An Economic Heretic

Not long ago a parishioner told me that she enjoyed reading my religion writings, even if some of them were somewhat "weird.” While she was unable to provide an example, she is quite right. I am not a "normal” minister. In fact, my "weirdness” happens to spill over into other areas, such as economics and politics.

For example, I identify with a writer who uses the word "heretic” to describe a number of us who question the supremacy of a popular economic belief system known as "the economy.” Allow me to explain. The word "worship” literally means "worth-ship,” giving something a high degree of worth. The way "the economy” is spoken about places it into a very high order of worth or value. It is often cited as the reason why jobs have to disappear, the environment trashed, families dislocated and more. In essence, we make it into a god that is worshipped by economists, politicians, business people and the media.

And since, according to my read of scriptures, this is false worship, it would appear that my rejection of the virtual divinity of "The Economy” makes me a heretic – at least according to the high priests of this world. So, as you can see, the member of my church is quite right. I am not normal. My theology doesn’t fit in with the prevailing neo-faith trends of our day.

In fact, all of the prophets of scriptural times were considered to be misfits, out-of-scope, rebellious, anti-establishment and even dangerous. Many of them lost their heads because the powers that be didn’t like such opposition to their power – power that was often covertly religious in nature. Jesus is a famous example of this. When he threw out the money-traders (bankers) from the temple area, he made it clear that money profiting and religion were not to be confused with one another. This challenged the comfy place the high priests had with the political/economic powers of the day, so they got together and dispatched him.

Even a quick reading of history reveals that religion has often been used as a way of propping up the powers that be. Our shameful past with the native residential schools is but one example of this. Giving so much worth to a simple system of measuring the number and value of transactions (called "the economy”), even at the expense of the planet and its people, is rarely questioned. Except by us heretics.

This article was originally published in the Nanaimo News Bulletin, July 2008.Ian Gartshore is a local minister and therapist.