Click here for part I of this blog series on economy and church.
In part one of this blog series, I referenced an economic "Crash Course" website. In this post and probably other posts that follow, I am going to include some videos from that site because talking about the economy and church requires a foundational understanding of what is happening economically beyond our awareness that we are still trying to recover from a recession that has been hard to shake, and we're all feeling a little vulnerable and unsure.
I want to say that I recognize that in referencing this particular "Crash Course," I'm using a reference point with some particular assumptions behind it. However, I think the author of the "Crash Course" does a pretty good job at distinguishing between facts, beliefs, and opinions as he states is his goal in the first video. I also think the "Crash Course" is the most accessible explanation and history of the United States economy for non-economists available, which is the primary reason I use it as my reference.
The "Crash Course" website consists of twenty very short videos that are as short as one minute and 46 seconds to no longer than twenty minutes. The entire course is 3 hours and 20 minutes long, and I think this subject is important enough to call upon that length of time, whether by short spurts or sitting down with the videos for an evening.
However, knowing that we need some common information right now on which to base this conversation, I am going to include some of the video segments here and hope that the lack of context won't unnecessarily confuse the issues.
First a couple of the fundamentals of what our congregations are facing in terms of a massively shifting economy. If you don't have a lot of time, and feel pretty confident about your knowledge level regarding assets and debt, I'd say it starts to get most interesting around the eight-minute mark:
I show that video first because those are not unfamiliar economic realities, especially given the economic strains of the last couple of years. Somewhat more vague for most of us are the concepts related to the intersection of energy and economics. It takes "Crash Course" author Chris Martenson seventeen chapters to work up to them, but these concepts may be some of the most important:
Around the five-minute and twenty-second mark in the video above, Chris Martenson makes a particularly heart-wrenching educated prediction. He says: "The status quo will be preserved at all costs. Politicians will hide the truth, economic statistics will become even fuzzier, and central banks will continue to throw more and more money at a system that at its core is out of tune with reality."
I want to stop here for a minute and say that it was in October 2008 when Chris Martenson completed the "Crash Course" series. However, I believe I first was introduced to the series in 2007, before its completion, and only in what seemed like the early phases of the recession. By that time, Mr. Martenson had apparently been giving workshops and working on the course for several years. I've been stunned but unsurprised to watch President Obama, a president who had my vote and who continues to have my general support, do exactly what was predicted in his response to what some call "the great recession." That is, he has maintained the status quo at all costs. Again and again. ("Quantitative easing" anyone?) I do not believe this would have been any different with any other politician in the office, nor do I believe it will be any different with any politician who comes after him.
What we are facing is the possibility of deep change:
My basic question is, if there is even a 50-50 chance that such a change is occurring under our feet, what is our religious and moral call to the people in our congregations, our communities, and the world? Who are we called to be at this turning point in history? And how can we actually survive to live out that call?