SPIRITUAL EDUCATION, RELIGION AND
THE MONEY CULTURE
John M. Hull
Catholic Education Beyond 2000 - A Christian Perspective on [Occasional Papers in Education No.3] Glasgow, St. Andrew’s College, May 1995, 17, pp. ISBN: 1 898220 09 3
This enquiry about the future development of Christian education must begin with the character of money. From there it goes on to questions of culture; because money generates a certain spirituality and the spirituality of money is a principal factor in the creation of this culture. The third stage in our enquiry will lead towards religion, which challenges the supremacy of the money culture. Next, we shall deal with self-deception, since the most familiar coping strategies used by Christians in managing the culture of the money spirituality are forms of self-deception. By then we will have reached the point where we can consider the formation of children and young people within our school system, and so we will pass finally to the question of the curriculum and how far this may contribute to a Christian spirituality for tomorrow's world.
The Spirituality of Money
The global power of money has reached proportions today which were unimaginable even as recently as one hundred years ago. The very survival of whole species of living creatures depends almost entirely upon their monetary value. Nature's law, the survival of the fittest, has given way to the law of human society, the survival of the most financially interesting. Scope for investment has taken the place of adaptation to environment. Perhaps it should rather be said that money has become the all-pervasive environment to which the species must adapt in order to survive. Money is the very air we breathe. The diminishing habitats of the animals are the products of financial exploitation of the world's resources and an animal species will only be able to restrain the forces that threaten to destroy its habitat if that species itself is of sufficient investment interest to pose a countering financial power. Only money restrains money.
The impact of money is seen not only upon the survival of the species and upon the environment but is to be found in our own human relationships, our inner emotions, what we think we are and I what we should pursue. George Simmel divides his great book The Philosophy of Money [first published 1901] into two sections, the first dealing with the objective character of money, and the second dealing with the subjective or the psychological impact of money. It is striking to note that both in the objective and the subjective senses, money is similar to God. For example, money is not an entity like other entities but is the entity which represents the value of all other entities. It is that commodity which enables all other commodities to be related to each other; it is the purely generalised value of all specific values. Through money, entities are lifted out of ; time and space. Before my apples go bad I dispose of them, turn them into money, which will resist the ravages of time, inflation permitting. While my apples will deteriorate if bounced around too much in too many container vessels, my money will slip easily, in a mere second, from one part of the globe to another. God also must not be regarded as a thing amongst things but as that reality in whom all things whatever are grounded, in whom all things subsist, the Being who is regarded as the ground of all particular entities and thus as the power of Being itself. Invulnerable to time and space, God is nevertheless involved in both space and time, unapproachable in his own essence as being the most general of all universals, the supremely transworld reality; God is nevertheless accessible through the particular, as sacramental theology describes.
From the psychological point of view, God is that which attracts our ultimate longing, that concern which has no rival, is unconditioned. Similarly, the fascination of money is such that those who long for it become possessed by it. It preoccupies the imagination and although it is only of value as a means to many ends, it becomes the supreme end in itself. Money is the outstanding fetish of our society, and like all fetishes it manifests a concentrated erotic or numinous power. Just as God, when moved from all contexts in life and history, reified into mere language, becomes a magic talisman, charged with potency over the imagination, acting like a virus in a computer file, so money, when cut off from its use-value, itself becomes charged with the fascinating power of pure holiness.
Jesus certainly understood the subjective similarity between God and money when he told his hearers not to lay up for themselves treasures upon earth, for ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Mt 19:21). The striking parallel drawn by Jesus between God and money suggests the very similarity, indeed the exchangeability, to which I draw attention. ‘No one can serve two masters’ (Mt 19:24), but the one you do serve will indeed become your master and (if it is not already God) will take upon itself the attributes of God. People worship money, and have some dim realisation that they are indeed worshipping money.
