The Equity System


THE EQUITY SYSTEM (through chapter 30 of “Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren)

So here’s the problem: The global economic system has produced an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. As a result, the poor resent the rich, and the rich are afraid of the poor. This is a combustible situation that would predictably worsen until it explodes.

Now McLaren teaches that rich people shouldn’t take the problem so personally (i.e. it’s all your fault!). It’s the system’s fault. But Jesus says, Subvert the system.

McLaren quotes David Lowes Watson and Douglas Meeks, “Only a fraction of our sins are personal. By far the greater part are sins of neglect, sins of default, our social sin, our systemic  sin, our economic sin. For these sins Christ died, and continues to die. For these sins Christ atoned, and continues to atone… As long as evangelism presents a gospel centered on the need for personal salvation, individuals will acquire a faith that focuses on maximum benefits with minimal obligations, and we will change the costly work of Christ’s atonement into the pragmatic transaction of a salvific contract… The sanctifying grace of God in Jesus Christ is meant not just for the sinner but also for a society beset by structural sin.” (It will be no surprise to Juvenal that McLaren immediately follows this passage with a quote from Walter Rauschenbusch).

So what to do?

The invisible hand of a free market is insufficient. McLaren quotes J.F. Rischard, who claims, “Whether from intellectual laziness or from single-minded pursuit of ideology, what these free-market fundamentalists fail to see is that while central planners were either cretins or fools, the market is a moron. An effective moron, but a moron nevertheless: left to its own devices, it will churn away mindlessly…”

McLaren argues that the answer involves three dimensions:
(1) Apprentices of Jesus practice generosity to the poor
(2) Apprentices of Jesus call the rich to generosity
(3) Apprentices of Jesus set about the work of improving the system

I guess we just go at number one and number two, but to number three, the author spends the last chapter in this section (chapter 30) addressing seven specific systemic areas:
(1) Trade with integrity: integrating free AND fair trade, along with making it easier for the growth of small businesses
(2) Wise economic aid: for example, the One Campaign
(3) Wise debt relief: linked with needed steps of political reform
(4) Respect for environmental limits in terms of both resource consumption and population growth (in other words, both the Global North AND the Global South): maybe even shifting our vocabulary in our section of the world from our “environmental crisis” to our “overconsumption crisis” to focus on the root of the problem
(5) Fair wages: internationally, and even consideration of a “maximum” wage (for example, a factor of fifty – if the lowest paid employee makes $20,000, then the highest anyone could make in that company would be $1 million). In America, the CEO to average worker ratio is 301:1.
(6) The development of effective justice systems: networking to battle against corruption that hamstrings reforms
(7) Community and family development: rebuilding damaged families and communities seeking to recover from abuse at the hands of systemic injustice.

There you have it: thoughts, anyone?

NEXT WEEK: The final section, “A Revolution of Hope”


One Response to “The Equity System”

  1. shanebertou Says:

    Several of us from around the blogsphere are reading “Everything Must Change” together and discussing our thoughts. We’ve just begun, but we’ve set it up in a way where it’s never to late to participate.

    If you have any interest, you can visit us at:

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