Discussion questions for ch 4

CONNECT: How do you feel?

1.  Remember a recent shopping trip, and describe the stores you shopped in (what the store looked like, what you selected, where you paid, etc.). Wherever you shop, are you aware of the shopping environment?

2.  Think of a person you know well and love.  If that person is viewed primarily as a consumer, what important qualities are ignored?

3.  Do persons without money to buy things show up on the radar of this market view of humanity?


4.    Sallie McFague writes, “We have allowed economic theory to tell us who we are; we have let it become our ideology, even our religion. We have allowed the economy not just to produce things but people….”  Do you agree with McFague when she says,
“We have become consumers — not citizens, or children of God, or lovers of the world, but consumers.(p. 96).  

CONTENT: What do you think?

1.   Part Two of Life Abundant, ‘The Context of Planetary Theology,’ explores two powerful worldviews, mental pictures that tell us what the world is like. The neo-classical economic worldview is dominant in our own time. In this worldview, what is the role of human beings? What is the role of the natural world?

2.   McFague suggests that the neo-classical economic worldview might be seen as the new religion of our time.  How do ‘the faithful’ express their devotion in this ‘religion?’  (see p. 84)

3.  McFague argues that the neo-classical economic worldview developed in a time when most individuals still experienced themselves as living within binding communities, and this sense of the individual-in-community mitigated the strong individualism of original market capitalism; but today many people experience themselves as living outside binding communities, and their lack of community awareness has led to rampant individualism and unregulated growth.  Do you agree with McFague’s analysis?

4.  McFague says that the primary goal of our current economic system is to satisfy the desires of individuals. She suggests this economic worldview (satisfying endless desire through unlimited growth) could be modified by adopting two new goals: sustainability (facing the limits of the planet’s resources) and distributive justice (ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources).   In our nation’s current political-economic arguments, do you hear echoes of McFague’s suggestions?  Do you have hope that our culture can move towards McFague’s goals?

5.  McFague writes, “Economics is a discipline, a field of study to help people attain their goals; it is not, or should not be, the ideology that sets those goals.” (see p. 95) To pressure our culture to adopt the goals of sustainability and distributive justice, what should be the role of economists? politicians?  theologians? individual Christians? Christian communities?

COMMITMENT: What can you do?

1. What would an “enough” style of consuming look like in your personal life? 

2.  Review McFague’s discussion of climate change and global warming. (p. 90  How would North Americans (and others) have to change their life-styles to deal with these issues?

2 thoughts on “Discussion questions for ch 4

  1. The concluding paragraph in a Washington Post magazine article on Skytruth, a nonprofit organization that uses satellite imagery to map environmental events, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/skytruth-the-environment-and-the-satellite-revolution/2013/07/31/3a1d181a-d52b-11e2-b05f-3ea3f0e7bb5a_story.html, was omitted from the version published on the front page of the local newspaper:

    “This is the world we’ve built for ourselves — the modern world runs on hydrocarbons — but you have to wonder, floating in a little metal box thousands of feet in the air, if this is the kind of truth we want to leave behind as our mark on Earth, as our scratchmark, as Faulkner had it, on the face of oblivion.”

    I stopped attending church meetings after a young woman approached me breathlessly one Sunday, eager for the advertising section of my Sunday paper, so she could have the coupons. Coupon use has become very popular, even the subject of women’s group programs. Encouraging women to focus their attention on corporate marketing programs is the opposite direction from my work, which is to work toward sustainable living and self-sufficiency. To rely on coupons — which to me advertise how over-priced the merchandise already is, and support expensive packaging, processed food and corporate advertising and profits — cannot be aligned with my beliefs.

    I feel isolated from community, finding like-minded colleagues among my professional writing groups but little personal connection. Our own community of Cambria is as clearly divided as the national political scene. The facts of resource limitation — in our case, water — are deeply felt by one side, and ignored by others who see growth as desirable and profitable. The willful insistence on pursuing profit at any cost to resources or the environment or, indeed, any other consequences, mystifies me. One local leader, responding to the legal limits already in place, once declared, “It’s only words on a piece of paper. We don’t have to pay any attention to this.”

    A USDA poster from World War II announces that keeping chickens is your patriotic duty, http://poultrybookstore.blogspot.com/2013/08/your-patriotic-duty.html. “In time of peace, a profitable recreation. In time of war, a patriotic duty!” The community feeling that underlies this poster’s assumptions feels quaint.

    Our area could be a model of sustainability. Cambria, a small town, could make itself sustainable and carbon neutral, energy sufficient, fill in other buzz words here. A colleague lives in Tamworth, NH, where the community has a free public nurse, http://www.tamworthnurses.org/. Her husband was able to come home from the hospital sooner after surgery than he would have been able, if that support weren’t there.

    People are forming intentional communities. The video Visions of Utopia shows how many different ways people can organize themselves, http://www.tamworthnurses.org/. Perhaps leadership to new ways of forming community will emerge from one of them.

  2. From the Comment section following A Republican Case for Climate Action, op-ed in the NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/opinion/a-republican-case-for-climate-action.html?_r=2&:

    It’s nice, this essay, but little more than that. Real change will not come this way. It will take serious action at the grass roots — marches, sit-ins, pray-ins, vote-ins.
    At The Shalom Center and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, we have undertaken a campaign to Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP). We are urging households, congregations, pension funds, etc to move our money from investing in fossil-fuel companies to companies that are developing and selling renewable energy and companies meeting needs for healthy food and energy production in poor and working-class areas. Check in with us at https://www.theshalomcenter.org or write us at Office@theshalomcenter.org
    We plan a pre-Passover/ Holy Week challenge to the modern Pharaohs & Caesars that are bringing modern plagues upon the Earth.
    The Earth is a sacred Temple of all cultures, all life-forms. We need to purify it from the CO2 and methane that are burning it from within.
    Blessings of the devotion & commitment to work for shalom, salaam, paz, peace for all of us and all the earth — Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

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