While riding in a taxi several years ago in the oil-producing Venezuelan city Maracaibo, I struck up a conversation with the driver. "Right now I'm OK," the man commented, "but I don't know how long I'll be able to have my job because of globalization."
I was struck by this and felt it summarized many of the fears around the world of the inevitable globalization of our economies.
As multinational corporations, financial institutions, and the Internet spill over sovereign national boundaries, anti- globalization forces often enlist fears of economic downturn and loss of cultural identity, along with objections to perceived labor inequities, as reasons to oppose this.
Of course, pundits can show statistically that in economies that embrace globalization, poverty is lessened as more and more people climb into the middle class. But the fears, particularly of "Americanization," remain.
Since that time I have asked myself, does God fit in here? How can our individual recourse to the Divine transform a global economy? What can be done about those who are left behind without retraining or direction in this 21st century? And how can we preserve a vibrant diversity of culture in the face of international marketing?
These are huge questions, but I have to start somewhere, and I thought of Jesus, who was born in an undeveloped region (Galilee) in a backwater province during an earlier period of globalization - the Roman Empire.
In spite of his location and its economic development, his teaching and influence affected not only that empire but the entire world. We know Jesus was aware of the world outside Judea. He responded to an appeal for healing from a centurion (lieutenant) of the occupying army, counseled that taxes should be paid in the coin of the realm, and commanded his disciples to spread the Gospel worldwide.
But when pressed on the economic and political challenges of his day, he consistently directed his followers' thoughts to what he must have considered a greater issue, that of turning to God in prayer in the face of every need.
It then occurred to me that I needed to spiritualize my view of globalization. …