Sunday, June 10, 2012

Anyone seen the elephant in the room?

So, here's the thing: this evening we reach chapter five in our journey through Ephesians. The commentators tell me it's about sex (in one illicit form or another) as an expression of the darkness that pervades society.

And it's true there is reference to immorality, unwholesome talk, and even the telling of dirty jokes. But there is also the strongest denunciation in Paul of greed 'which is idolatry' (5:5). Indeed, greed it seems is as much a manifestation of darkness as unholy sex.

Yet the church seems besotted with the 's' word and largely silent about greed. We constantly hear how the sexual revolution has undermined family life and values and led to the ruin of society. But we don't hear much about how greed in the form of an economic system that has lauded profit and debt at the expense of any other economic outcome has similarly undermined families, corrupted social values and impoverished all of us.

It is great to read Michael Sandel challenging the marketisation of everything and Paul Krugman continuing to point out that there is an alternative economic story to the Gordon Gecko creed of 'greed is good'. But where are the Christian voices on this issue?

Barely a day goes past without some row erupting in the corridors of ecclesiastical power over sex - gay marriage, women bishops, the sexualisation of children in the media - and yet weeks pass without a Christian voice being raised questioning what greed is doing to our children, to our social values, to the fabric of our neighbourhoods.

Is it just me, or is the Christian community, in its obsession with sex, missing the elephant in the room that is actually trashing the culture, namely the economic story that says greed is the path to salvation?


Hazel said...

Well said!!

Graham Criddle said...

Hi Simon
Thanks for this.

We were looking at something similar, although from a different perspective, in our Bible Study on Thursday evening looking at 1 Timothy 6:1-2.

Here we were thinking about the shocking reality of slavery but also reflecting on Tom Wright's comments in the "Paul for Everyone" commentary:

Supposing the world goes on for another thousand years, and the Christians alive at that time look back at our generation, what will shock them most?
We could each, no doubt, draw up our list of (other people’s) failings and faults, and, by projecting our dislikes onto the future, declare that this or that will be deemed outrageous. Some will highlight the way in which white Christians went along with the oppression of their black brothers and sisters; others will focus on the massive problem of debt in the Third World. Some will declare that Western Christianity has lost the plot entirely when it comes to sexual morality; others, no doubt, will imagine that a thousand years from now Christians will be comfortable accepting a wide variety of sexual practices as normal. And—who knows?—it may be that among the things future generations will regard as scandalous about our present behaviour will be our unthinking use of oil-based products as a major energy source. We are polluting our planet day and night, burning up resources and making a great mess. And our nuclear alternatives aren’t much better. ‘After all,’ people may say, ‘they had the wind and the tides, the waterfalls and the sunshine, and the technology to harness them—why didn’t they use them?’ And we might not have any good answers. We might find ourselves ashamed of the way we took our energy sources for granted and never asked awkward questions about them."

While Wright focuses on the issues associated with energy we also thought about capitalism and what it generated and wondered whether this too could be one of those things which people look back on and ask why??