Seven examples of faith translated into behaviour in the realm of political economy at different levels of society:
1. From ‘Seven Steps to Justice’ to ‘The Modern Universal Paradigm’ – a development in thinking and application:
Preface: The Modern Universal Paradigm is an understanding embracing all aspects of life. It expresses a concept of unicity and relatedness. To Muslims, the concept is Tawhid;[i] to Christians, it is Kingdom (or Kin-dom) of God; to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, it is Dharma; and to Jews, Shalom „Ÿ the precise words do not matter too much because the underlying comprehension and insights are universal.
The concept, moreover, is not confined to religion. It greatly affects all the human studies and, such its power, is beginning to touch on aspects of the natural sciences.[ii]
It is, moreover, both ancient and modern. From the past come the unicity concept, a prohibition of riba (interest), a sense of stewardship, a need for sharing and participation, a strong ethical sense, and a demand for structural social and economic justice rather than merely palliative charity.
From the present, come insights of remarkable modernity. One such insight is that, today, money is created out of nothing. Another insight is that, in respect of newly-created money which is lent for productive or environmental capital purpose, riba/interest „Ÿ as distinct from administration and any other essential cost „Ÿ is not merely wrong (as it used to be in Christianity)[iii] but is not necessary. A third is that the technological capacity exists to eliminate poverty and so continuing poverty is the fault of human institutions and practices rather than any inadequacy of equipment or expertise.[iv]
Past and present then come together to:‑
• replace the old economics with a new economics[v]
• supplant the old politics with a new politics
• create a new social morality
• deepen democracy
• solve the major problems of the environment.
Other consequences include an end to economic colonialism, an improvement in the position of women, policy to unite differing groups, and a wide capital ownership.
In November, 2005, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, former President of Indonesia, addressed a conference.[vi] He asked why many countries were resource-rich, yet poor, and called for an ‘accelerated evolution’. That evolution has a number of aspects including strategic breakthroughs in the transportation industry, an increase in knowledge and skills, new technologies, and expansion of various forms of productive capital. He issued a challenge to find the financial mechanism to solve the problem. This book accepts that challenge. At the same conference, Professor Khurshid Ahmad gave a seminal lecture which asked whether a new economics was, or was not, arising and this book is also an attempt to answer the question he posed.[vii]
Throughout the world a change in consciousness is taking place. It expresses itself in various ways not least an awareness that something, on a big scale, is wrong and that things, on a big scale, need to be put right. The Modern Universal Paradigm is a manifestation of that change.
It is also a response to the needs of universities which require a teaching text. At the time of writing, four universities have made interlocking agreements to teach the new thinking but they are stymied by the lack of a document which puts all the main ideas, clearly and succinctly, in one place. Another six universities are expected to make agreements soon.
Moreover, there has been a series of international conferences on aspects of the subject „Ÿ particularly on the connection between the money supply and the real economy[viii] „Ÿ and the reactions have been so heartening that it is already reasonable to assume that another one hundred or more universities will wish to involve themselves in the teaching.
Because of the teaching need, particularly for young people whose first language may not be English, an effort has been made to make the book as clear as possible.
All people of faith and of good faith [ix] may take up the Modern Universal Paradigm as can the people of any society or culture. They are invited to take it up. In so doing, they may call the Paradigm their own and will not only have its benefits but will also be giving a moral, intellectual, practical, political „Ÿ and, yes, environmental „Ÿ lead on the way to creating a more just and peaceful world.
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[i] Masudul Alam Choudhury (2003), The Islamic World-System: A Study in Polity-Market Interaction. Muhammad Iqbal Anjum (Some Reflections on the Fundamental Errors in Development Economics ‑ an Islamic Critique (Annual Journal, 2004, International Islamic University, Islamabad).
[ii] Anne Primavesi (2000), Sacred Gaia ‑ Holistic Theology and Earth System Science. (2003), Gaia’s Gift: Earth, Ourselves and God after Copernicus.
[iii] Peter Selby (1997), Grace and Mortgage.
[iv] Sidney M Greenfield, Making Another World Possible: the Torah, Louis Kelso and the Problem of Poverty, paper given at conference, Colombia University, May, 2006.
[v] Including faith economics, humanomics, justice economics and binary economics.
[vi] 6th International Conference on Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, Jakarta, Indonesia, November, 2005.
[vii] Khurshid Ahmad (Chairman, Islamic Foundation (UK) and Member, Senate, Islamic Republic of Pakistan), Islamic Economics: A Scheme of Thoughts or a Branch of Post Capitalism – lecture given at the 6th International Conference on Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, Jakarta, Indonesia, November, 2005.
