The global banking crisis of 2008 and the subsequent advent of economic austerity have prompted many Christians to re-think their approach to money and economics. Theologians and churchgoers in Britain, as opposed to their counterparts in the US, have almost always been on the soggy left of this debate, even before economic meltdown. Just think of the Church of England’s Faith in the City back in 1985, and its undisguised attack on Thatcherism. More recently, various Anglican (and some Catholic) prelates poured criticism on the Coalition’s welfare reform plans.
The guiding principle of many of these Christians is the new creed of post-liberalism: the deeply felt conviction that economic and monetary policy, and indeed public policy as a whole, must be connected with the idea of moral community. With its attack on capitalism and the ‘idol’ of money Theonomics is firmly in the post-liberal tradition. It’s also fundamentally flawed.
Theonomics is a collection of essays edited by an Anglican deacon from Bucks and a retired Benedictine from Sussex. Contributors include the well-known controversialist, the Bishop of Buckingham. Ranging widely from the wisdom of Saint Benedict to Catholic social teachings, this is a deep and dense book that claims to offer a series of reflections on economics ‘written by practitioners’. But practitioners in what, exactly? That’s the problem: only one of the ten mostly clerical contributors appears to have a qualification in economics. The result is a book long on pious observations about how to place ‘human value’ before ‘financial value’, but short on what this means in practice, beyond exhorting us to give more and commit to ethical investments.
Alternatives to the current monetary system are not offered. Like the poor, money will always be with us. One day, even the post-liberals will have to accept this.
JEREMY MOODEY is CEO at Embrace the Middle East