Global Neighbors: Christian Faith and Moral Obligation in Today’s Economy

The Good Samaritan and the economy


Douglas A. Hicks and Mark Valeri, eds.

What do Bono, Margaret Thatcher, and Martin Luther King Jr. have in common? All used the Good Samaritan as a persuasive narrative for their activism, their actions, and their decisions. And they are not alone.

Who is my neighbour and what should I do about it when I find out? That is the question Global Neighbours addresses. Part of Eerdmans’ Religion, Ethics, and Public Life series, the book explores the dilemmas and concerns of those seeking to live out their faith in a complex and interdependent global economy. It focuses on our moral obligations and ethical commitments to the poor, the oppressed, and the least living among us.

The 13 authors of Global Neighbors are primarily academics, with a sprinkling of pastors and policy experts, but all have an interest in exploring how culture, economy, and faith affect the way we love our neighbours.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is repeatedly referenced and analyzed by various authors. The Jewish lawyer wanted to know who sits near enough to be a neighbour or “near one” and thus deserving of the love commanded in Leviticus 19. But Jesus turned the question “Who is my neighbour?” into “What does it mean to be a neighbour?” He indicated that far ones are just as much neighbours as near ones, inviting us to embrace new visions of the world and new modes of action that centre on compassion and mercy.

Macro, and personal

Although this discussion primarily concerns the macro level, examining the roles of economic theory, free markets, governments, manufacturers, and theology in the encouragement to love our neighbours, there are numerous applications on the personal level. One chapter is a fascinating analysis of Bono’s celebrity activism, and has much to teach individuals and the church.

Another chapter includes a frank analysis of Robert McNamara as president of the World Bank. Despite his deep commitment to improve the lot of the poor around the world, his economic assumptions did not lead to much success, due to his adherence to capitalist values of growth and profit over alternative values such as education, democratic participation, and sustainability.

Although written prior to the 2008 global downturn, the book now has more relevance than ever, since it questions the dominance of the free market economy and argues for more diversity of models which may lead to a gentler, kinder, and fairer world. In the current environment, we may be tempted to turn our focus inward to take care of “number one,” but the biblical injunction to love our neighbours as ourselves compels us to examine our hearts and respond appropriately.

This is not an easy-to-read, feel-good type of book; in fact, it can be a disturbing one because we in North America tend to take responsibility to our neighbours far too lightly. But it should be of interest to Mennonite Brethren because our Confession of Faith states that “the church is a fellowship of redeemed people living by love…Alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ’s love.”

For those on the Jericho road who want to stop looking the other way or stop taking the more comfortable detour, Global Neighbours can help in understanding the rationale and the practice of journeying together with our global neighbours.

—Ben Wohlgemut is a stewardship team member of the Canadian MB Conference and a member of Fairview MB Church, St. Catharines, Ont.

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