International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August, 2002.
The Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia, January, 2004.
International Islamic University, Chittagong, Bangladesh, December, 2004.
McGill University, Montreal, Canada, September, 2005.
Asian University of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh, December, 2005.
The Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia, December, 2006.
[ix] The phrase ‘people of faith and of good faith’ covers those having religious faith and honesty of intention as well as those who may lack the religious faith but still have the honesty of intention.
2. A christian understanding of community, as developed by Bernard Lietaer
3. An Altruistic Community – Working for Love Not Money – We are an optimistic, positive community with members from both the under- and the over-developed world. We are united by our commitment that a money-centred struggle for personal gain is no way to make the world a better place. We try to ignore money but put people at the heart of what we do, concentrating on what will be of real benefit to others. http://www.altruists.org
4. A companion site generated from the work of the weekly Global Table at Euston http://www.globaljusticemovement.net
5. A reflection comes to this site that gives weight to the understanding that faith is a contribution to public life and that ‘none of us can be fully human, until all are human’:-
It is certainly true that no man can bear the burden of another before God’s judgment. That does not, however, absolve each of us from our individual responsibility to God and to our fellows. It is reported in your accounts of the Gospel, that Jesus was asked about God’s commandments and which was the most important. He said:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God. The Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is similar to it: You shall love you neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law [Torah] and the Prophets [nevi’im or prophetic books].
Our neighbour is anyone with whom we are in contact, whether it is our near neighbour or someone in a faraway land who becomes known to us. Jesus tells us that we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and visit the prisoner. Such acts of love are considered by Jesus to be acts of love toward him. And failure to do such acts is an injury to him.
The scriptures are full of exhortations to charity:
• To do good, and to distribute, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Heb. xiii. 16.
• Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts xx. 35.
• While we have time, let us do good unto all men; and especially unto them that are of the household of faith. Gal. vi. 10.
It is clear here that the commandment to help others goes beyond those who are members of the Church.
• Whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him’? 1 St. John iii 17. “Brother” here is not limited to our biological brother or our faith brother, but to all members of the human family.
A collect that I still remember from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer reminds us that:
Almighty God “hast made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
While our responsibility is individual, we cannot simply ignore the social, political and religious context in which we live. We must find practical ways to fulfil our individual responsibility and that often means working with and through communities, groups, institutions, governments, etc. As for not being “yoked with the unbelievers” who are under the sway of the “Prince of this world”. Jesus was well aware of that attitude and he condemned it by an example of the unlimited scope of his own works, in a parable from the Gospel accounts:
And, behold, a woman of Canaan [i.e. a non-Israelite] came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Matthew 15:22-28)
If an individual who could have acted does nothing and as a result lays up for himself increased wealth at the expense and to the detriment of his brothers and sisters (whether near or far), he will, as an individual, stand before the Eternal Judge and be called to account for his selfishness and sins of inaction. As individuals, we have given over our governance to collective entities and we have collectively created means for the distribution of wealth. In that context, we are obliged to do all that we can to be sure the social institutions that act in our stead do the right thing. I cannot go to Darfur and care for a victim of the violence. But I can contribute money to groups that are there (whether faith groups or other NGOs) and I can speak out to encourage my government or my church to do something useful. If I do nothing, I will have failed to keep the second greatest commandment: to love my neighbour as myself. The fact that my responsibility before God is always individual and not collective does not negate the fact that we are social beings. We group ourselves into families, villages, nations, and many other collectives. We have an individual social responsibility for what goes on in the social groups that make up the world.
While the “systems of this world”, as you put it, may be the “domain of the Prince of this world”, they are not necessarily his exclusive dominion. Simple abandoning dominion to him is an act of blasphemy since God has made us stewards of his creation. We, not Satan, are the God’s vicars on earth for the responsible use of the earth’s bounty.
Charity (almsgiving) is an act of worship, as the offertory sentence makes plain:
All things come from you O Lord and from your own have we given you.
What we individuals do with our wealth, whether individually or through collective means, is an act of worship and a necessary link between God’s justice and His mercy. If we neglect to use the means at hand to distribute the world’s riches, we commit a grave sin–even if the only means available or collective and imperfect.
6. An extreme example of Christian witness in holding all things in common http://www.bruderhof.co.uk/
7. Challenging the Bible http://nexuspub.com/articles/2006/interview_bishop_spong.htm