Pray For, Strive For, Be, and Become
The End of the Transactional World
A Four Part Series
Part 1: Prelude, 4 Examples of the Target—May 5, 2021
Part 2: The End of Transactional Religion—May 12, 2021
Part 3: The End of Transactional Relationships—May 19, 2021
Part 4: The End of Transactional Economics—May 26, 2021
It will not be easy for any of us to take even a single step in the direction of putting an end to transactional economics in our lives. It is not supposed to be easy.
Oh! Yes! We easily pray for such “just in the nick of time daily sustenance” every time we say The Lord’s Prayer.
Give us this day our daily bread…
Who do you know that really wants “daily” bread? I would rather have a full pantry, a well-stocked freezer and even a root cellar packed with last year’s harvest. Who thinks it is possible to live confidently and well when you do not know what you will feed your children, tomorrow?
Yet we also pray, easily, regularly and with nary a second thought:
Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.
We know that life on this Earth is better whenever we experience the rule of God in our lives. We say that God, Just Love, is the source of everything we need. Our practice belies our stated belief.
We faithfully recite The Lord’s Prayer knowing that the Kingdom of God is already with us, within us and among us. We celebrate and enthusiastically tell stories of the multitude of ways that God provides for us, when we least expect it, in ways beyond our ken. We know that the blessings of the Kingdom are not just a mirage or a false promise or a lie.
So, yes, we want to believe that we can learn to wait for and receive with thanksgiving our daily bread. (By the way, I experienced this faithful waiting and receiving of daily bread for the first time in Romania in 1981. Millions of Christians globally live this way. Not so much in the more prosperous nations. But we would be well advised to learn as soon as possible.)
I want to share with you one of the most poignant, painful and powerful stories from the life of my family. I don’t think I have written of it before, but it is one of those never be forgotten stories which, thanks to Lydia Wylie-Kellerman and her mother and father, I am viewing today through a different lens.
My dad, an American Baptist pastor, had very few personal conversations with any of his five sons. He was quiet and gentle and private. Many potentially precious feelings and experiences were never shared. But there was this one time…
Dad, Rev. Chester Whitt, told us one day, very near the end of his life, that he had only one regret throughout all the years of his ministry.
I did not join Martin Luther King Jr. on the march from Selma to Montgomery. I wanted to go. I knew that God was calling me to go. But, I thought about your mother and my five sons. People were dying down there, going to jail down there! And, I knew I would return home and would be immediately fired. I did not think I had a choice.
Dad was right, of course. He would have been fired. The family would have been given one of those orders to vacate the parsonage within 30 days. But, why didn’t he have a choice? Dad had acted courageously and prophetically many times in his ministry. As quiet and vulnerable a person as Chet Whitt was, he had taken risks before. (Four deacons walked out of a meeting one evening and, with their families, quit the church, because dad took a stand. Oh, how he wept!) He had experienced healing when there had been no hope. He believed in miracles and a God who was Just Love.
But, this is what I have learned over the past few days from reading a couple more chapters in Lydia Wylie-Kellerman’s book, The Sandbox Revolution, Raising Kids for a Just World. Lydia’s father, the Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman, wrote chapter 13, “Risk and Resistance. The Cost and Gifts to Our Children,” with many Quotes from his deceased wife, Jeanie. They told me that one of the core needs of parents, and everyone else, who risked their financial security, freedom and even their very lives in the pursuit of justice, was community.
Who holds our children as we get dragged off to jail. It was community that made these workable options for us. (p. 199)
That community lives in Lydia’s book. The chapter writers bear witness to justice lived and fought for and died for over the long haul, and, taught to their children. Please read her book. They can become part of your justice community.
Dad was sick on to death during the early years of my childhood. He went off to the Veteran’s Hospital in Buffalo to die, many times. In this situation, extended family was there for mom and dad. Grandparents took care of us. But, they had no social justice community, akin to what Jeanie and Bill had when raising their daughters. I also had no such community when serving churches for 40 years. With our children, we participated in many peace and justice events—wheeling them around Boston Common in a stroller in support of the nuclear freeze movement and marching on Littleton Common every Saturday morning at the peace vigil—but I never felt I was in danger of losing my vocation or my living. The radical and dangerous pursuit of justice was not woven into the fabric of my family.
However, in the last decade of her life, my mom became a different kind of witness to all of her friends and family. In desperate pursuit of a way to save herself from a life of emptiness and grief, she joined a justice family within the Mennonite church. With them, she put her life on the line numerous times; like on the railroad tracks outside a nuclear arms depot. As did the Wylie-Kellerman’s, she traveled to Nicaragua a couple of times with Witness for Peace. That almost killed her. Malaria.
I am my mother’s son. When I began researching and writing about all the ways humanity is destroying the creation, and the future for all creatures great and small, I quickly became very conscious of the possible risks I might have to take to live the message I was being given. Realizing how difficult it can be to build such a community–potential members of such a network are rare in the modern world–I sought out Lydia and Bill Wylie-Kellerman, and the books and articles they write. God being my helper, I would find the support I would need for the work I was called to do.
Do you understand that living outside of such sustaining and utterly dependable community, through which God takes care of us in every way, is not the way humanity has lived for almost all of human history? For the last ten or so thousand years it has been, more or less, each man and woman for themselves—trying to survive in a culture dominated by transactional economics and its near cousins, greed and violence.
However, for something like 2,000,000 years, homo-sapiens on our planet did not live that way, and some tribal people still remember and live the old ways. Let me show you a couple of photos and a description I pulled off the internet this morning related to the potlatch tradition in many Native American Communities.
The potlatch tradition is all about giving your stuff away. Doesn’t it seem totally weird, as citizens of our materialistic…
…more is always better
…that whole communities of people, for hundreds of thousands of years, have considered themselves far better off when they give their accumulated wealth away? In indigenous cultures around the globe, for a couple of million years, people lived in relative harmony and bounty without slaving away at work to make someone else rich. Instead, they knew that no one in the community would ever have to face troubles alone. Wealth was shared in such a way that if there was any kind of shortage, all suffered together and if there was an abundance, all benefited. Only for the last ten thousand years, on the other hand, has one of the primary causes of the rise and fall of nations and empires is the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. And we dare to call the tribal peoples savages and we ourselves civilized!? Friends, transactional economics kills.
Jesus put an end to transactional economics. The early church followed His lead.
“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
What is less well known is that, throughout the history of Christianity, many Christian communities followed their Master into non-transactional communities. (For the history of such Christian movements, see chapter 10, “The Way,” found in the book, Called to Community, The Life Jesus Wants for His People. For purchase, contact The Plough Publishing House. If you cannot find the book, let me know and I will forward the chapter to you.)
In Conclusion, I was a sociology major in college. In the course on The Sociology of Religion, I wrote my term paper on R H Tawny’s classic, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from reading that book and ingesting its insights. In this historical era, as the latest human empires find themselves in decline and rapidly approaching their fall, it is time for Christians to once again ingest the economic insights of Jesus and his followers through centuries of Christian history. Get to know Jesus again, as if for the first time. Learn that you can take the next right step towards the end of transactional economics.
Honestly, I promise you, you, your children, your children’s children on to the seventy generation, will be glad you did. This is the only sane path towards the future. It is way past time to:
Pray For, Strive For, Be, and Become
The End of the Transactional World