This Fall I plan on leading a few adult education sessions on a theological understanding of contemporary economics. This is far out of my field but something that is continually being impressed on me as crucial for the church to better understand and engage. In preparation I am working through Philip Goodchild’s Theology of Money. I am about half-way through book and I am coming to realize that I should probably summarize or re-orient myself to what I have already read.
ToM is no simple theological gloss over the woes of the economy. The heart of the work is a sustained (relentless?) conceptual framework for understanding money. Here are a few points of orientation from the Introduction.
It is possible to consider money as mode of transcendent social/metaphysical orientation for life as other local cults and global religions have performed in the past. One significant difference is that as an object money does not call attention to itself and therefore has alluded close scrutiny into the nature of its power.
Christianity has also largely evaded any scrutiny of the money’s power by internalizing the question of piety so as to remove it from the presence and effects of money.
The founding of the Bank of England can be viewed as a helpful image in the founding of modern capitalist economy. As such it can be observed that from the very beginning this system functioned to create wealth in excess of itself . . . the creation of debt and interest. With this model in place “production for the sake of profit rather than use became the dominant motivation for social activity and interaction” (11).
Money has continued to advance its place in society to the point of becoming the primary ritual activity that orients the social order in how it mediates the basic desires, values and beliefs of the people.
In order to study money it is important to acknowledge its dual nature. It is both fixed and in motion. And so, rejecting a basic Cartesian model of understanding Goodchild proposes 1) an ecology of money that traces its concrete relations 2) a politics of money the observes its effects over time 3) a theology of money that exposes its basic need for obligation and belief in order to function.
Hopefully more to come . . .