Peter Challen's address at the
Greenbelt Gathering: 29th
At the end of summer, for four days on the Cheltenham
Race Course, some 10,000 people gathered to unite
in the love of arts, a desire to wrestle with the
important issues of the day, an itch to celebrate
a sense of the gift and the giver - to build their
little nomadic part of the Kin-dom again, to realize
that things don't have to be the way they are.
Invited to give 60 minute workshop on Money and its
relation to poverty, amongst a choice of say twenty
workshops active in any hour, I was surprised and
delighted that 45 people came to tackle the contemporary
relevance of that ancient wisdom, held by all the
great faiths, that usury is a deep flaw in our attempts
to pursue global housekeeping by shallow instruments
of what we call the economy.
"We read the Gospel as if we had no money, and we spend
our money as if we know nothing of the Gospel."
The topic of economics is exceedingly difficult to talk
about in the First World churches, more taboo than politics
or even sex. Yet no aspect of our individual and corporate
lives is more crucial in determining human welfare. And
few subjects are more frequently addressed in our scriptures.
The standard of economic and social justice is woven into
the warp and weft of the Bible. Pull this strand and the
whole fabric unravels. (Dowley; Duchrow; Myers; Dundee;
Selby). We have spiritualised and individualised all the
great themes that are about inclusive mutuality.
At the heart of this witness is the call to observe what
some call "Sabbath and Covenantal Economics."
At its root, Sabbath observance is about; gift and limits:
the grace of receiving that which the Creator gives, and
the responsibility not to take too much, nor to mistake
the gift for a possession. The Noahic Covenant is with every
thing under the rainbow. It will work for everyone and protect
The economic implications of this tradition as it is articulated
in the Bible can be summarized in three axioms:
a) the world as created by God is abundant, with enough
for everyone-provided that human communities restrain their
appetites and live within limits; we can have an economy
- a global housekeeping - that works for everyone and protects
b) disparities in wealth and power are not natural but the
result of human sin, (personal and corporate misdirections
along the pilgrim way) and must be mitigated within the
community of faith through the re-structuring of a money
system so we that practise pre-distribution - beginning
perhaps with regular practice of re-distribution;
c) the prophetic message calls people to the practice of
such [p]redistribution, and is thus characterized as "good
news" to the poor.
The theology of Sabbath economics and its ethic of regular
and systemic wealth and power [re]distribution - most clearly
summed up in the Jubilee release of slaves, deconstruction
of debt and return of foreclosed land - is neither utopian
nor abstract. It is an imperative; and never more so than
when so many immense dilemmas face us, as they do today.
It is both corrective and preventative. I
believe it continues to offer communities of faith today
a way out of our historical and persistent slavery to the
debt system, with its competing theology of meritocracy
and its alienating and cruel practices of wealth and power
concentration and social stratification.
Let me take a contemporary example of those who are wrestling
with this issue - On the Islamic Banking & Finance NET
elist-3000 - with only a tiny Christian presence- a battle
is raging over:- a) urgently needed capital improvements
in the port of Karachi, and b) the non-existent sewage system
in Peshawar where human waste is dumped onto the same ground
from which water supplies are drawn.
Supporters of the 'free market' banking system say banks
are wonderful things that provide money for ports and sewage
works and interest is a necessary part of the process. But
for capital works interest is not necessary. The credit/
money can be created out of nothing by the central bank
(rather than the private commercial banks as now), issued
to the government to be spent on the works, and then collected
back (as happens with interest-bearing money which has to
be repaid to the lenders) and then cancelled.
By doing this the cost of the capital projects are halved
and Karachi and Peshawar stands a chance of getting their
port and sewage works. Similarly, in the UK, hospitals,
schools, roads, bridges, the necessary replacement of most
of London's water mains etc, can all be done at half the
cost (eg Humber Bridge).
Where public capital works are concerned, the lenders of
money have little or no administration cost (the administration
is all done by those to whom the money is lent). There
is a specious (eg Lord Griffiths) objection to interest-free
loans for public capital projects, namely, that it is giving
an advantage to such projects. The answer is "Yes,
it is giving an advantage and so it should give an advantage
AND that same advantage can, and should be given to other
forms of capital project such as:-
a) small and start-up business; b) green environmental;
c) private sector IF wide ownership is the result, an ownership
which, over time, on market principles, extends ownership
to ALL individuals in the population on the principles of
CCMJ leaflets were distributed
"How Money works" by Colin Whitmill
" Seven Steps to Justice"
was available - signing followed address.
Suggestion to challenge your MP to examine EDM 390
to your local MP ð (www.edmi.parliament.uk/edmi)
Invitation to visit Christian Council for Monetary
Binary Economics is built on the contemporary insight that:-
Capital and labour are independent or binary factors
Capital has both a productive and a distributive relationship
to wealth creation.