Rediscovering Values On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street – by Jim Wallis [updated Feb 15, 2013]

A moral compass for the new economy—one that will guide us on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street.

When we start with the wrong question, no matter how good an answer we get, it won’t give us the results we want. Rather than joining the throngs who ask “When will this economic crisis be over?” Jim Wallis says the right question to ask is “How will this crisis change us?”

The worst thing we can do now, Wallis tells us in Rediscovering Values, is to go back to normal. Normal is what got us into this situation. We need a new normal, and this economic crisis is an invitation to discover what that means. Here are some of the principles Wallis unpacks for our new normal:

• Spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need is a bad foundation for an economy or a family.
• It’s time to stop keeping up with the Joneses and start making sure the Joneses are okay.
• The values of commercials and billboards are not the things we want to teach our children.
• Care for the poor is not just a moral duty but is critical for the common good.
• A healthy society is a balanced society in which markets, the government, and our communities all play a role.
• The operating principle of God’s economy says that there is enough if we share it.

In this wide-ranging discussion of the moral issues raised by our deep and wide economic crisis, Wallis argues that change needs to come from families, communities, and our whole society. These kinds of changes are never quick or easy solutions but, rather, long-term shifts that we must choose and rechoose every day.

The Great Recession: A Spiritual Crisis – Jim Wallis
The Great Recession is not just an economic crisis, it is the result of a loss of values, a moral crisis. And to say that it is a moral crisis is also to say that it is a spiritual crisis. At the center of most religions is the question of who and what we worship? Where is our deepest allegiance?

So the Great Recession bears some “religious” reflection, as the market has gradually become all pervasive–a replacement for religion and even for God. It is the Market now that now seems to have all the godlike qualities–all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, even eternal–unable to be resisted or even questioned. Performing necessary roles and providing important goods and services are not the same things as commanding ultimate allegiance. Idolatry means that something has taken the place of God. The market can be good thing and even necessary; but it now commands too much, claims ultimate significance, controls too much space in our lives, and has gone far beyond its proper limits.

Idolatry comes in a lot of different forms. Today, it is much more subtle than bowing down to a golden calf. It often takes the form of choosing the wrong priorities, trusting in the wrong things, and putting our confidence where it does not belong.

Today, instead of statues, we now have hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, 401(k)s, and mutual funds and, for some, bonuses. We place blind faith in the hope that the stock indexes will just keep rising and real estate prices keep climbing. Market mechanisms were supposed to distribute risk so well that even those who were reckless would never see the consequences of their actions. Trust, security, and hope in the future were all as close to us as the nearest financial planner’s office. Life and the world around us could all be explained with just the right market lens. These idols were supposed to make us happy and secure, and provide for all our needs. Those who manage them became the leaders, to whom we looked, not just for financial leadership, but direction for our entire lives. That is indeed idolatry.

Rich and poor alike were sucked into making heroes out of those who seemed to be able to turn everything they touched into gold. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel lost virtually all of his personal wealth and his foundation’s, up to $37 million, to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “We gave him everything, we thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands,” Weisel said.

The market even has its priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and shamans. These money and market commentators translate the often confusing signals of the Dow, international currency exchange rates, or futures indexes and tell us all what they mean and how they should act as a result. Sometimes they preach famine and the retribution of the market for the sins of the people, and other times they praise the market and the feast it provides. Those who question the market “god” are called heretics and lunatics and are burned at the stake on conservative talk radio.

In claiming the power to define what is real and true, and bowing to no limits beyond itself, the market now claims “a comprehensive wisdom that in the past only the gods have known,” according to theologian Harvey Cox. And like a god to be feared and worshipped, we now can even know the market’s moods on a daily basis–moody, angry, restless, or satisfied. And to even question the market’s “high priests” and their declarations is now to commit heresy. The worship of this false god, The Market, has become quite ecumenical. Across denominational and faith persuasions, herds of us are bowing down to the doctrines and dictates of The Market.

But this crisis presents us with an opportunity, not just to be smarter and more prudent about our economic lives, but to change something much deeper–to reject the idolatry of our market worship, to expose the idols that have ensnared us, and to reduce “The Market” to simply “the market,” asking the market to again serve us, rather than the other way around. According to John Deere CEO, Bob Lane, the market is to be “a means, and not an end.” That’s good theology.

Indeed, it could be that the religions of the world might help lead the way here, challenging the idols of the market and reminding us who is God and who is not–a traditional and necessary role for religion. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein,” say both Christianity and Judaism: it does not belong to the market. Let us also remember that human beings are merely stewards of God’s creation; not its masters. And we humans are the ones who preside over the market–not the other way around.

And despite our differences, the religion of the market has become a more formidable rival to every religion than we are to one another. But together now, we could challenge the dominion of the market, by again restoring the rightful worship of God. The market’s false promise of its limitless infinity must be replaced with the acknowledgment of our human finitude, with more humility and with moral limits–which are essential to restoring our true humanity. The market’s fear of scarcity must be replaced with the abundance of a loving God. And the first commandment of The Market, “There is never enough,” must be replaced by the dictums of God’s economy; namely, there is enough, if we share it.

For people of faith, there is another question: What is a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic response to a deepening economic crisis like this? What should people of faith be thinking, saying, and doing? What is the responsibility of the churches, synagogues, and mosques to their own parishioners, to their communities, to the nation, and the world? And where is God in all this?

