Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

Amos among the Business Columnists

Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

Amos among the Business Columnists

Article excerpt

I shouldn't read the business press. It's bad for my blood pressure. Business editors are extreme in their tendency to absolutize the community-blind rights of money seeking its own expansion, and I trend to get extreme in response. By the time I have read Peter Cook's column (or, God help me, Terence Corcoran's) two or three times in a week in the Toronto Globe and Mail, I am apoplectic. I can practically smell living human flesh being burned on Mammon's altar.

Peter Cook sometimes speaks, in his elegantly calm prose, about "getting the fundamentals right." His fundamentals, of course, have nothing to do with making room in the economy for everyone in a human community, or with human community as an end in itself. They are not about making sure that income is high enough to support families without both parents being unhealthily absent from the family circle. They have nothing to do with respectful gratitude for the gift of the earth, or with the discernment of vocation in human work. Peter Cook's "fundamentals" have everything to do with the potential rate of return on invested capital.

Reading the Globe and Mail I sometimes react like the peasant prophet Amos, who came from his home in rural Judea to agonize in the northern kingdom of Israel around 750 BCE. At least I understand why Amos was so extreme in his rejection of the norms of his time, which were a lot like Peter Cook's norms.

Peter Cook's "fundamentals" are very nearly exactly the opposite of the fundamentals proposed in the convenant economy forged in early Israel. In the economic legislation of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the subsistence needs of local communities, and the demands of neighbourliness and sustainability within those communities, were treated as the goal of the economy. Opportunities for personal or family profit were not scorned, but they were secondary. The point was shalom: dwelling together, permanently, with celebratory gratitude for a particular land as God's gift to a particular people. The economy was a way of loving one's neighbour as oneself.

Amos lived several generations after the subversion of the covenant economy by King David's empire-building and (especially) by the megaprojects of King Solomon the Export-Oriented. By Amos's time, most kings and priests--and therefore, most people--had simply forgotten how basic to God's convenant was the command to maintain in Israel a strongly egalitarian economic inclusiveness.

A lofty opponent of Amos was Amaziah, the prudent priest in charge of the national shrine at Bethel. …

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