Dethroning Mammon, by Justin Welby
This first appeared in the Church Times on December 2nd. Details of subscribing to the Church Times can be found at https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/subscribe
MAMMON is a real and personal force, the Archbishop of Canterbury says. It infects global economics and individual relationships; nor is the Church immune.
Archbishop Welby makes his case in Dethroning Mammon, a book written for Lent 2017. In it he makes it clear that he is not “anti-money” but anti people’s attitudes to money.
“The more interconnected the world becomes, the more power is held over individuals and nations by economics, by money and flows of finance. Mammon [is] a name given by Jesus to this force. . . “The more we let ourselves be governed by Mammon, the more power he has, and the more the vulnerable suffer.”
Speaking about the book, Archbishop Welby said: “The power of Mammon is absolutely colossal: it grips us entirely. Very few people escape it, and those we call saints.”
This is the first book that the Archbishop has written, the fruit of 30 years’ observation of the markets’ influence. He wanted to give a sense that “what you are and what you’re worth is more than your bank balance,” a Lambeth source said. The chapter headings spell out Archbishop Welby’s thesis:
”What we see we value”: in which he questions the values of the banks and the stock exchange: “Markets are very persuasive influences: they claim sovereignty over perception. Thus the ‘right’ price of something traded in the market is what the market says, even if that price bears no reasonable relation to the value of the effort put in, the imagination involved, or the underlying costs and lives of the producers.”
”What we measure controls us”, which is a key part of the Archbishop’s thesis: that Mammon persuades people that the only worth to be noted is financial. The Church is both a victim of this and a perpetrator: a victim, in that the countless hours of voluntary work are dismissed when assessing the Church’s health; and a perpetrator when it judges the success of a church by the growth of its finance or members.
”What we have we hold”: in an economy where financial institutions are retaining greater liquidity than ever before, Archbishop Welby writes that here is little evidence to support the trickle-down theory of wealth, “not least because trickle-down does not account for human nature”. The Archbishop is known to be critical of the conditions that people in the Church are increasingly attaching to their donations, holding on to their wealth to control the actions of others.
”What we receive we treat as ours”, in which the Archbishop argues that, through the act of washing his disciples’ feet, Christ redefined power and separated it from wealth. He also raises uncomfortable questions about the influence of Protestant Christianity on the development of world markets, through its acceptance of interest.
”What we give we gain”: “Money”, the Archbishop writes, “is one part of the God-given economy of abundance which enables us to show solidarity and to build relationships. It brings us closer to people far away.”
”What we master brings us joy”: dethroning Mammon requires people to listen (”The deceptions of Mammon are endless”); repent (asking “What do we want wealth for?”); and enthrone Christ in Mammon’s place.
Archbishop Welby argues that the Church should not be afraid to be prophetic. “We give Mammon authority as though it were divine, when it is a fraudulent misrepresentation of inevitability. . . I am not pretending that the rules of normal economics do not apply, or that there is a Christian way of ignoring them.
”Supply and demand, risk and reward, the gift of the free market to locate goods well, the need for balance in the flows of money within the economy, all continue to be relevant. But they are not God.”
The Archbishop is believed to be concerned about how Britain behaves post-Brexit. The trade deals that Britain makes to replace those in the EU are very important, “probably the most important thing we can do”, a Lambeth source said. To approach them without attempting to exert economic power over other nations would require “a huge amount of self-discipline”.
“Dethroning Mammon: Making money serve grace” is published by Bloomsbury at £9.99