Airbnb, Hospitality, and the Gift Economy

Chi-Ming Chien, EP board member and blogger, examines the tension between the economy we live in and the economy which God calls us to participate in:

“It’s ironic that, as we participate in the sharing economy, more and more of our lives get ceded over to the domain of the transactional. Where previously we might have a couch or spare room for a guest to crash in, now we rent it out. Where previously we might have offered an unused desk space in our office for a friend needing a place to work, now we list it and charge by the hour or by the day. Where previously (in antiquity, it seems…) we might have given someone a lift if we were headed their direction, now we charge for a Lyft. Interestingly enough in Lyft’s case, what started off as a suggested donation has moved toward fixed charges as the service has matured.

The core issue, as I see it, is that despite our best efforts, we continually get bent toward relationships characterized by transaction or exchange– what Jacques Ellul, the French sociologist and theologian, calls the Law of Money.”

Read the rest here:

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A What or a Who?

EP’s Brent Laytham reflects on promises made by prominent acolytes of technology:

There’s an eschatology of sorts in the hubbub — indeed, in the hubris — that attends so-called technological revolutions. Apocalyptic always makes epochs determined by “before” and “after,” whether it’s the apocalyptic imagination undergirding the New Testament (e.g., “but in these last days…”; Heb 1:2, NRSV) or the one animating digital utopians like Edward Castronova (Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality [Palgrave, 2007]). The core question is whether that which dramatically changes everything is a “what” or a “who.” For Christians, even those entranced by the bewitchments of technological change, the answer must finally be who — for we know that grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), not the latest technological revolution, no matter how remarkable.

Read the rest here.

Groaning and Flourishing: Gathered by Our Creator’s Care

Over Christmas I went bird watching near my parents house in Arkansas. Driving to a Wildlife Management Area I passed Lake Conway where nearly 7,000 barrels of oil spilled from an ExxonMobil tar-sands pipeline. The site in the lake nearest the spill still had containment buoys eight months after the accident. There was a man in a air boat and hazmat suit testing the water with hundreds of ducks and gulls and cormorants were feeding in the water nearby. Since then there have been other spills. Most recently West Virginia’s waters were poisoned by the ironically named, “Freedom Industries.” The damage done is beyond calculation and it will take years to know the full effects. These examples are just to name some of the ways in which creation is groaning in pain and eager longing for God’s Kingdom to arrive Read more

William Holman Hunt's The Scapegoat

Scapegoats and Torturers

Two messages of interest to EP endorsers come this week from the University of Dayton. The first, from Katherine Schmidt, a UD graduate student in theology, considers stranded cruise ships and the persistence of scapegoating.

The second, from UD Professor and EP board member, Jana Bennett, looks at the Transfiguration, torture, and the ethical formation found in a series of small moments.

Rebuke as Generous Invitation

In his book titled “The Beginning and the End of Religion,” Nicholas Lash invites us to look upon the world. “Summon up quietly,” he says, “with such clear-sighted courage as you can, all the cumulative evidence- from the depths of each one’s psyche to the centre of our politics; from the arbitrary and sporadic barbarism of our wars and cities to the well-oiled structures of rapacity and greed we call world trade- which suggests that the answer to the question is: ‘there is indeed, only power; and violence is master of us all’.”1

Perhaps violence really is what makes the world go ‘round. Surely, the events of the past week make it difficult to argue otherwise. Moreover, at first glance, today’s readings from Scripture don’t seem to be much help. Read more