Monday, January 26, 2009

Caviar and Concepts: A Teaching Moment for the Church?

detail, Old Woman Examining a coin by a Lantern, by Gerrit van Honthorst,(1592-1556)

"Caviar Days are over" for the World Economic Forum at Davos, according to this article. The Masters of the Universe are making do with ham and cheese and white wine, instead of lobster, caviar and Dom Perignon. And Jean-Pierre Lehmann, professor at the IMD business school, is resorting to religious language to describe the situation:

"Citigroup used to throw big parties. So did Goldman Sachs and the others. But the mood this year is very different." Davos, he noted, was founded on the "dogma of business leadership" which in recent months has been choking on fallout from the credit crisis fallout. "There was always a certain element of evangelism capitalism during previous years' Davos. You don't get fundamental debate on the system," he said.

Lehman is on the lookout for "acts of contrition" this year, as bankers and other captains of industries are under the spotlight for their role in the financial crisis.

Is the City of God ready to enter the collapsing City of Man? Certainly the latter is beginning to appropriate its language; and that offers us a huge opportunity. Are we able to recognize it, and use it as a "teaching moment?" Are there "bilingual" Christians prepared to enter the halls of finance, listen to the conversations happening there, and explain the original, authentic meanings of these terms? Missionaries can come in all kinds of dress, and not only to people who live in poverty!
The greatest tragedy would be if such words lost their tethering in the Christian narrative, were absorbed into the commerce of the Market, and were thus stripped of their theological power. May God raise up men and women who will take advantage of the present financial crisis to witness to the Living Word.

ADDENDUM, 1/29/09 On yesterday's Marketplace, I heard the following segment, where Scott Jagow asked about the mood at Davos. Diane Brady replied:

Diane Brady: I think the general mood is a real sense of confusion. There's a sense that there's going to be unprecedented government intervention in the next year, and so there's more CEOs and chairpersons than ever in the history of Davos. There's also more world leaders here, so I think you're dealing with people whose industries have collapsed in a way that they've never seen, and they're trying to figure out what will get the world out of this, nevermind their own companies.

Confusion...loss of control...collapse...just the sort of tinder the Holy Spirit is able to use.

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