holy-toastA while back I asked whether or not the free global market can be regarded as a religion (you can read the post here)? My question was inspired by an essay I wrote as an undergraduate theology student some eight or nine years ago, in which I came to the conclusion that it very well may be seen as a quasi-religion, if not as a religion proper. Some of the reasons for this are…

1. We often speak of the Market as a “mystery withdrawn from us”, something beyond ourselves that for example demands certain behavior, rewards correct action and punishes us if we are disobedient (the Market demands that we make certain cuts in the budget, the work force, accept certain national policies etc).

2. The Market also has a specific end in view, a specific mission: a total global market in which everything is for sale (in this sense the religion of the Market is monotheistic, it clearly wants to the only god followed and worshipped).

3. The Market is providential, that is, it sustains and preserves the order of things, and provides the best of all possible worlds.

pencil-toppers14. To be a follower of the Market also involves an aspect of faith: As we’ve seen in the economical developments this autumn, there’s an element of unpredictability in all things financial, and we need to trust the system and that it in the end is benevolent (even if we not always understand it, or if the developments that are occurring at the moment seem to suggest otherwise).

5. The religion of the Market involves a certain ethical behavior: for the system to work smoothly people need to possess virtues such as  honesty, truth-telling, trust, self-interest and individualism. 

6. The Market also involves a certain teaching, or systematic theology: the theories of scarcity, price mechanisms, property, free trade etc. Or to quote my own essay: “The market economy clearly teaches that the right way to wealth and prosperity is the road of open markets, free trade, and the right to own property, while the road to economic stagnation is mercantilism, protectionism, statism, and increased governmental control.”

7. The religion of the Market has its own prophets (business analysists etc) and priests (stock brokers, real estate agents, salespeople etc who turn commodities into money and money into commodities).

8. The Market also provides people with a “matrix of meaning”, it gives us a specific world-view, a way to view the meaning of life and purpose for human kind.

glitter-jesusSome suggest that the religion of the Market in fact is the ultimate religion – because it has managed to turn other religions into commodities, which means that a certain thing can be marketed and sold at a certain price. I took the pictures shown here at a stationary shop in Chester when we were in England last week – now anyone can own a glitter Jesus, amazing isn’t it?! I think they can serve as a good illustration to what we’re dealing with. Religion in general, and sometimes Christianity, is something we can buy, consume and make into an accessory, something that I add to my life like a new bag or shoes. 

Well, anyway, if the free global market can be viewed as a (quasi) religion, how does a person who wants to the a faithful follower of Jesus deal with all this (and I’m not talking about whether or not to buy a glitter Jesus…)? How do we live as faithful followers of Jesus in a society so fundamentally affected by (the religion of) the free global market? Does it even matter?