by Randy Ataide
Executive Director of Fermanian Business and Economic Institute
All of us have seen the humorous Capitol One commercials with the burly Vikings asking the catchy question “What’s in your wallet?” In the next few months, PLNU’s community will have multiple opportunities to enter into not only the “what” of our wallets, but also the why, how, where and when of them.
In April, PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation will be hosting Ched Meyers, a biblical scholar and popular educator. Meyers is a noted author, organizer and advocate who for 30 years has challenged and encouraged Christians to engage in peace and justice work and radical discipleship. At chapel and at Brewed Awakening, Meyers will interact with the PLNU community about his vision of compassion, equity and justice. Meyers’s writing and language are freely sprinkled with terms such as radical economics, ecojustice, jubilee and other phrases, all of which are concepts and recommendations that are uncommon to most conversations on economics.
But are Meyers’s views on economics correct? While I am not presently drawing any personal conclusions on his views, I must admit that I often wince when I hear church leaders, pastors and theologians speak on business and economic issues. While they may properly identify an unjust situation, I think that they frequently show little understanding of practical economic realities, especially when it comes to the operations of businesses and the decision-making processes that we use. All too often, sharp lines are drawn as if Christians engaged in business are not “fully” Christians, and that such efforts and endeavors are far apart from “God’s work.”
In the book “Church on Sunday, Work on Monday,” Laura Nash of Harvard Business School and Scotty McLennan, dean of religious life at Stanford University, suggest that business and economics are not as simple as religious leaders tend to think they are. Capitalism is frequently reduced to a monolithic concept labeled as “the market,” which inevitably exploits all participants except the most powerful. In my own experience, misconceptions about the marketplace create hurtful and inaccurate stereotypes that portray even Christian businesspeople as uncaring, unthinking, exploitative and unengaged. Events of the past few years that led to a global economic crisis certainly do need examination and critique, but we should work toward a richer and more accurate view of business and economics than is often portrayed – one comprising numerous relationships and actions, full of nuances and complexities.
Spurred on by this opportunity for the PLNU community to engage with Meyers, other PLNU voices will attempt to expand upon Meyers’s message. This encompasses a desire to have a deeper dialogue on the important issues of personal and communal economic decisions. Jamie Gates and I will appear in a follow-up chapel to discuss radical and jubilee economics, and faculty members of the department of sociology and the Fermanian School of Business will engage in a series of articles to appear preceding Meyers’s time at PLNU in April. There will likely be diverse opinions expressed on these issues, providing for interesting reading, but more importantly providing time for personal and communal time of study, reflection, prayer and action.
Many of us are looking forward to participating in a vigorous yet temperate and gracious dialogue with Meyers, and sincerely believe that this is an important topic for all of us at PLNU.
To provide the PLNU community a wide variety of perspectives and experiences on economics, the CJR and the FBEI have coordinated a series of students, alums, and professors to share their ideas on a variety of topics, most of which can be found in the PLNU Weekly, the school newspaper. PLNU, the Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR) and the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute (FBEI) value different viewpoints on important topics, and therefore we have also posted the articles here in the News Section (to the right). The opinions expressed in these articles, as well as those of Ched Myer, are those of their individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of PLNU, the CJR or the FBEI.