When people within a money culture worship God, they do not always realise that the God may be the personification or the reification of money. The religious content itself has become invaded by the character of money, so that, as St Paul said, we have ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (Rm 1 :25), (see also Hull, 1996a).
In kinship societies, human relationships are shaped by marriage and descent. Society is arranged in family groups. In societies based upon domination, sometimes called ‘tribute societies’, human relationships are dominated by military might. But when societies are based upon human relationships as mediated through money, we have a radically different type of culture (Wolf, 1982, p. 76). If you consult the various dictionaries of industrial relations, you will find articles on culture creation (Huczynski, 1987, p. 55). There are techniques for deliberately changing culture, and Britain in the past twenty years has passed through a significant process of culture creation. It has become customary to contrast the service culture with the enterprise culture, and it is certainly true that the latter is not particularly interested in service, since the enterprise which it nurtures is primarily enterprise in the generation and the multiplication of money. Most of the serious books on money emphasise its power to create culture (Marx, 1976; Thompson, 1961; Vilar, 1976; Sohn-Rethel, 1978). I have already referred to George Simmel who emphasised the freedom and adaptability of social relations that money introduces. If the medieval lord of the manor demands that the serfs or peasants should render their due to him in honey, they have no choice but to keep beehives. But if the lord will accept a financial equivalent, then the peasant is free to rotate his crops, to innovate in fresh forms of production (Simmel, 1990, p. 286). Money is one of the most brilliant inventions because it leads to such incredible adaptability. Money makes free association more widely possible, since through paying my subscription I can support many causes and distribute my energy and commitment in a far more diverse way than would be possible if I myself had to be personally present at everything I supported.
The former Professor of Greek at the University of Birmingham, George Thompson (1961), has shown the impact of the very first money upon Greek culture and philosophy from the seventh century BC. Nancy Hartsock (1983) has described the close connection between the exercise of masculine power in the realms of sexuality and finance. The most insightful of all the western critics of money was Karl Marx, who analysed the close connection between money, shopping and industry, developing a parallel between industrial production and cultural reproduction. W F. Haug (1986) has traced the history of modern shopping, showing how it happened that one was no longer buying merely the commodity but the ethos, the image, the lifestyle. The commodity becomes an extension of the self, and even the body becomes a commodity, as is clearly shown in the history of the cosmetic industry. A particularly significant aspect of the culture- creating power of money is to be seen in the rise of the symbolic commodity. In the nineteenth century, industrial production was aimed at the satisfaction of human need. It was a matter of satisfying consumption. As the power of industrial productivity increased, it became possible to make far more things than people could consume, leading to gluts on the market. In the twentieth century it has been possible to overcome this to a certain extent by shifting the focus of the commodity from need to desire. My needs are limited but my desires are endless; I am satisfied with just so much food, my feet will not wear more than one pair of shoes at a time, but my imagination conjures up world upon world of desirable things. So it is that the traditional economic distinction between use value and exchange value must now be supplemented by a third type of value: symbolic value (Bauxrillard, 1975).
Now we have reached a stage where only a few pockets of resistance remain against the all-powerful penetration of money. Any structure of human relations which is not available for the free transformation into money values and thus available for the generation of wealth is an obstacle and must be removed. Now, by investing in the National Lottery, for a mere £1 a week you can buy a little bit of hope, a little bit of excitement, a little bit of meaning for your life.
There are several areas of human life which still stand as pockets of resistance against the domination of the money culture. One of these is the freedom and spontaneity of human sexuality, without which love would give way to universal prostitution. Another pocket of resistance is created by children. Very young children are immune to money; they live in simple trust and dependence for their daily bread upon those who love and support them. It is in t this sense that they represent the Kingdom of God and its values. Those of us enmeshed in the money struggles of adult life can no longer easily find such innocence (Mt 18:3; 7:9-11). A third pocket of resistance (and this list is not intended to be exhaustive) lies in religion.
The Bible of course was written in a pre-industrial age. Nevertheless, a growing awareness of the impact of money upon human spirituality can be traced through its pages.
