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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Walmart’s Strategic Use of Public Policy on Social Issues

In coming out publicly in favor of the governor of Arkansas rejecting legislation that critics claimed could allow discrimination against gay men and women, Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, put the company squarely in a controversial arena in a very public way. CEO’s typically try to steer their respective companies clear of such controversial waters, fearing that a group of customers opposed to the stance would bolt, and even protest at local stores. So why did Walmart’s CEO enter the fray on the social issue and take a progressive stance in such a conservative state?

Pope Francis: A Poor Church Rich in Humility

Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Pope Francis set about implementing the spirit of the letter after the two last popes had concentrated on holding the Roman Catholic Church in check lest it lose itself in accommodating itself too much to the modern world. On the surface, the pope’s “vision of Vatican II has translated into a dramatic shift in priorities, with an emphasis on social justice over controversial moral teachings” such as on abortion and gay marriage.[1] Calling out the clerical obsession on the “social issues,” the pope sought as he assumed the papacy to provide his colleagues with a dose of perspective. To be sure, the pope did not alter the Church’s position on those issues or on whether divorced Catholics should be allowed to take Communion. Nor did he act on his demand for a “poor church for the poor.”[2] Rather, his main concern was directed against the “theological narcissism,” as he put it, that imposes rather than proposes to the larger secular society.[3] I submit that the pope's primary objective was to change a problematic clerical attitude rather than to rid the Church of its wealth or drastically change the Church's moral stances.

The full essay is at “Pope Francis.”

[1] Francis X. Bocca, “The New Rome,” The Wall Street Journal, April 4-5, 2015.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

God's Gold

As promised, I have stepped away from the obtuse academic writing to write a book geared to people "in the real world" who are interested in the topic of Christian ethics on money, profit-seeking, and wealth. People keep telling the topic is "hot" now (as if I should have a clue). I would think the interest will have died down since 2008 during the financial crisis. 

Anyway, I've been trying to come up with a book that a Christian and/or business practitioner could pick up and read without the aid of a dictionary every other line. This is not to say that the book is bereft of substantive ideas; in fact, I did additional research since Godliness and Greed came out. Also, I was able to build on some ideas and toss others after chewing the cud on the original content. Therefore, I think God's Gold is better even academically-speaking. Let me know what you think; after you have read the book, post a review at Amazon. 

The book traces the historical shift in Christian attitudes toward profit-seeking and wealth. Through the centuries, the dominant position shifted from anti-wealth to pro-wealth, meaning that the coupling of greed to profiting and accumulating wealth was at first thought to be very tight, but then loosened--eventually to the extent that a camel could get through the eye of the needle. With both anti-wealth Luther and pro-wealth Calvin living in the same economic context, the commercialization of Europe cannot fully explain the shift. As one possibility, a bias in a core theological doctrine may have been subtly tilting the ground in the pro-wealth direction. If so, the implications for Christianity, and for religion more generally as a phenomenon, would be nothing short of earth-shaking.