The carols proclaim Jesus Christ, the God-Man, has come into the world. What are the economic implications for the way we live with each other? One writer says it's about cooperation.
Andrew McLeod, a recent Chico visitor who works for the Davis-based California Center for Cooperative Development, explores the Biblical roots of cooperative living in "Holy Cooperation! Building Graceful Economies" ($17 in paperback from Cascade Books). McLeod writes that he became a Christian as a teenager but "lost interest in religion" in his college years. He even began to see the Church as a hindrance to the kind of democratic managed organizations he was becoming interested in, such as the New Riverside Cafe in Minnesota, a vegetarian restaurant he and almost thirty others co-owned.
Yet McLeod began to realize that some of what the Bible said about community supported his interest in cooperation. He noticed the "blossoming interest in community building" within the "primarily evangelical churches" he has been attending. That led to the development of a Web site (www.bookofacts.info) and his book.
He recognizes that "Christianity and cooperatives have much in common, but they are not identical, and any attempt to bridge those differences should not gloss them over." Though he is admittedly not a theologian, McLeod finds a provocative picture of cooperation in the Old Testament in the prophetical call for justice within human society. In the New Testament Gospel stories Jesus talked about loving one another, using one's worldly resources to help others in need. The early believers shared what they had for the good of the community and operated with decentralized leadership.
McLeod's book is not without controversy. "The United States' wealth is the result of centuries of injustice," he writes, "and some atonement for that is necessary" including finding ways "to make do with less. . . . The Bible clearly shows that God would prefer that we organize ourselves in ways that share power and resources much more broadly than our capitalist empire allows. . . ."
Examples include the Mondragon cooperative system in the Basque region of Spain, the Jesus People USA movement, and offshoots of the "new monasticism" such as the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco's Mission District.
Christmas is here. How, then, shall we live?