Christian Council for Monetary Justice
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Peter Challen's address at the
Greenbelt Gathering: 29th August 2005

GREENBELT 2005
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 earth.  

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 the earth.
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 binary economics.

Follow-up:
• CCMJ leaflets were distributed
• "How Money works"‚ by Colin Whitmill was distributed

• " Seven Steps to Justice"‚ was available - signing followed address.

• Suggestion to challenge your MP to examine EDM 390 to your local MP (www.edmi.parliament.uk/edmi)
• Invitation to visit Christian Council for Monetary Justice [www.ccmj.org]

Note
Binary Economics is built on the contemporary insight that:-
Capital and labour are independent or binary‚ factors of production.
Capital has both a productive and a distributive relationship to wealth creation.