March 6, 2009

Lent & Globalization

Lent is a refreshing time, refreshing in the sense that we are driven back, reminded, and disciplined toward that which gives us life: God. Traditionally, Christians practice a certain discipline that removes one activity, not because it is necessarily "bad," but because that activity or thing distracts us from the real source of abundant life. Fasting gives us time to feast, as WWJE (What Would Jesus Eat) reminds us here and here,

Lent always awakens my imagination. What can or do I need to fast from? What would be meaningful? What can I focus or feast on: prayer, Bible memorization, service? Much of my thought as of late as been on economics, consumerism, and globalization. Today I thought, "what would it look like to fast from globalization, and what would I feast on?"

In case your unsure what that -ization word means, here's Gerald Daly's definition that sums it up well: globalization "is characterized by the concentration of economic control in multinational firms and financial institutions, worldwide networks of production, exchange, communication and knowldge, transnational capital, and a freer flow of labor, goods, services, and information."

So, as I was pondering what it would look like to fast from the above, I's inescapable. I can't fast from globalization, it's not simply a personal choice but rather a national way of doing life. I could not buy any new consumer products and buy all my food local, but realistically this is not disengaging completely from globalization. All my past commodities, my car, the house I rent, the clothes I wear, the roads I drive on, the places I shop, the building I work in, everything has been produced my the grand narrative of globilization.

Driving this narrative is the myth of progress. With the crises of ecological disasters, global economic breakdown, exclusion of the poor, and the rise of conflicts because of resources we've seen that "progress" is unsustainable. Our markets, businesses, churches, communities, the "American Dream' is about sustaining the unsustainable all for the myth of progress.

As my Lenten reflection has lead me, the solution to globalized progress cannot simply leave behind the system, it's inescapable. Even my quest for a solution is driven by the narrative of progress..."what's next, how do we solve this problem?"

Maybe the recent economic meltdown is a reminder of how life actually works, not in progressive steps but in seasons, cyclical seasons of life and death, joy and pain, ups and downs. A civilization, a global village cannot exist on a story that does not embrace life through death, but rather does all that it can to ignore death, aging, and anything non-young.

My Lenten reflection leads me to think that solutions to globalization and a culture of progress cannot be as simple as "dumping" the system, but must provide real world answers in real world economics. This may mean compromising for the best possible solution at the time. Whatever it means, it means feasting on a God who invites us into seasons, Lent, Advent, Death, Resurrection. Truly the only way to live alternatively is to live within a different narrative, thus for Lent we should fast from progress and feast on reality.

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