Joy in enough: awakening to a new economics

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Posted Jan 23 2018 by Andrew Rollinson of Blushful Earth

On 18th November last year there was a one-day workshop in Sheffield called “Joy in Enough – Awakening to a New Economics”. It was delivered by Green Christian who are a multi-denominational charity that have been operating for over thirty years. Joy in Enough is however a new venture.

I am not a member of Green Christian but I converted to Roman Catholicism twelve years ago and have been an environmentalist for much longer. I believe that the two ways of living are inextricably linked. I have also believed for many years that religious organisations have both the power and means to bring about the required systemic change that is needed to protect the environment. So, I went to this event, and other meetings, to find out what British Christians were doing, if anything.

Prior to the event, I had been sent the ‘Joy in Enough’ Core Document, which I read on the train journey to Sheffield. For those who are interested it is available from their website (this is for the Joy in Enough webpage but there are many other resources that the Low Impact reader will find interesting. The Green Christian magazine is a good read and can be obtained without joining the movement). As a superficial introduction, here is what one of the founders said about it in one of the Green Christian magazines that were freely available on the day: “Fundamentally as Christians we should offer alternative routes to happiness and well-being. Consumption in response to status anxiety and marketing pressures does not make anyone better off. Quiet time in the garden or the park or the church, does, as does time spent with family and friends, and in local groups…Let’s see the Church contributing to a renaissance in local community activities…” (Emerson, T. What makes us consume as we do? Green Christian, 84, Autumn 2017, pp. 12-13).

Joy in Enough logo

The event got off to a good start. The first speaker gave an inspiring talk about how people who are trying to build a new society should “never be poor in hope”. He described how global movements can start from even the smallest beginnings, using as a first example the initial meeting between Stalin and Lenin in a London pub in 1903 (accepting however that they were perhaps too optimistic about human nature), then finishing by leaving the audience to consider another gathering of radicals in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

The second session was as good as the first, with members of Joy in Enough talking about their Core Document, their aims, plans for implementation, and how to get involved. Christians, they said, have in their toolbox the right resources with the “Cardinal Virtues” – Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude, which are needed as much today as they were two thousand years ago because Christians are the most persecuted of all religious groups – 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016.

As the day went on and the content got more “new economics” heavy, my fortitude weakened. On this subject of economics, I feel like Christ when he was shown a coin with Caesar’s head on it and replied “give back to Caesar that which is Caesars and give to God that which is God’s. But the speakers were articulate and knowledgeable, and the resources continued to be impressive.

What I really liked was the “meeting of similar (green thinking) minds” aspect and the strength that comes from this solidarity. As I’ve got older I can more fully understand exactly why laws were passed in the 1800s to stop people meeting in groups. This commonality is actually central to Joy in Enough as it aims to combat the “current economy focused on radical individualism”. One member of the audience described it very well. They said that the current “economy of acquisition” is based on fear – the fear that we have no security, and how Christianity can inherently counter this. We have “Enough” and we should follow Jesus by sharing and caring for each other and in turn strengthening local groups.

Joy in Enough, is in fact a development on a document called ‘ Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home”. The word “economics” derives from the Greek “oikos” meaning ordering one’s house, and as its sub-heading suggests Laudato Si’ is about re-ordering our common home (planet Earth). This “circular” was published in 2015 by Pope Francis. It covers many topics, and in my opinion, it is hot stuff. If, like me up to a few weeks ago, you have not heard of it, then it is perhaps no wonder that the corporate-influenced media have ignored it, when you read the contents (encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on care for our common home, 2015. Available here). I particularly like paragraphs 36, 44, 56, 58, 110 to 114, but here a couple of alternative extracts:

The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented” (paragraph 54).

We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided (paragraph 123).

Following the Joy in Enough event, I met with other groups that are active in building local community cohesion and which have been catalysed by Laudato Si’. I also communicated with others by e-mail. I found that there is a lot going on, and a groundswell of particularly grassroots activity. This includes community repair cafés, widespread international parish fossil-fuels divestment, fundraising to buy and protect forests, an expanding “Live Simply” award and overarching this a strengthening of community, local-scale “wealth”. Some examples of this are:

To quote Laudato Si’ again:

There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic (paragraph110).