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Economics

A Free Lunch: The Spiritual Economics of the Church’s Most Cliché Ministry

A Free Lunch: The Spiritual Economics of the Church’s Most Cliché Ministry

Another taste of our recent issue on Food & Drink! Order your copy here! 

The soup kitchen at my church is currently in the midst of a cold war among its volunteers. On one side we have the pro-oil-and-vinegar contingency, armed with organic produce and health concerns; on the other side, the crusaders of ranch dressing are stuck in their ways. You’ll find me standing unapologetically behind oil-and-vinegar lines, and I don’t mean to brag, but, as one of the soup kitchen’s head cooks, I make a bitchin’ salad. Fresh greens (often from a local garden), walnuts, cukes, strawberries if they’re in…

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“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”…and That’s a Good Thing

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”…and That’s a Good Thing

This one comes to us from SM White.

I can’t get no satisfaction…I try and I try and I try and I try…When I’m watchin’ my TV and a man comes on and tells me how white my shirts can be. But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me – The Rolling Stones, 1965

I can’t get no satisfaction. That song was written over 40 years ago, and yet Mick Jagger’s anger at the demands of consumerism still rings true today. “Your life can be improved; it needs to be improved–in fact, you aren’t complete, you haven’t…

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Forgiveness Is Greece's (and Germany's) Only Hope

Forgiveness Is Greece’s (and Germany’s) Only Hope

Central to Christianity is the notion that, at the end of the day, forgiveness is humanity’s only hope. Not performance, or improvement, or willpower, or wishful thinking, but absolution – “nothing but the blood of Jesus,” as the old hymn goes. Apparently, this idea holds in financial markets as well, or so a piece in yesterday’s New York Times claims.

“Germans Forget Postwar History Lesson on Debt Relief in Greece Crisis” is the title, and here are some of the money quotes:

As negotiations between Greece and its creditors stumbled toward breakdown, culminating in a sound rejection on Sunday by Greek voters…

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Grace Is Play: Our Magazine Interview with Nimi Wariboko

Grace Is Play: Our Magazine Interview with Nimi Wariboko

Another free look at our Work and Play Issue. Take our word for it, though…it’s better in print! 

One of the great theological books we discovered last year was Nimi Wariboko’s The Pentecostal Principle, a book which unpacks how the Holy Spirit creates the capacity for new beginnings in human life and communities. He views true religion as play, because it goes beyond the instrumentalism (do this to achieve that) of the Law to make room for spontaneity. According to Wariboko, our ordinary world is constantly open to the Spirit’s disruption with new initiatives, feelings, experiences, communities, and patterns of thought….

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Demanding Answers: The Rise of the Economist

Demanding Answers: The Rise of the Economist

The New York Times dropped a fairly juicy opinion a while back from economist Justin Wolfers about the rise of economists in culture analysis and policy making. It does seem like economists are increasing in social prominence, and as Wolfers mentions, they’re ascending at a quicker pace than the rest of the social sciences. At least, that’s what the anecdotal evidence indicates (that evidence being a study of word counts in archived New York Times past editions). It’s more than just conversations about money, suggests Wolfers–it’s a trend that’s been growing as national economies have become global and more intertwined:

It wasn’t always this way. Historians…

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When A Measure Becomes a Target

When A Measure Becomes a Target

We are now just a couple weeks out from the release of Issue Two of The Mockingbird. It is the Identity Issue, and you won’t believe what all it has to say about, well, you. If you’re not subscribed yet, subscribe here.

In anticipation for the release, we’ll continue posting a selection of pieces from the first issue, including this essay from Will McDavid on the “Economics of Repentance.” To read the essay in full, go to the magazine’s webpage, here.

“The first messenger that gave notice of Lucullus’s coming was so far from pleasing Tigranes that he had his head cut off for…

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A "Love Affair With Lock and Key": Reflections on Criminal Justice

A “Love Affair With Lock and Key”: Reflections on Criminal Justice

In September of this year, we missed an interesting article over at the The Guardian profiling the then-governor of Bastoy Prison, one of the most successful prisons in the world, located in Norway. ‘Success’ immediately raises the question of what success looks like, and we could say there are two major approaches to this term: the first, ‘success’ in terms of making inmates less likely to reoffend, and second, ‘success’ in terms of how much prisoners serve a just punishment equal to their crime.

The second seems a bit vindictive, though most people would be if they were the victims of these…

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Anxious About Grace: Some Thoughts on Max Weber

Anxious About Grace: Some Thoughts on Max Weber

Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) has been immensely influential, with the “Weber thesis” being one of the most well-known Interesting Ideas around.  The idea, basically, is that Protestantism, especially in Calvinist and Wesleyan and Baptist and ‘Pietistic’ forms, has been a major contributor to the ‘Spirit’ behind capitalism.

But there’s so much more. In looking at religious ideas not strictly in terms of their truth or doxological value, but also in terms of emphases and influence, Weber helped map out a distinctly modern way of doing and evaluating theology.

When I read his book, I hear…

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Jesus (and TAL): Give Cash to Poor People

Jesus (and TAL): Give Cash to Poor People

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6.30).

Of all Jesus’ commandments which his followers expressly disobey (my personal fave being Matthew 6:1 where he instructs his audience “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them”–ironically enough, the lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday(!)), his instruction that we should “give to all who ask” is, perhaps, the one against which we have built the strongest fortification. In fact, if one were to reconstruct Jesus’ teaching on generosity based on the actions and teachings…

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The Law of Lightbulbs

The Law of Lightbulbs

Andrew Sullivan alerted his readers to a new study whose results should come as no surprise to readers of this blog. The study came from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was picked up by grist.org. Here is how grist.org described the study:

With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL) . . . . Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost…

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The invisible made visible

Lunatic Faith, Computer Digits, & the Myth of Money

This American Life and Planet Money recently produced an episode titled “The Invention of Money.” You can listen to it here.

The story places the concept of money into the framework of faith, mainly due to the fact that money is no longer a physical object with tangible value like gold. Instead, it is fiction, myth, a number generated on a computer, passing through the internet. With just the push of a button, we’ve got the genesis of currency; something they call in the story “Opening the Fed Window.” The only way this money-myth has value is if people have faith…

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The Perils of Bait-and-Switch: or Why do WWII Veterans Still Hate the Red Cross?

The Perils of Bait-and-Switch: or Why do WWII Veterans Still Hate the Red Cross?

Last week’s Planet Money Podcast unknowingly stumbled upon a Law-Gospel goldmine! Exploring the economic dynamics of “free” (see also here!), the podcast specifically looks at what happens when something that was free is now no longer free. What happens when you charge money for something that was once free of charge?

Ask any veteran of WWII about the Red Cross and surprisingly to this day many distrust and despise what most people consider to be a beacon of benevolence (Katrina debacle notwithstanding). Apparently it all goes way back to the Red Cross’s decision during WWII to begin to charge soldiers for…

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