I love Jesus Manifesto. Among the Emergent types, Mark Van Steenwyk and his crew are the absolute top-shelf. They are anabaptists and flirt with anarchism. We like this. A lot. In a recent post Mark warns Emergents against becoming a mere fad, comercialized, and thus contributing to empire. A fair warning, especially considering the emergent stereotype has become quite commodified. (Think 30-year-old white male blogging and listening to his ipod while sipping lattes at Starbucks, stroking his goatee, peering through his horn-rimmed glasses, etc.)
But Mark makes the same error many emergents do, conflating markets with power. This comes up again and again, and has been ingrained into America’s understanding of markets since Berle and Means. To so many minds bigness equals badness, and the market is a nefarious presence.
But the market and the powers which manipulate the market are separate, and must be kept separate in order to resolve the Christian perspective of cooperation. Voluntary exchange creates a market. There is nothing remotely bad in voluntary exchange. It is the single greatest creator of new wealth. The powers which exist (and we must clarify that powers often refers to “the powers and principalities of the air,” or Satan) recognize the new wealth and attempt to appropriate as much of this consumer surplus to themselves as they possibly can. In this way markets are manipulated, and can become mechanisms for oppression. But we must recognize that it is the operation of powers on markets which creates the problem and not the markets themselves. Markets are not even actual entities. They are verbs, not nouns.
Anyway, the discussion goes all over the place on this thread, with another economist weighing in to encourage me to read the German Historicists and the Christian Social Thought writers. I’ve also had Being Consumed recommended to me, and is now on order .