God and Wall Street
Williams, Rowan, Newsweek
Byline: Rowan Williams
It is quite striking that, in the Gospel parables, Jesus more than once uses economics as a framework for his stories: the parable of the talents, the dishonest steward--even, we might say, the vignette of the lost coin. Like our coexistence with the earth, like familial bonds, like the tensions of public political life, economic relationships help us see our humanity in the context of God's actions. Money is a metaphor; our monetary dealings shed light on aspects of our human condition that, rightly understood, tell us something about how we might relate to God.
Recently I went to New York City to participate in a conference at Trinity Wall Street. It was called "Building an Ethical Economy: Theology and the Marketplace." In my view, the contribution of theology to economic decision making is not only about raising questions concerning the common good--questions that deal with how this or that policy grants or withholds liberty for the most disadvantaged. Obviously, these are important issues. But we need to look with great care as well at what our economic practices are assuming and promoting about human motivation and integrity.
In our culture, we have become used to an attitude in which economic motivations, relationships, and conventions are fundamental: the language of seller and customer has wormed its way into practically all areas of our social life, even education and health care. The implication is that the most basic interaction between one human being and another is the carefully calibrated exchange of material resources. …