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price (Is. 55: 1).
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (I. Peter 1: 18, 19a).
Jesus spoke more about money than about prayer. When he held up a coin and asked whose image and inscription was stamped upon it, he drew a parallel between coinage and human personality (Mk 12:14-17). A human being is like a coin, stamped with the, image and inscription of God. When human life becomes coin-shaped, it is relatively easy for one image and superscription to take the place of the other. Almost without our realising it, the image of God is replaced by the image of Caesar and the coin-like character of human life moves from the symbolic area into increasing literalism.
Against the money culture Jesus poses the culture of loving self- sacrifice:
For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).
Once again we notice the financial metaphor of the ransom. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who seeks precious pearls and at last finds one of great price. The Kingdom is like a man who ploughs his field and who finds buried treasure (Mt 13:44ff). It is always the same - the values of the Kingdom are expressed in financial terms, but are the opposite to them; they cancel them out by presupposing an alternative culture.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
Consider your calling, my brothers and sisters, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:26-27).
.. .. a thorn was given to me in the flesh... three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
So we see that the values of faith, of grace, of love stand against the corrupting money values and offer us an image of a new kind of society, a Kingdom of God, in which money will become our servant to enhance our solidarity and our freedom, and no longer our master and our God to turn us into its own image. Religion itself, however, is ambiguous. God and money are so easily interchangeable. Rival theologies jostle against one another within the spirituality of the money culture. The prosperity gospel assures us that God favours the rich and has rewarded them with their money, whereas the gospel that emphasises the bias of God, towards the poor and the needy believes that God ‘has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away’ (Lk 1:53). Which theology is correct? To what extent has our own spirituality been invaded by the ambiguity of theology? Christian theology has no privileged realm of escape, no magical haven of protection within which it can be safe from the penetration of money values.
At this point it becomes necessary to have a theology and a psychology of self-deception. Money itself is full of guile and deception, transforming itself from one shape into another with astonishing versatility. The money culture becomes almost invisible as it surrounds us so completely. We no longer notice it and our imaginations are so possessed by it that we can no longer conceive of an alternative to our complete dependence upon it. It is through self-deception that honest and trustworthy people maintain their self-respect in a money culture (Christian Aid, 1994, Chapter 6). We do this in many ways (Mclaughlin and Rorty, 1988; Via, 1990). Our language itself conceals the truth from us by telling us alternative stories about our culture and ourselves. People talk about the enterprise culture, which is, in fact, a money culture. People talk about the generation of wealth when what they mean is making money. People talk about the danger of setting one’s heart upon material things when the danger lies not in material things which may be beautiful and useful, but in setting one’s heart upon anything other than the true God. It is the love of money, not materialism, which is the blight of our culture, and those who contrast the spiritual with the material are merely distracting us from the central issue. We are to find our spirituality not as an alternative to our materiality but within it. St Paul said that we were to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and thus to achieve the transformation of our minds (Rom. 12:1).
Self-deception disguises us from ourselves, and it does this by taking hundreds of tiny steps, each one of which is barely noticeable by itself. Self-deception uses selective attention to screen out unwelcome knowledge and inconsistent facts. Self-deception puts things into compartments, so that one part of my life is not in touch with another part, so that I myself become fragmented into several persons. Self-deception results in a loss of integrity, since in order to deceive myself I must reduce effective communication between one part of my mind and the other. Self-deception functions through refusing to spell out in detail the implications and consequences of our actions. Self-deception thrives upon vagueness and upon distraction. Self-deception is one of the major coping mechanisms used by people who live in a money culture situated within a world of wretchedness and poverty. Self- deception is pleasant because it enables us to maintain our self- esteem, and it is innocent because it succeeds in its object, which is to deceive us about the very fact that we are deceived (Fingarette, 1969; Elster, 1983).
