Trinity Institute: Building an Ethical Economy

This year’s Trinity Institute is taking place today and tomorrow. The topic is Building an Ethical Economy. I was invited by Luther Memorial Church to participate as one of the theological reflection group leaders. To be honest, I was somewhat hesitant, because my background and interest in economics is quite limited. I only took one class in college, and I must of spent much of it sleeping (it met at 2:00 in the afternoon, nap time). I certainly haven’t thought much or read much about the topic in the intervening years, either.

Besides that, Rowan Williams was on the agenda. He’s a brilliant thinker, but a turgid writer. I’d heard him speak more than ten years ago and was very impressed, but I’ve always had trouble understanding his prose, and my perception of him is shaped in part by his work as Archbishop of Canterbury. So I wasn’t expecting a great deal.

Today was great. Williams was brilliant and comprehensible. He pointed out that economics was only one way in which human beings relate to one another and that to reduce everything to economics or the marketplace is false. Money is only a symbol, as language is a symbol. Most importantly, he stressed that the questions we should be asking are about are ultimate end and purpose: human well-being, and that our focus should not be only on the individual but on our shared life, as communities, and as a world community.

He ended by saying that “what makes humanity human is sheer gift, sheer love;” that is to say, God created us in and from love. Love requires relationship and community; that we are “helpless alone, gifted in relationship.”

In the panel discussion that followed his talk and Kathryn Tanner’s, tomorrow’s speaker, Partha Dasgupta said some very insightful and provocative things. I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say tomorrow.

It was fun to sit around in a room and talk about these questions with others. We had an intelligent and provocative conversation.

There’s much more info about the Trinity Institute at its website. Transcripts and webcasts should be available soon.

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