Since the Great Recession of 2008, economic theories, economists, and financial institutions play increasingly crucial roles in today’s society. Many question whether economics has now superseded both politics and religion as the dominant paradigm in which nearly all public policy and personal decisions are made. Questions as to whether an action is good or bad are reduced to the accountant’s ledge sheet: how much will it cost, and who will pay for it?
Even while it was said that the large financial institutions and corporations have recovered, most people have not. In fact, apart from a small percentage of the well-off, most people know they are losing ground. With the increased tension over making ends meet, the human propensity seeks out the causes for one’s lack of prosperity, and thus the blame engine gets revved up.
Who, if any, is to blame? Is it the super, greedy, and unscrupulous rich or the lazy, entitled poor? Is it laissez faire capitalism or socialism? Large corporations or big government? Or is there a massive breakdown in social order and morals?
As a biblical theologian, Ruckhaus is exploring a different and baffling line of inquiry. How has the influence of economic systems so escaped the hermeneutic and theology of the Church for so long? Why, in a time of tectonic social shifts, is the Christian dialogue so focused on sexuality, which the Bible minimally addresses, while being strangely silent or blatantly antithetical about economics, which the Bible critiques on nearly every page? Why is the bedroom so much more important to us than the boardroom? And finally, how is it that the people who claim biblical inspiration focus on the sins of the poor all the while missing the serious and persistent biblical critiques about wealth. The Bible, Ruckhaus insists, not only talks about how to use wealth (giving to the poor), but also questions how one gets wealth and what wealth does to those who acquire it.
Ruckhaus begins this theological inquiry with his book, Wicked Rich, Wicked Poor. In it, he not only explicates how the ancient Israelites struggled with these issues as reflected in the book of Job, but also relates the contemporary implications for Christians today. It is past time, Ruckhaus advocates, for economics to come under the scrutiny of the gospel.
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