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So, for instance, investors might support a number of projects through MicroPlace , an online micro-financing subsidiary of PayPal, with investments of as little as 20 dollars that help low income entrepreneurs in Texas, women merchants in Azerbaijan, the rural farmers of Cambodia, and so on, earning a return of 0. Not bad. Should I be engaging global economic instability through an even modestly risk-based structure?

Faith & Social Capital After the Debt Crisis - Goldsmiths Research Online

Do such efforts reinforce the worst qualities of capitalism: privatization of common property, competition for resources, unequal distribution of resources, socially unbalanced participation in production, the hoarding of wealth by those not directly involved in production, artificially amplified consumerism? Or, do they offer a real hope of reshaping the structure and practices of capital markets themselves? Like it or not, she argues, they participate in the global economic network every time someone turns on the lights in the sanctuary.

Indeed, University of Pennsylvania researcher Ram Cnaan has shown that a modest-sized urban congregation contributes upwards of half a million dollars in economic value to its community in the form of direct services, real capital investments the new roof over the sacristy , education, and less-easily quantified benefits like preventing crime, youth and domestic violence, and suicide.

Urban Ecology and Faith Communities

In this understanding, people of faith and religious institutions leverage the efficiency of capital markets, so valued by Jones, as a plug-and-play conduit for the redistribution of wealth guided by religious values. The Protestant Work Ethic is recast not as the Weberian vision of the Christian worker with nose, ever uncomplainingly, to the grindstone. Except not quite. For, as Tanner has also pointed out, grace in the Christian oikonomia —the balanced dispensation of Good in the household of God—is not selective, not based on any manner of worth, or effort, or status.


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The whole Christian story, from top to bottom, can be viewed as an account of the production of value and the distribution of goods, following [a] peculiar noncompetitive shape. Greystone Bakery , founded in Yonkers, New York by Zen Buddhist priest Bernie Glassman has provided jobs, career training, low-income housing, and more, while producing high-end baked goods for nearly 30 years.

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Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries , founded by Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle more than 20 years ago, has actively engaged former gang members and at-risk youth in meaningful work, providing a range of social, legal, and educational services to the surrounding community, and creating a portfolio of businesses that sustain the overall enterprise. A group of MBA students from Point Loma Nazarene University considered how to create businesses that balance material and spiritual profit.

A woman from an emergent church in Boston looked for insights that would help move her church toward more intentional economic engagement with the wider community.

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On that side of ledger, there was considerable abundance. On the funding side, of course, the matter was somewhat different, as would-be social entrepreneurs schmoozed their way into conversations and potential pitches with investors, the whole of if spinning a vibe not unlike one of those speed-dating cocktail parties Patti Stanger constructs on Millionaire Matchmaker.

Perhaps more importantly, if religious institutions more actively join the ranks of such investors, how will their prophetic role be changed? To what extent will those more actively invested in capital markets—however ethically motivated, whatever the social ends—feel limited in their ability to critique the wealth-creating underpinnings of these markets?

Certainly, Jones is right in asserting that capital markets have a productive efficiency that surpasses that of most non-profit and governmental enterprises.

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Indeed, the pension funds of the mainline Protestant churches are massive investment portfolios, the earnings from which have funded global relief projects, education, medical care, and other good works for generations. They have—as both Jones and Anderson themselves have done in their capital ventures—modeled the ways in which financial capital can merge with spiritual capital to generate social capital. And neither, most likely, does St.

Whatsit down the block, making both of us less able to weather market turbulence or to participate in capital markets in balanced, sustainable ways. Write review.

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Write report. This book explores what becomes of faiths when seen as social capital. In the grip of the current debt crisis, where the social and capital seem increasingly unbalanced, this book examines whether faiths can help rebalance society through drawing communities together. Password Forgot password?


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