invented and fueled industrialism and capitalism were, or claimed to be, Christians.
Sure, some Muslim oil sheiks and Confucian factory workers have also played their role, but Christians are responsible to a very large extent to the inequality and environmental destruction which this economic system has brought. Now, followers of Jesus around the globe need to step up against the biggest beast that global mass consumption has birthed: climate change.
Climate change – isn’t it a weird term for a phenomena that may very well kill hundreds of thousands of people, ruin cuties and destroy whole countries? It’s like naming a genocide something like “population change” or, as the Guardian’s excellent podcast The biggest story in the world pointed out, calling a bomb an “unexpected delivery”. Human emissions of greenhouse gases is, according to 97% of scientists researching the matter, destroying the system and will eventually crush civilisation. What we’ve created is Creation Destruction.
The sad thing is that while this catastrophe is caused primarily by rich people, most of those that will get hurt from it are poor. This is often called “climate injustice”. What our hyper-consumption has caused harms not just polar bears, but human beings living in poverty. To stop this, we need to act quickly.
I found this weird clip today where Canadian capitalist Kevin O’Leary says that it’s fantastic that 85 rich folks owns the same amount of money as the 3,5 billion poorest people on earth. Yeah, he literally says that he “applauds it”, because then the poor gets the motivation to become like the extremely rich. The reporter is stunned, she stands in silence and then just says “really?” O’Leary affirms his crazy applause of global inequality and says “don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that’s never gonna happen!”
O’Leary’s statement is incredibly stupid on so many levels, but the thing is that many people in the West do agree with him. Many thinks inequality is not so bad. I’ve debunked many of their arguments in Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks, but if I am to comment shortly on O’Leary’s line of thought I would just want to say that:
- Firstly, everyone cannot become as rich as the richest one percent simply because there aren’t enough resources – if everyone lived like the avarage American we would need five earths.
- Secondly, poor people often work harder than rich people, so there is no correlation between hard work and wealth – a lot of wealth is inherited either financially or socially.
- Thirdly, economic inequality is contrary to a belief in that all human beings are equal and have equal rights to a descent life – if we truly believe that all people are created in the image of God, we cannot tolerate economic inequality.
As this clip shows, global economic inequality is enormous. 2 % of the world’s population owns half of its resources. The world’s rich countries are taking more money from the poor than vice versa due to unfair trade rules and tax flight. This is contrary to the Biblical vision. Luke 3:11 says that the one who has two of something should share with those who have nothing, 2 Cor 8:13-15 says that the goal of charity is equality, Acts 2 and 4 shows us that the early church practiced economic equality through community of goods. We need global economic equality. But how should we achieve it?
Love is extremely central to the Gospel: the reason Jesus came to give us eternal life is out of God’s eternal love for our world (Jn 3:16), He said that the greatest commandments in the Old Testament Law are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39) Jesus close disciple John just fell in love with Love, and emphasized it like crazy in his writings:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 Jn 4:7-12)
But all love isn’t good love. In the same letter, John warns us for loving things instead of people, creation instead of God: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 Jn 2:15-17)
I told you he would be a good pope! Francis has become extremely popular both within and outside the Catholic world. He both teaches and practices simplicity and mercy; he wears simple clothes and refuses to live in the fancy apostolic palace while emphasizing the duty of Christians to embrace the poor, wounded and lost. Recently, his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has received a lot of attention in the media. It is mainly about evangelism and missions, but what has caught the attention of many is his criticism of capitalism:
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.
“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Many are quite surprised by this and speculate whether it is an influence of Latin American liberation theology, since pope Francis comes from Argentina. However, while Francis definitely has a stronger emphasis on social justice than his predecessors, this thoughts should probably by no means have been alien to them. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Centesimus Annus:
“It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are ‘solvent’, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are ‘marketable’, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish.”
Yesterday, IPCC presented the first part of their new report about climate change in Stockholm, Sweden, and it was yet another reminder of the horrible catastrophy we have put ourselves into. The economic system that created climate change and other environmental problem is structurally wicked and needs to change quickly if we are going to save the lives of all the people that are in risk of dying because of environmental destruction and natural disasters. We have to challenge and change capitalism.
All the bishops of the Lutheran Church of Sweden wrote an article in our biggest newspaper today where they argued that changing our lives in response to climate change is a spiritual matter that the church has to adress. I completely agree. In fact, I think the reason why the capitalist economic system has put us into this mess is because it is detached from Christian holiness.
Of course, not everyone think this is the case. I once read an article by a Christian who claimed that the Bible supports capitalism, and he challenged the “misconception” that capitalism is based on greed and thus is sinful. This is not the case, he said, because self-interest does not equal greed, but is something all people base their lives on. Whenever we eat a sandwich we do it out of self interest, and there is nothing wrong with that, he said.
The problem with this argument is that the Bible actually says that self-interest is wrong:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Phil 2:3-4