This article explores the nature of the relationship between religion and money, and asserts that the two are interconnected. In exploring the difference that religion makes, Rieger examines how the monetary system can act like religion and how Christ counteracts the blind faith that seems to be a part of economics.
Despite a seemingly never-ending stream of detractors who claim that the message and the goals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement are not clear, there is nothing unclear about the observation of a fundamental tension between the one percent and ninety-nine percent. Furthermore, it is not hard to see why there is such a pervasive sense that Wall Street and other symbols of economic power need to be occupied.
Wall Street, as the location of the New York Stock Exchange, is arguably one of the most occupied places in the world. It is occupied by the unilateral logic of what is now called the one percent. This logic determines not just economic transactions; the course of politics, culture, the media, and even things traditionally considered as private such as personal relationships and religion, are also shaped by the logic of the one percent. Perhaps the major manifestation of this logic in the realm of the economy at present is the assumption that the prosperity of the one percent and government support in the form of tax cuts and bailouts will lead to the creation of jobs and economic prosperity for all. This logic is backed up by various schools of neoliberal capitalism, and evidence to the contrary or dissenting voices are ignored or systematically ridiculed.
Theology and globalization are not two separate subjects. They are organically intertwined rather than artificially connected. As we investigate Christian theology and globalization together, it will become clear that theology can no longer be understood without globalization. Equally important for our topic, however, is that globalization can ultimately not be understood without theology. In this article, different manifestations of the relation of globalization and theology will be examined, investigating both dominant positions and alternative takes. Since the evaluation of these phenomena is complex, moralizing accounts that attribute less than pristine intentions to the other side are not helpful. Instead, we will need to examine what contributions are made to true human well-being and the well-being of the world, and which models correspond best with Judeo-Christian understandings of divine power that is shared rather than hierarchical.
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Empire seeks to control all spheres of life, according to Rieger. Wealth and power are concentrated from the top down and in the hands of a few, and solutions to any problems are expected to come from the top. This scenario denotes God’s involvement as if an older sibling beats a younger sibling and a parent steps in to stop the fight and perhaps punish the older child.
In a speaking engagement at the Chautauqua Institution, Joerg Rieger discusses the difference that Christianity makes in empire building and economics. Reiger explained the dangers behind a neo-liberal mythos of economics that touts a system benefiting the common good, using a “trickle-down” theory, wherein the success of those at the top signifies the imminent success of those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Although this mythos actually hides a class struggle between the haves and have-nots, the reality of theology and of economics means that all levels of society are engaged.