If the general outline of my argument so far is accepted, it becomes possible to interpret many features of the growing literature on spiritual education. Here I try to illuminate four of these:
1) Spirituality is often regarded as the cultivation of the inward. There is a great deal written about inner feelings, although I have not yet discovered what outer feelings might be. There is a great deal about the inner journey, about discovering self-transcendence and so on. I shall describe this feature of the spirituality literature as the introversion of spirituality (see Slee, 1992).
our more insightful perception; it is to be located in poetry, in , music, in the arts and in all the finer flowers of what we call the higher culture.
2) There is a tendency, to which I have already referred, to contrast the spiritual with the material. The spiritual is thought of as being located in the mind, in ideas, in heavenly aspirations and in so-called spiritual realities. Against this, I try to adopt an incarnational model of spirituality, one which emphasises the word made flesh, and this tendency could be called the materialisation of spirituality. By this I mean to suggest that we should not seek to make the spiritual more spiritual but should rather seek to make it more concrete, more earthly, more in touch with the content and structure of our bodily lives (see Davis, 1976).
3) There is a tendency to root spirituality in a sort of universal anthropology, to speak of the capacity of human nature to transcend itself through imagination and art and so forth. Spirituality is regarded as a characteristic feature of the human species in contrast with the other animal species. This anthropologisation of spirituality distracts us from the specific historical and social characteristics of spirituality as we know it today. It suggests that spirituality is somehow immutable and perennial, whereas spirituality, as I have tried to show, is fluctuating, ambiguous, driven by technology and economics and susceptible to profound and often rapid social change (see Hull, 1996b).
4) Spirituality is aestheticised. Its locus is to be found in the beautiful, it is to be pursued by cultivating our finer feelings,
The latter feature turns spirituality into a pursuit of the refined classes; it becomes a privilege available to the few, something which middle-class families can provide for their children in order to enrich their children's lives. We may call this the aestheticisation of spirituality. It should be contrasted with that spirituality which acknowledges the reality of human pain, which seeks to bring human beings out of their own pain into a shouldering of responsibility for the pain of the world (Chopp, 1986; Lamb, 1982). These are some examples of the kinds of false emphases which I detect in the literature of spiritual education, and I believe that these can be understood as various kinds of evasions, self-deceptions and cultural productions attributable to the money economy. They represent various forms of what I have called the spirituality of money.
Spiritual education is that education which seeks to inspire children and young people to live for others. Spiritual education seeks to recreate solidarity through participation in the lives of others. This is to be distinguished from moral education partly because of the quality of inspiration. Moral education has to do with the concepts of duty and obligation, of right and wrong. It enables children and young people to develop moral judgement and to distinguish the character of justice and so forth. The spiritual education to which I refer is inspirational and thus practical. It is focused upon achieving a transformation of life in the direction of mutuality and sharing.
Before we take this any further we must pause to reflect upon the impact of the spirituality of the money culture on children and young people. I have already pointed out that early childhood, very early childhood, is a haven of use values as opposed to exchange values. Young children sometimes try to bite a coin only to throw it away with disgust. It’s no use. Those who take so-called ‘rational economic man’ in the market-place as the fundamental characteristic of human relationships have already revealed their choice of values. It would be more faithful to our species if we took the first relationship between mother and baby, or that between the young infant and its first adult carer as the model of our true humanity (Hartsock, 1983, p. 41). This is a model of dependence and inter-dependence, in which the rationality of the agreed price gives way to the mutuality of exchanged powers. Who is more powerful, the mother or the baby? Weakness and strength are here exchanged and become complementary. This is the way we 'win strength out of weakness' (Hb 11:34). It is not the same as the satisfaction produced by having got a good bargain.
