Friday, March 4, 2005

HOLINESS FOLK & THE STOCK MARKET. Once upon a time--at the turn of the 20th century--there was a clear protest among Wesleyan/holiness folk regarding the stock market. Their reasons for non-participation and vocal protest were simple and clear:
  • The stock market was seen as a form of gambling, which spawned heavy spiritual and social liabilities;
  • Stock market trading capitalized industrial monopolies that routinely manipulated, degraded, and abused common laborers;
  • Stock market trading created a false sense of wealth and made the accumulation of money the bottom-line value in society;
  • Stock market trading heavily favored the rich at the expense of the poor;
  • Frequently, stock market-capitalized industrialists accumulated vast amounts of wealth without while insisting on paying unfair or unlivable wages to workers.
  • Stock market-supported financial dealing was transacted with high interest (usury) and often led to crippling debts.
  • All of these practices were in open violation of clear instruction of the Bible and did not lead to the Godly life the Bible describes and which grace makes possible.

THAT WAS THEN. Things have become much more complex since then. While reforms have occurred for laborers and industrial monopolies have been broken up, Wall Street practices and promotions continue to spawn social inequities and unchristian ethical quandaries--now on a global scale. And now, more than ever before, the retirement funds and financial investments of most American Christians are tied up in stock market funds and trading. We are complicit in the impacts of the stock market at home and abroad. It's a very complex situation.

IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM. The general response of Wesleyan/holiness leaders has been to take this "plank" in our historic series of social/ethical "protests" off the table. We have essentially conceded this battle and retreated to the less complex arena of personal sin and salvation. Instead of standing ground and attending to the complexity for the sake of shaping a sophisticated but responsible Christian alternative or transformative witness, we have thrown up our hands and become ever more complicit in Wall Street values. We have become like the world. We have succumbed to this idol that is central to the spirit of the age. And, sadly, most Wesleyan/holiness rank and file don't even (a) realize it, or (b) care to change.

God help us.

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