What do pastors, lay leaders, activists, and practitioners say about creative opportunities and new solutions that could come out of all this: the possibilities of mutual aid, congregational and community credit unions, and new cooperative strategies for solving problems like health care, housing, and even jobs. How can an economic crisis reconnect religious congregations with their own communities? How might a crisis be an opportunity to clarify the mission of the faith community?

One good example of a response is the Vineyard Church of Columbus, Ohio. On Palm Sunday, Pastor Rich Nathan told his congregation, “We want to help families and individuals who have lost their jobs by taking a special offering.” The collection that followed was an amazing surprise to everyone – raising $625,000! The church is now using these funds to provide resources, coaching, counseling, and networking events to assist people with securing employment; to both its members and the wider community.

And at a larger level, the basic teachings of our faiths, from our many traditions, offer useful correctives to the practices that brought us to this sad place. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount instructs us not to be anxious about material things, a notion that runs directly counter to the frenzied pressure of modern consumer culture. Judaism teaches us to leave the edges of the fields for the poor to “glean” and welcome those in need to our tables. And Islam prohibits the practice of usury. And the core religious values of simplicity, stewardship, humility, patience, and modesty are now just what we need.

This is already a time of great anxiety for many. But it could also be a time of prayerful self-evaluation, redirection, and even new relationships with others in our congregations and communities, with our families and children, and even with our God.

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Bestselling author Jim Wallis on his new book, Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street argues that the economic crisis affords us an incredible opportunity to rescue our culture from commercialism and create a moral social order. Wallis provides a moral compass for our new emerging economy.

The Power of Silence: The Riches That Lie Within ~ Graham Turner

In the modern world, we are assaulted on all sides by noise, but silence can change your life—this book explains why and how.
Many people find the very notion of silence uncomfortable, even alarming or embarrassing. They are gripped by a kind of agoraphobia of the spirit. Many try to obliterate silence by turning up the volume control of music or television, or the volume of their days.

The Power of Silence
explores the world of silence—a mysterious and unfathomable realm, perhaps the most underused of all resources—and those who recognize its value. It is based on extensive interviews with those whose business is silence and who understand its creative and therapeutic uses.

Graham Turner explores how the desert fathers sought silence and solitude. Psychotherapists talk of the creative value of silence in their practice as do—perhaps surprisingly—musical composers. The great Catholic centers of contemplation are investigated, as are the practitioners of Zen and those who try to heal the sickness of the mind.
A silent moment is time for tranquility and reflection—something beyond ourselves. The value of welcoming quiet has become a great gap in modern human awareness, and this book seeks to restore our belief in the power of silence.

After gaining a first class degree at Oxford, Graham Turner worked for The Scotsman and The Sunday Times. He then became nationally recognized as the BBC’s first Economics Correspondent. Thereafter he worked for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph writing substantial features which had considerable national influence. He currently lives in Oxford.

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Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self by Suzanne Segal

She thought she had gone mad, but she was enlightened and didn’t know it! Some people spend years in caves trying to experience what suddenly happened to Suzanne Segal. This is the incredible story of a young woman who irrevocably lost all sense of personal self, or an “I”.

It is the story of her mind’s desperate attempts to come to grips with — or deny! — her spiritual condition, a process which took eight years.–

Collision with the Infinite is an extraordinary work. One day over twelve years ago, Suzanne Segal, a young American woman living in Paris, stepped onto a city bus and suddenly and unexpectedly found herself egoless, stripped of any sense of a personal self. Struggling with the terror and confusion produced by that cataclysmic experience, for years she tried to make sense of it, seeking the help of therapist after therapist. Eventually, she turned to spiritual teachers, coming at last to understand that this was the egoless state, the Holy Grail of so many spiritual traditions, that elusive consciousness to which so many aspire.

This book is her story, her own account of what such a terrifying event meant to her when it crashed into her everyday life, and what it means to her now. Her sense of the personal “I” has never returned, and she lives in that heightened spiritual awareness to this day. Stephen Bodian, the former editor of Yoga Journal who wrote the introduction, found her to be “a fearless, joyful being who radiates love and whose spiritual wisdom was equal to that of the masters and sages I most respected.”

Unlike so many spiritual accounts, Collision with the Infinite is written in a completely lucid, nonmystical, straightforward manner, instantly understandable to Westerners and filled with luminous clarity. Nowhere in these pages, in fact, do we have the sense of invasive ego or self-promotion, and Ms. Segal presents us with a remarkable glimpse into “the mystery in which all abides,” that egolessness which seekers have pursued since spiritual quests began.

Suzanne Segal (1955–1997) was a New Age writer and teacher about spiritual enlightenment, known for her sudden experience of depersonalization which she wrote about in her book Collision With the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self. In addition to gaining note in the spiritual community, Segal became a model case of the dissociative condition known as depersonalization disorder (DPD).

Along her journey some therapists formally diagnosed her with DPD, while others did not have clear explanations. The books Feeling Unreal: Depersonalization Disorder and the Loss of the Self and Stranger to My Self: Inside Depersonalization; the Hidden Epidemic profiled Segal’s experience and writing. Two years after the shift into a sense of unity, Segal relapsed into the uncomfortable state of constant anxiety she had first experienced. At this point she returned to exploring psychological themes…

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