Parecon and the Christian Left
By Boyd Collins at Aug 10, 2008
As a member of the progressive Christian blog and website CrossLeft, I have been arguing for a Parecon-oriented economic vision and stirring up a lot of interest. One of our members, Kety Esquivel, was on CNN in the last couple of days, presenting the results of a questionnaire we made to Barack Obama and John McCain, particularly regarding issues of interest to Latinos. We are also about to release a Progressive Christian Policy Statement that will be presented to the Obama campaign through one of our members. As a Znet sustainer, I am strongly in favor of the Parecon vision, as well as a long time peace activist and blogger at the nonviolentjesus.blogspot.com blog. My viewpoint, derived from the Latin American liberation theologians, is that, far from being incompatible with progressive economic visions, Christianity actually supplies very strong support for them. I'd like to explore some the linkages between liberation theology and Parecon if anyone's interested.
To get things rolling, here is an exerpt from a recent post that started the controversy which continues to rage. One of our members just published a book called "The Socialist Christian". Thinking he wasn't sufficiently radical, I replied to his initial post announcing the main themes of the book as follows: "...Without diving into terminology wars about 'capitalism' and 'socialism', I'd like to respond to and expand on the social insights in Kristof's postings. First a few widely admitted points about the current economic system. It is based on the private ownership of the means of production. It sounds like Kristof [the author of The Socialist Christian] would defend this right, but would add some government-based protections for the vast majority who are not owners. Yet in such an economic system, the interests of owners and workers are inherently opposed. The owners tend to profit more and get higher stock prices for their companies if 1) workers get less pay; 2) workers get fewer benefits; 3) workers work more intensely with less time off; and 4) workers are organizationally weak. Viewed purely economically, I doubt many would contest these facts. Such an economic system works directly against the virtue of solidarity, one of the primary Christian values. In other words, as Kristof so forcefully maintains, our primary duty as Christians is to care for others, which implies solidarity, shared interests, common aspirations toward justice and equality. Yet this economic system not only works against solidarity, but makes those who obey their conscience less competitive.
Government programs...ameliorate the worst effects of the system without challenging its basic dynamic. That being the case, it will always tend to revert to its pure form which is laissez-faire capitalism, as it has since 1980. As a Christian who believes that Jesus came to remake both heaven and earth, I wonder if we believers of today might not be capable of the same imaginative restructuring as the early Apostles, though in a manner appropriate to our time. Which is to say a way of creating a mutually beneficial economy which produces care and empathy between players rather than a zero sum game. Christians have been taught that this economy is simply fallen human nature writ large, but is that really the case? And should we not even attempt to redeem it?"
Somehow this statement managed to spark a major controversy and interestingly, some posters seemed quite interested in the Parecon approach to solidarity. I used my study of Parecon to clarify the critique of the current economic system from the point of view of building Christian solidarity and it seems to have been well-received. Is there anyone else out there following similar paths? We actually have a chance to influence the Obama campaign.