Sacred Economics – The Trouble With Property

Sorry it’s been a while! I was trying to do a chapter a week of this awesome IMG_1638book and then a few things converged at the same time and conspired to make blogging more tricky than I would have liked. And then, I went on holiday with my awesome wife and children and we had some QT in La Belle France. But, now I’m back and ready to plod on….

We were hoping that Charles might be coming to Lancaster, to speak at the Richardson Institute (a centre for peace studies at the university) in the late autumn, but alas, we cant make it work – but he is in York, giving the Schumacher Lecture, Friday 22nd November and then in Leeds on 23rd. (I’ll be in Toronto…..wooot, but sad to miss him!). Go if you can!

Onwards! This chapter is challenging to the core. The age of separation has reached a fullness of times. We find ourselves in cyclical crises, (so if you were thinking that the mini property boom in London is an indication that it’s back to business as usual, then think again!) and the trauma of this separation from one another, our community, nature itself and the divine have remedied themselves in self protectionism. The tragedy of this logic of me and mine, as CE rightly points out is that we seek to recover our loss by expanding and protecting the separate self and its extension: money and property.

So, the modern concept of property, or the ownership thereof is a symptom of imgresthe sovereignty of the individual. If we claim ownership of that for which we did not labour, the land, the rivers, the trees, the resources of the earth, which are a gift to us, then this is tantamount to theft. It was Marx, and others like him that proclaimed “property is robbery”, as the origin of most property was taken by force – witness most of the United States of America as just one example! It was the rich and powerful who seized the land and made the laws. So if property is robbery, then the laws which protect private property, so CE argues, are those which perpetuate a crime.

But he is not advocating the abolition of private property for three reasons. Firstly because abolition is a forceful imposition on the unwilling. Secondly, private property is only a symptom of the deeper sickness of separation. Thirdly, the problem is not necessarily ownership, per se, but the unfair advantages of having it.

So, what do we do? Sell everything we have and give to the poor? A beautifully radical way to live. Jesus challenged a rich young man to do just that. He couldn’t do it, because he loved his wealth and it gave him a status and position that he held too tightly. I often wrestle with wondering if I am like that man…..But then Jesus also says – to whom much is given, much is required…..

Perhaps if we embrace gift, we understand that nothing we possess is really ours. And so we must ask ourselves how we steward that which we have been given, so that it can be given again to the community in which we are embedded. Can our properties become gifts?

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