Children quickly learn, however, that amongst adults money is regarded as the secret of happiness. This awareness does not usually become mature until the secondary school years (key stages 3 and 4). Now money begins to function as the universal expression of good will, which just because it is universal and no longer individualised obliterates goodwill itself. My fourteen-year-old, instead of choosing or making a present for his friend at school, gives him a five pound note. The five pound note is passed on from friend to friend on birthdays. It is convenient since nobody has to bother; it is absolutely equitable since the value of the five pound note is stable, and it doesn’t actually cost anyone anything. The former National Curriculum Council published some guidelines on economic and industrial awareness as a cross-curricular theme. These referred to using ‘giving’ in order to help pupils to understand the character of economic transactions. The curious thing is that when this happens, giving itself becomes invisible. Instead of giving, we have circulation, that being the only form of giving which is intrinsic to the character of money.
It is symptomatic of our spiritual situation that giving becomes a way of teaching the nature of money, by way of illustration. ‘Schools should consider ways of teaching pupils to ... know that buying, selling and giving are ways of exchanging goods and services’ (National Curriculum Council 199O, pp. 14f). It is suggested that children should ‘examine money in circulation at a simple level, e.g. banks, shops, post office’ and should ‘discuss ways in which things are exchanged without money and why, e.g. gifts and "swaps"’ (NCC, 1990, p. 15). It would be more illuminating for children if they were helped to see the contrast between giving and circulating. Giving is not a way of exchanging goods and services.
Give to anyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who would borrow from you (Mt 5:42).
Freely you have received, freely give (Mt 10:8). I was hungry and you gave me bread (Mt 25:35).
Thanks be to God for God's unspeakable gift (2 Co 9:15).
The spirituality of the money culture and the spirituality of the culture of grace confront each other.
With students aged sixteen plus, everything has become instrumental. Recently a chemistry teacher from one of our well-known independent schools told me how he tried to help his students to respond to the wonderful beauty of chemical structures. One of the students said ‘You’re sad, sir’. ‘No’, he replied, ‘You’re sad, because you don’t understand the beauty inside things.’ For this student, the only sensible pursuit in life was to use everything as a means to an end, that end being the securing of money through getting a well-paid job. Everything is looked upon as instrumental in terms of its examination and career prospects, and that in turn is based upon the belief that money gives the golden touch that transforms life. The point is that if you haven’t got any, it does. Nevertheless, as King Midas discovered years ago, as the universal means it destroys the very ends it pursues.
These values which are the internalised product of the money culture are in conflict with the pockets of resistance of which adolescents are often so keenly aware. As the young child’s sense of reciprocal fairness, the idea of taking turns and the idea of fairness give way in middle and later adolescence to a sense of universal justice and to increased appreciation of the nature of human communities, the outrageous invasion of human values by the money culture is often seen quite starkly by our young people, sometimes indeed hidden under a mask of cynicism, but often flashing out in moments of real indignation. I have already referred to the word ‘sad’ which is such a significant expression in the current vocabulary of young people. My wife and I received several phone calls from the troubled parents of a student in his first year at university, with whom they had lost contact, asking if we could find him, deliver letters to his assumed address and so on. The student was not my student; I had never met him or his parents. We took the phone calls with courtesy, as anyone would have done, and ran around to the house with the messages.
'’Why don’t you just tell them to get lost?’ asked my twelve-year-old.
‘Because everyone who asks you for help has a right to be heard,’ my wife said.
‘That’s sad, Mum!’ was the reply.
To be ‘sad’ is to be burdened with values of solidarity and mutuality, to care for things in themselves, to be pathetic in one’s failure to adopt lines of action which are obviously and immediately in one’s own self-interest.
It was only a few days later that my twelve-year-old, the same one, said:
'Sarah thinks I’m sad!’ I asked why.
‘Because she says it doesn't matter if the tropical rain forests get destroyed because we don’t live there and I say it does matter.’
