As I write this I have just heard Donald Trump repeat the phrase “America First” again and emphasise the need for building the economy through creating jobs and revitalising home-grown industry and productivity.
There are many issues raised by this new presidency which for me are completely at odds with the message of the Christian Gospel perhaps most importantly the nature of the campaign and subsequent legislation which seems to set out to divide race, faith groups and ethnicity.
Perhaps equally importantly the issue of putting one’s own priorities first fit least comfortably with The Gospel passage (Matthew 19:16-22) in which Jesus says
“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
This is primarily about following Jesus but also challenges us about how Christians should view possessions and money.
I am particularly interested in how the passage from Matthew reflects on the current world stage and whether it is possible for a country’s economy to reflect this also. A good book to read on the subject is ‘Just Living’ by Ruth Valerio in which she explores the whole issue of ‘Faith and Community in an age of Consumerism’ and raises some important points about what productivity and creativity are for. God himself has been involved in creation and has given that same gift of creativity to humankind. It is natural that we should want to use and encourage others to use these same gifts to explore, to make things, to develop and refine.
But I am saddened by the inward looking way in which we can justify creativity. I am a great fan of the TV series ‘The Apprentice’, in which young business entrepreneurs compete for Alan Sugar’s backing. Of course I am very aware that significant editing produces a programme which highlights confrontation and competition thus making it more watchable! The disappointing part is that very rarely do the competitors propose a business which is anything other than relatively trivial as happened in the last series where one of the finalists was seeking support for his business of making novelty goods.
And we can begin to see instances in the wider world where large civil projects such as HS2 are often justified by the number of jobs they will create regardless it seems of the actual need of the project.
We are all consumers and we easily justify the need to upgrade to the latest phone or TV or tablet thus encouraging the disposability that seems to be at the heart of the need for higher productivity. But there are other ways of doing things. You may be aware of Sweden’s proposed legislation which gives tax breaks on repairs for everything from washing machines to bicycles. Now I am not an economist and it might appeal to my (sometimes annoying habit – ask my wife!) principal of ‘repair first, replace second’ but there has to be something here worth considering which could actually create work.
There is of course so much more to say and as always I am happy to explore the issues further with those interested but to sum up I want to ask what, or who, comes first for you?
For me it is following Jesus and the recognition that having made that decision, it should a affect all aspects of life and living, giving and generosity, productivity and creativity.
Deacon Richard Beckett