The stock market was supposed to crash when Donald Trump became president, because of all the instability he was going to bring the world. But it hasn’t crashed; it’s soared. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner noticed. The investors get it, he said in a recent article. They understand that Trump is really going to be a pragmatist and that all of his outrageous tweets are nothing more than bread and circuses for the riffraff. So if the Dow Jones is going up, does that mean everything is going to be all right?
How did that single number become the measure of the stability of our world? It’s a very pertinent question in our age when all the official metrics say our economy is healthy, but so many people are underemployed and financially insecure. The capitalist liberal elites were baffled by our last election. Why didn’t the white working class look at the official numbers before they voted? The Dow Jones tripled in size during Obama’s administration. Obama has created so many jobs (in the dead-end service industry). Unemployment is at a record low (which could mean people have settled for crappy jobs or stopped looking).
There’s part of me that wants Trump to officially destroy our economy by crashing the stock market so that he’ll officially lose and his ideology will officially be discredited. Of course, if that happened, my ministry would probably lose all its funding. But what if Trump doesn’t crash the stock market? What if investors don’t care about the lunacy of spending billions of dollars to build a largely symbolic, racist-pandering wall on the southern border as long as he slashes corporate taxes? What if investors don’t give a damn about millions of people losing their health insurance? What if investors are fine with police brutality and torture and starvation wages?
On the flip side, what if the changes that need to be made to our economic order for it to be just and sustainable for the people at the bottom will inevitably end up crashing the stock market? What if Trump’s administration sets up an impossibly unsustainable new normal in our corporate world that will go off like a booby trap whenever anyone tries to challenge it? Over the past century in Latin America, every time a popular uprising brought a leader into power who fought for the poor, it always “wrecked” the economy and created a “crisis” that justified a military coup d’etat. Will the restoration of any semblance of a social safety net after Trump burns it all down cause an economic crisis?
Will there ever be a time when the economic vitality of our nation is actually measured by the well-being of the most marginalized? Will there ever be a time when the nakedly cynical self-justification of trickle-down economics is utterly repudiated and silenced? Will there ever be a time when the white working class will stop being hoodwinked and thrown under the bus by Democrats and Republicans alike?
When John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus to ask him whether he’s really the messiah, Jesus responds, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). Those are the things that measure the presence of Christ in an economy. Imagine if our economy was actually good news to the poor. That would require the presence of true Christians in our country.
Want to detoxify your Christianity this Lent? Check out my book How Jesus Saves the World From Us.
Campus ministry is the future of the church. If you would like to invest in the church’s future with our NOLA Wesley United Methodist Campus Ministry, then please consider becoming a monthly patron or a one-time donor.