Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The AGAPE Economy: The Church's Call to Action

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The AGAPE Economy: The Church's Call to Action

Article excerpt


At a family reunion a grandfather tells a story: A grandchild questions his grandfather about many things, people, and places. To every question comes the answer, "I am so sorry, I don't know the answer." After about an hour, the grandson said, "Grandpa, I hope you don't mind that I keep asking you questions." "Of course I don't mind," said the grandfather. "How are you going to learn unless you ask questions?" May I quote Dom Helder Camara and Archbishop Tutu: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask [the question] why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." The point is not only having an answer, but making sure we ask the question.

In the Gospel of John the history of salvation gets revealed in questions. First, Jesus is described as the "Word"-the very power and meaning of God. Jesus fulfills God's salvation and is an answer to human needs; Jesus stands as the answer to all questions that human beings have and experience. For God so loved the world that God answered the world by giving Jesus to the world (John 3:16).

John 1:35-38 frames the entire experience of the Christian journey: "What are you looking for?" Jesus asks the two disciples who are following him on the road. The Word questions us, we respond, and the Word of God invites us to keep on seeking, keep on questioning, but also to respond with concrete actions.

When the church embraces difficult questions the potential exists for meaningful growth. Today, in the midst of tremendous inequalities caused by bad distribution of wealth, the church is seeking answers about Gods economy as an opportunity to respond in concrete actions.

We live a crisis in a civilization where words like social inequalities, exclusion, misery, external debt, speculation, and financial instability are used not only by economists or sociologists, but also by politicians who are interested in responding to the needs of the people. These are the terms that are also used in some of our churches these days, as we seek to describe the context in which we are called to do mission.

The neoliberal economic system has produced in the so-called third world countries a growing number of impoverished, marginalized, and persecuted people. Christians are recognizing the need to give some sort of response to these victims, to become more active in denouncing the issues that are threatening lives, and also to seek creative and alternative answers. After decades of applying the recipes from the neoliberal economic system, countries in Latin America are now suffering: the middle class is disappearing, external debt is draining their economies, insecurity saps their energy, the capacity to feed the people is in danger, and the growth of poverty is also rising.

The social and economic promises that were announced as part of the introduction of the neoliberal economic system were not true: not because they did not deliver development as promised, but because the system was installed without restraints or regulations. When the global market is left to its own devices and desires, it has serious negative consequences, most notably the exclusion and exploitation of the majority of the worlds population. Many people in the global South believe they are harmed by global economic policies. Global trade and investment can serve development goals. The problem remains of unfair rules designed by affluent governments to advance their own commercial interests, remains often at the expense of farmers, business owners, laborers, and people struggling to overcome poverty in developing countries.

As we face this reality of a crisis in a civilization, our faith compels us to seek justice, to witness to the presence of God, and to be part of the lives and struggles of the people made weak and vulnerable by structures and cultures-women, children, people living in poverty in both urban and rural areas, indigenous people, people of African descent, racially oppressed communities, people with disabilities, forced migrant workers, refugees, and religious ethnic minorities. …

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