Session Two

Covenant for a New Economy

“Is My Job Going to China?”

At any given moment, the world is filled with suffering, much of it related to people’s economic well-being.  But what are our attitudes toward other people who are struggling
economically? Do we disdain the poor and needy? Feel anger? Compassion?  What if jobs are outsourced to other countries? These aren’t easy questions.  If my job “goes to China,” I may not feel at all like rejoicing that an overseas person can now work while I cannot, even if that person makes a tiny wage. The common good seems less pressing than my own circumstance. In this chapter we look at several issues related to economy.

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Experiencing the Big Box Store

This video offers a starting point for discussion of the impact of big box stores on American life.

Key Issues

  • Big box stores like Walmart, the world’s largest retail company, are immensely popular with consumers.  Its $405 billion in revenue in a recent year makes it the 23rd-largest economy in the world, bigger than Sweden.  Each week nearly one-third of the U.S. population visits Walmart’s U.S. stores.  The company is the largest overall employer in the country, and the biggest employer in 25 states.  One supporter calls the company, “one of the great shining examples of what a market economy can achieve.”
  • A number of national retail chains, including Walmart, have been criticized for not paying a living wage and relying on government programs, such as federal food stamp assistance, to make up the difference.  In some communities, concern has been expressed about the economic impact of big box stores on local and family-owned businesses.

Questions for Discussion

  1. The film clip offers a visual montage of the big box store shopping experience. What is your experience of shopping at big box stores? What impact have large retail stores had on your community?
  2. Music lovers will recognize the background for the clip as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J. S. Bach.  What is the role of human desire in our common economic life?

Reforming our Economic Life

Sociologist Robert Bellah discusses global and domestic security with Donald W. Shriver.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Robert Bellah states that “the military budget in the U.S. is badly out of whack” and that “we are clearly in our military budget fighting the last war.”  We are using large military forces and equipment to address issues, such as international terrorism, which defy national borders.  Bellah cites President Eisenhower’s farewell address, which refers to the “military industrial complex” to explain how U.S. policy came to such a place.  What evidence do you see for or against a “military industrial complex” in current debates over military deployment and spending?
  2. According to Bellah, in response to a dangerous world, Americans tend to fuse  Christian identity and American identity.  “We think America is God’s chosen people and what we do is right.  We lose sight of the fact that Christians hold every nation up to the standards of divine justice.”  In your opinion, what areas of U.S. foreign policy (for instance, military involvement, diplomatic endeavor, humanitarian aid or intervention) might be held up to “the standards of divine justice”?

Faithful Citizen: Living Responsibly in a Global Society

A six-part study guide designed for use in congregational development. The guide includes in-depth discussion of global issues effecting our faith and our response to the world as well as questions for discussion and where to look for more resources.

Purchase the PDF Companion Study Guide 

$8.00/session or $40.00 for all six sessions