Our young people are also keenly aware of the fragmented character of the spiritual life as expressed through religion. Graham Rossiter and Marisa Crawford (1994), the Australian Catholic educators, have written about this with considerable insight. They point out that whereas most adults still comprehend Christian spirituality as a more or less coherent tradition, which they accept or do not, regard themselves as within or outside, for many young people this sense of the unified character of a spiritual tradition has waned. They have adopted a pick-and-mix approach to the spiritual traditions. They are often quite open to religious ideas and he actions, interested in these ideals and the people who have lived in accordance with them, but have a certain independent attitude toward them. They can take it or leave it. They don't mind learning about such subjects and are often quite interested. Here and there, where there is something which they feel has an affinity or an identity to offer, they accept it, but they seldom identify completely with a religious tradition. On the other hand, there are those few be exceptions who become totally engrossed and even fanaticised by the integrity of a particular tradition. These aspects of adolescent spirituality today are consistent with the notion of identity diffusion as outlined by Erik H. Erikson (1968) and by the sociologists Peter Berger (1979) with his concept of ‘the heretical imperative’ and Robert Bellah (1970) with his contrast between compact and complex religious symbolism.
My own interpretation is that this fracturing or complexification of the traditional spiritual houses is at least partly the product of the impact upon them of the money-culture values, to which they have responded ambiguously, becoming increasingly divided and disjointed in the process. This brings us to what Jürgen Habermas (1975) described as the great legitimation crisis of our culture: so great is our technological might that we can make anything, except meaning. Our societies need to generate meaning in order to induce people into the pursuit of wealth, even in the face of the discouragement of knowing that only a few can succeed. The only sources of genuine meaning are, however, the ancient spiritual traditions, and these are being eroded by the very processes of the money culture. Consequently we have a crisis.
Spirituality Across the Curriculum
If we take seriously this analysis of the conflicting spiritualities of our culture, in the light of the suggestion that truly spiritual education is that which inspires young people to live for others, we will find that this makes a considerable impact upon the curriculum and indeed upon the structure and values of school life. There is within each subject a subject for death and a subject for life. The deeper you go into the meaning of the subject, the more this dichotomy emerges. This is an example of spelling-out as a technique for dissolving self-deception. For example, it is not sufficient in teaching chemistry and physics to draw attention to the wonder, beauty and design of nature. This is certainly an important aspect of spiritual education, in that it draws attention to the beauty of things in themselves rather than as means for the generation of wealth. However, one must pass on to consider the character of the human exploitation of chemistry in relation to the environment and particularly the unequal distribution of the world's resources. If this second part is not added on, we are left with the spirituality of the aesthetic.
A similar distinction could be made with respect to religious education, where we should distinguish that form of religion which promotes the quest for universal peace and justice from that form of religion which builds up individual and group identity in a tribalistic way by excluding other religious traditions. This latter type of religion is what may be called religionism (Hull, 1996c). Thus one can ask of a Christian education curriculum whether its major emphasis is upon Christian-ness or upon Christian religionism (Hull, 1995).
The relationship of this approach to the teaching of economics and business studies is rather obvious. Just as there is no private language so there is no private money. Language and money are forms of social life. Is the collective, social and interpersonal character of money recognised and affirmed in the teaching of economics and business studies or is the assumption always that money is a private matter where individuals freely choose on the open market, thus establishing what are called market forces? In the teaching of history, does the curriculum tend to emphasise the history of ‘our people’ or does it enable young people to identify with and form a vision of a global community? A spiritually inspiring curriculum would tend to emphasise what Eric Wolf (1982) has called the story of the people without history.
I will not attempt in these closing remarks to enlarge upon the contribution which the specifically Christian curriculum might make to spiritual education, nor will I try at this point to offer a Christian theological rationale for this approach. It is sufficient for the present to promote the concept of a spiritual education which consists of the two-step approach: out of one’s own pain into the pain of the world, out of one's own happiness into a wider joy. This is a vision to which men and women of all faiths, and those whose vocation in education is inspired by the values immanent within the human species alone, may all contribute together. It is worth adding that the way in which money as both an object and a language is viewed by Catholic educators and Catholic education may ultimately determine not only the future direction and purpose of Catholic education, but its very existence.