There is to be, it seems, another round of ‘quantitative easing’, and I sincerely hope I am not the only one who is unsure what to make of the Bank of England’s announcement to that effect. If I understand the concept correctly, it means that the Bank of England will increase the amount of money available in the economy by buying assets from banks in the hope (?) that these will then use the ‘new’ money they receive to increase lending especially to businesses. So far, so good – but like other oft aired calls for ‘more lending to (especially small) businesses’, this is where my puzzlement begins: was not a substantial part of the problem that got us into the economic mess we are in that there was too much lending going on? And if so, why is ‘more lending’ the answer?
Clearly, the current economic crisis is one of the key issues affecting our life right now, and equally clearly, it seems to me, we as Christians ought to contribute to this important question and debate. But, and this is the point of my admission of puzzlement, equally clearly I am not the right Christian to do so, because I do not sufficiently understand the economics behind either the pro or contra (as those who do will easily have gathered from my introductory paragraph…). This, I think, has two consequences, and both have implications far beyond the specific problem just outlined.
The first of these is that it is essential for us all to know our limitations – we do ourselves and the Church no service at all (indeed, we do nobody a service at all) by pronouncing ‘Christian views’ on matters we know little about. This is, of course, especially true of clergy, who are frequently expected to give ‘Christian views’ on this, that or the other issue in politics or society, and who would often do better not to, I think. In my own case, for example it would be fair to say that I am probably all right on theological topics, a little better perhaps on matters to do with moral philosophy (my main academic subject) – and that I have vague ideas on many other things that I would do well to keep to myself…
For others among us, the list will look different, of course – and that precisely is the point, for (secondly) it is just in these areas that the true vocation of the people of God lies: for the heart of the calling of a Christian who is not ordained is not to ‘do things in church to help the Vicar’ (though there is, of course, nothing wrong with helping in various ways), but to bring a Christian perspective formed and fed in the sacraments, prayer and teaching into their everyday life and work. In our example: it is for economists who are also Christians, not for vicars, to comment on economic matters such as ‘quantitative easing’. It is for Christian journalists to speak about Christian perspectives on journalism, and for Christian lawyers to comment on sentencing or the like. This means, of course (1) that we need to rediscover the riches of various talent and calling in the whole body of Christ and (2) need one another to together give a faithful and informed Christian contribution to society.