Q & R: Pre-emptive Peace, Developmental Economics

Here’s the Q:

Brian, last year I found your podcast about pre-emptive peace making. I felt drawn by what you were saying, yet I had no concept or understanding of what developmental economics was. So I sort out books and lectures on the topic. I spent the remainder of the year pouring through them, and even enrolled into a Masters of Social Change and Development (organisational leadership and capacity building). It combined with Theology has become a passion and inspiration for me.
I am only starting out on this journey, and so come asking if you have any advice for me. As someone who is seasoned, can you recommend anywhere for me to start?
I think I would love to be a blessing to church leaders around the world. Firstly to deconstruct the Gospel message in a positive and life giving way, to reach a point that it can be implemented into a new culture and used to redeem and call out the truth and beauty of that culture’s past, present and future. I would also love to share what I know (and will learn) about developmental economics to help the church serve its community more wholly and ultimately bless their country and culture. To work pre-emptively to create peace and wholeness. i understand this vision is expansive and somewhat vague, however at this point I am wary on constricting God’s vision to my own desires.
I come to you because, you are someone who I respect and know about in this field.
I would love and highly appericate any wisdom and direction that you can bless me with. Any others in the field to learn from. I feel like a child, entering into a vast sea of knowledge..
…I have so much to learn ahead of me, any blessing you can give me would be most appreciated. Thank you for being who you are, God has blessed many through you. Keep growing stronger in the faith. May we leave this world better than we found it..

Here’s the R:

First, I’m so honored to be a small part of your exciting and important journey. Thanks for letting me know what’s happening with you. Since I wrote Everything Must Change, I’ve felt more and more drawn, as you have, to seek ways to leverage my little life in God’s big work of healing the planet. And that always requires unlearning and learning …
I’d like to offer a challenge and then some resource suggestions. First the challenge –
Helping the church care about the planet, poverty, and peace is not the same thing as helping the planet, reducing poverty, and seeking peace. It’s possible to spend your life working on the former and never get around to the latter, I’m sad to say. Some parts of the church are so resistant to caring about these pivotal issues – so embedded (unknowingly or knowingly) in consumerism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and militarism – that a lifetime of effort will have little impact. Far better (think of Luke 10 here) to focus your effort on “people of peace” wherever you find them and work with them to make a difference, and then invite more and more people from the church at large to join you.
That work, I think, has to simultaneously be global, local, and personal. I’m sure you know what I mean. You may end up focusing on the global (policy) dimensions, or on the local implementation dimensions, or the personal embodiment dimensions, but you have to remember the other dimensions matter too.
OK – as for resources:
On the planet … Herman Daley and Bill McKibbin would be at the top of my list. Leonardo Boff’s “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor” would be a theological north star.
On poverty – I’d focus on understanding macroeconomics (perhaps in hopes of humanizing the global economy – but at least in hopes of being aware of its juggernaut-power and figuring out how to locally cope with or adjust to or steer clear of it, depending), and then I’d learn all I can about business development – social entrepreneurship, etc. I would start learning microenteprise, but not stop there – the development of medium-sized and larger businesses (environmentally and socially sustainable) is essential, I think, for building healthy societies. (Taxes – contrary to the opinions of many these days – end up being a really important human invention for the common good!) The work of David Korten is especially helpful in this regard – starting with The Great Turning, but all of his works are worthwhile.
[By the way – check out the other post today with a link to the Greening of Eritrea video. Amazing!)
And on peace – there is a good body of literature on rebuilding peace in conflict-ridden situations, all of it worth reading. But I’d pay special attention to the issues of identity development (this will be the topic of my next book – stay tuned for details), and the conceptual/anthropological work of Rene Girard. The Raven Foundation and Theology and Peace are two good places to start … along with this Girardian lectionary resource. If we only focus on healing conflicts that have already erupted, we’ll never lack for work to do … but we also must work more on the pre-emptive side: learning “what makes for peace” to avoid conflict wherever possible.
I think you’re really wise to take your studies seriously. There are no shortage of great efforts calling for your effort and support – but getting the big picture and developing a faith-based vision of peace, justice, and a regenerative economy … that’s absolutely essential. I look forward to collaborating with you in the years to come. God is already guiding you … may you be continually encouraged!