The Communist Century And Business As Mission

I am retiring on 5/31/18. It is not what I am retiring from as much as it is what I am retiring to. I have found a new passion, Business As Mission (BAM). With BAB comes a Spiritual/philosophical understanding of what is called Creation Theology, as associated with wealth creation, which coincides with my thought processes over the last few years. I have been quite involved with the concept of social entrepreneurship, and find it refreshing, but have found that its Spiritual/philosophical foundations are not fulfilling, at least for me. Now with the addition of BAM, I found completed the circle and now can go into phase three of my life, whatever that entails.

I’d like to take some time writing about this foundation. I’ll begin this discussion with a recognition and reflection on the Communist Century, Social Justice, and BAM. A bold endeavor for sure, but I am trying to develop a coherent understanding of this that is consistent with my philosophical connection to Democratic-Capitalism and my Christian faith. So here we go.

When my maternal grandparents came to this country, they immigrated from Russia in the early 1900’s in an attempt to escape the Bolsheviks. My grandparents were both Volga River Germans, came from families that were quite industrious, and whose parents saw the promise of the new world. I have always admired them for what they accomplished in their lives. I was reminded of my grandparents in a WSJ article.

Stephen Kotkin, a professor of history at Princeton, reflected this morning on the Communist Century in the WSJ. He recognized some clear realities. “Communism entered history as a ferocious yet idealistic condemnation of capitalism;” he also recognized the human cost associated in Russia, China, and even now in North Korea, Cuba, and I’ll add Venezuela. Kotkin illustrated this by saying “Since 1917 – in the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan, and parts of Latin America – communism has claimed 65 million lives.” Names associated with culpability in these examples are Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim.

What I found very interesting in this article was this comment, “The Bolsheviks, like many of their rivals, were devotes of Karl Marx, who saw class struggle as the great engine of history. What he called Feudalism would give way to Capitalism, which would be replaced in turn by Socialism, and finally, the distant utopia of Communism.” Marx and Engle stated in the Communist Manifesto in 1848 that their goal was the eradication of private property. As I reflect on current movements, I see this goal reemerging.

The historical failures of this system are clear. Centralized planning of an economy has been unsuccessful, and by “the dispossession Capitalists” there was “also an enriched class of state functionaries” and secret police needed to “handle the arrest, internal deportation, and execution of class enemies.” However, I agree with Kotkin’s poignant recognition that “the siren call to transcend Capitalism persists among some on the left.”

This is what concerns me about the current social justice movement in this country. For some reason I have had a hard time accepting the phrase social justice. At least as it is used in the circles I run within. It is not that I don’t believe in social justice, but I am not too sure what is meant by it. I have my own ideas of justice, but it is centered within my faith and individual expression of that faith. I am exploring this phrase to decide what I think it is. Michael Novak, an author I greatly admire and who has convinced me of the appropriateness of Democratic-Capitalism, says this about Social Justice, “Social Justice is not a building up of state bureaucracies which are impersonal, inefficient, and expensive” . . .”Social Justice is a virtue whose specific character is social in two ways: the skill in forming associations and the aim of benefiting the human community.”

As we see from the last 100 years of communism, relying on the state to benefit people is a dangerous proposition. My first sense of social justice is related to my call as a Christian, for Jesus was very clear on how to exercise justice. “for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in (Matthew 25: 35-40). I do not see this as being connected to a progressive or conservation agenda, but to my call as a follower of Jesus Christ. This brings me to the last portion of this blog post, BAM.

A colleague of mine alerted me to the Lausanne Movement. I have been reading its papers on the power of wealth creation. I will be developing this concept over the next few blogs. However, to end this blog I would like to identify affirmations associated with this movement, and why I think they are important.
1. Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
2. We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.
3. Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible
4. Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.
5. Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
6. There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
7. The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
8. Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual wealth.
9. Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.
11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be should be an integral part of wealth creation through business.

These eleven elements are a part of the wealth creation manifesto that is based in the concept of Business As Mission. I believe that business has the power to create positive social change, but not in the sense of a collective statist endeavor, but one with the ability to own the means of production and experience the fruits of the labor, while caring for my neighbor. I can be productive and successful, but I can be generous too. That is what God has called us to do, not become the part of an all powerful state.

And that is my thought for the day!

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