"Some would scoff at primitive cave-dwellers who imagined that their representations of animals on cave walls could magically affect the hunt. Yet today we produce our own talismans, our own systems of magic symbology, and indeed affect physical reality through them. A few numbers change here and there, and thousands of workers erect a skyscraper. Some other numbers change, and a venerable business shuts its doors. The foreign debt of a Third World country, again mere numbers in a computer, consigns its people to endless enslavement producing commodity goods that are shipped abroad. College students, ridden with anxiety, deny their dreams and hurry into the workforce to pay off their student loans, their very will subject to a piece of paper with magical symbols (“Account Statement”) sent to them once every moon, like some magical chit in a voodoo cult. These slips of paper that we call money, these electronic blips, bear a potent magic indeed!"
Subverting the Idolatry of Money With the Love of God
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About the Author
Hi. My name is Jeremiah John. I'm a sf/f writer and activist.
I just completed a dystopian science fiction novel. I run a website which I created that connects farms with churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.
In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity, as one does, while I was in the clink.
We often think of our economies as rational, behaving according to scientific law, like gravity.
But in reality money is a symbolic language with incredible power to determine our actions. When thought of as a magical force to control us, it becomes clear that money is the realm of the idol.
I have recently been thinking about how many of my actions are taken because of my needs within the capitalist economy.
Brother Lawrence offers us another motivation, “It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Can you take the same action, but do it for the love of God? It's really a question of which symbolic framework, God or capitalism, truly determines your actions.
I believe that the love of God can secretly undermine our idolatry of money by giving us an alternate framework of meaning.
How hard it is to imbue this God framework with meaning and power commensurate with money!
When money is "real."
I'm teaching my son to drink breastmilk from a bottle. He's three months old right now. He's so unhappy. I tell him, "Son, this is the first of many sacrifices you'll be making for capitalism. Mom's going back to work." I like to tell him stuff like that.
It's true that she sues multinational corporations for human rights violations, and that's God's work.
Do we do this for the love of God? The immediate framework before me is money. But can I look beyond and see the substrate of my life? The deeper meanings we've constructed?
Remembering our actions are rooted in the love of God reminds us of our deeper meaning. When we remember, we refuse to cash out our meanings and allow them to be grounded in the superficial but powerful totalizing narrative of money.
Loving God is subversive when we allow it to course through our veins instead of money. Can we really let it subvert even our smallest acts? Even picking up a piece of straw?