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Something Besides Economics for Christmas

Christmas is the time to give and receive material gifts in memory of how Christ became our incarnate gift—and it’s a time for us to lay aside material goods and cares to consider the eternal. Our ongoing conversation at V&C concerns material and immaterial realities and the connections among those realities. Christian theology teaches we are both material and spiritual beings, not one or the other. So our way of interacting with the world must, likewise, simultaneously be material and immaterial. Our modern world still thrums with ancient heresies. Two I frequently mentally contrast: Gnosticism, which among other things emphasizes the spirit at the expense of the flesh (i.e. the teaching that bodies are bad, or lesser than the spirit) and atheism, which is older than Socrates and (unlike him) refuses to believe in anything immaterial. Both are heresies because they emphasize half of reality: the body or the spirit, rather than both. But God is all about both-ands, as I learned to call these “blended realities” in college. Christ is all man AND all God. Even so are we all flesh and spirit, in one. This returns to my mind when considering the relation of economics and Christianity, of worldly goods with spiritual belief. By entering our physical world, Christ redeemed it. This means money, computers, fingers, people and houses can be good, but they are not ends in themselves. Material things are not the point of existence, or the right metric by which to measure life. This is one point against many liberals, who philosophically align with fascism in replacing God with the state (see Jonah Goldberg’s masterful, careful documenting of this link). This is why they believe social justice must be implemented through economics, politics and all other worldly implements. This is why the income gap, income inequality and how much the rich earn matters to them: Their measurement of joy and justice is limited to economics. But Christians are not such exclusive materialists. We believe money doesn’t determine joy or justice, because these are spiritual qualities and, ultimately, fulfilled by Christ. “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed”—the little Lord Jesus brought riches to poverty. Not many noticed. But the rich kings and poor shepherds alike knelt at his feet, and together received the greatest gift money can’t buy.