Deep Economy, Part 1


I picked up A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy about six years ago and it made me tremble. I can’t remember a book having so much power in its pages. I think it may be the best book I’ve ever read.

To that short, short list of tremble-inducing tomes, I add Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. Why the quaking? Because McKibben captures in the short 232 pages of this book much of what I’ve spoken of here at Cerulean Sanctum. And he does it quite well.

When I blog about community, agrarianism, stewarding Creation, and living lives of deep meaning for the Kingdom of God, it’s an intricate dance of ideas that sails over some people’s heads. Bill McKibbenSomeone we know well referred to my wife and me as “hippies” for some of the ideals we espouse that touch on these topics, and while we take that lovingly, we also understand that people don’t fathom what we’re talking about.

Bill McKibben understands. His book lays it all out in a way that concentrates the profound message: We need to ask ourselves if the lives we live in 21st century America have real meaning beyond consuming more.

Jesus Christ occupies the center of purpose. No human life finds purpose apart from Him because He made us to be Kingdom people who embody His very image. Our message to the world not only reflects in the words of Truth we speak, but the lives of justice and mercy that we live—His life, His truth, His justice, His mercy. For this reason, the Christian lives a life that is different, a life dedicated to loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Anyone who desires to live that life will rudely encounter the pragmatism, utilitarianism, Social Darwinism, and consumerism that fight with bloody tooth and claw against the Kingdom of God. None of those four worldview are compatible with true Christianity, yet the American Church suffers from their deadly infections to the point of lying in some spiritual hospital in a fevered coma.

Those worldviews own us, no matter how hard we American Christians say otherwise. If you read here long enough, you know that I believe we’ve varnished those worldviews with a thin coat of Christianity and called them redeemed.

But they simply can’t be.

We are wasteful people who pillage the Creation the Creator told us to steward, and then we beg for more. We use spiritual language and manipulate the Gospel to our ends, calling on it to give imprimatur to our uncontrolled growth and need for more material wealth, no matter what the expense. As I noted a few weeks ago, a word exists for that mentality: profligacy.

Deep Economy is a book about profligacy and its deleterious effects. It explains why uncontrolled economic growth will not work on a global scale. It explores the psychological depression arising from desiring more and more stuff at the expense of our souls, our communities, and the world around us. It sounds the clarion call that our lives are out of whack and we’re taking the planet down with us. It proclaims our obsession with the individual must be reversed so genuine community prevails.

Next week, I’ll be exploring each major concept in Deep Economy. I’ll also show why McKibben’s analysis aligns with what we Christians know to be true from the Scriptures. Most of all, I hope I can sway a few doubters to see that another way to live exists, one that better reflects the heart of the Lord.

If you can find the book, pick it up and read it this weekend. And do so with an open mind and spirit. McKibben takes a middle of the road approach even when some of his talking points sound…dare I say it, liberal. If anything, though, those points may be the ultimate in conservatism.

Thanks for reading. Hold on tight…

14 thoughts on “Deep Economy, Part 1

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  2. Bob Aarhus

    A hippie? Sorry, Dan, I can’t even begin to imagine you as a Flower Child.

    However, I *can* see you in a long beard, tie-dye shirt, and love beads…

    Thanks for the recommendation on the books. I haven’t read Tozer yet, but it’s on its way from Amazon. McKibben will go on a back burner — only one weighty tome at a time…

    • Bob,

      I may have to subscribe to Mother Jones and The Utne Reader in order to go all the way. What will they say at church?

      The Tozer’s great. We’re going to go through it with our small group, too. I think you’ll probably like the Tozer more than the McKibben.

  3. People don’t understand the importance of an agrarian society for the longevity of our society… people would rather stay segregated and isolated, with their personal relationships with their televisions and subscribe to darwinism, shopping at walmart than to support a community that is dependent upon one another…

    Here I sit at Panera looking at all the lonely people… in the midst of a crowd… and wish I could be at a small cafe somewhere, but alas, they have all been put out of business….

    • Ronni,

      Yes to everything you wrote, except…

      I think it is possible to fight against chain stores and big boxes. McKibben gives some examples in his book. We can restore local economies. We just need to think differently.

  4. BOB

    Dear Dan,

    I remember a blog of yours entitled “Total Disconnect”. To simply stop buying buying buying is easier than all these lifestyle upheavals, I fear, is total disconnect. With my income buying less each year, with jobs leaving my area for foreign lands, …. I could go on and on…. How do I buy a few acres of farmland with still smoldering real estate prices (much of the boom is over) when my income after 10% deducted for health insurance, is $10/hr. We didn’t exchange Xmas gifts AGAIN last year. I pare down the wish list lower and lower. This could have been a flashback to the sixties where domestic made items had value and quality but cost a lot. But it’s not a flashback; all I can afford and find is the cheap overseas junk which shows deterioration after a couple of weeks.The politicians will talk and do absolutely nothing. We can’t go back the nineties, eighties, fifties,the nineteenth century. It’s over,finished.I will always look for glimmers of hope but I fear only a ghastly crisis of enormous proportions will turn us back.

    • BOB,

      Trust me, I know ever single thing you mentioned personally. In fact, I know them more deeply than you can imagine.

      But it’s still possible. What it will take to get there will be radical. Land may be prohibitively expensive in some parts of the country. But not all parts. I know that to be the case because I bought in a place where land was cheap. It may take a move to a cheaper place to live.

      How about going in on land with some other believers? Pooling funds to buy land and then build on it? It may take that kind of thinking. The possibilities ARE nearly endless, but we don’t explore them because of societal conformity and even naysayers in our churches.

      Our God holds all possibilities in His hands. The more we trust for big things, the more likely He is to bless us with those big things. But we think so small! We believe so tiny! God blesses people of big faith with limitless possibilities. Can we trust Him for them?

  5. Wow, I’m really glad I found your blog! This sounds like a fantastic book. I am convinced that uncontrolled global economic development is just not possible. Besides, what the west likes to call “humanitarian” in its efforts toward ‘development’ of the third world is (in my opinion) is really just economic colonialism. The only motivation behind development is to create new markets for western goods. It’s selfishness sold as selflessness. Very sick. But I’m getting off topic. I also appreciated the other things you mentioned, and my husband and I have also been on a journey evaluating some of the same things, and have come to very similar conclusions. I will try to find this book and read it!

    • Sarah,

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope you stick around.

      I’m not positive that all growth is fueled by the West. I think the West’s power is declining rapidly. Countries like China and India are the movers now. They want a piece of the action and they don’t need us for it. That’s part of what’s at stake here: their attempts to replicate us will cause the entire world problems. I’ll get into this more as I blog the book.

  6. Right-o. It’s funny you mentioned China. I just read a short article tonight called “Rogue Aid” all about China offerring billions in aid to Africa for political purposes. This is environmentally devestating since they are also exporting a lot of their coal-based technologies along with the aid money itself. I believe the Russians are courting Africa in a similar way.

  7. Dire Dan: “I think the West’s power is declining rapidly.”

    Remember that theory I told you about? Nowadays Europe and America (which once had the most amount of light) have turned their backs on God, and the secular motto of Western Civilization has become “Work, Consume, Die”.

    Perhaps there are consequences? Perhaps you’ve pointed out a piece of evidence in favor of the theory.

    Nah. Can’t be. That’s so O.T..

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