From The Dean’s Desk
Harold W. Attridge
Dean of Yale Divinity School & Lillian Claus Professor
of New Testament
For a year and half the American economy, and with it much of the world’s economy, has been on skids. The “Great Recession” has affected most of us, although, as usual, those who are least able to bear them have had the heaviest burdens. Religious communities certainly have not been immune to the economic pinch. At the same time, religious leaders have felt called upon to address the situation in which we find ourselves. They certainly do so by marshalling resources to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and heal those in distress. But they are also summoned to address the issues of morality and value that are so clearly implicated in the current crisis.
Our Christian traditions have long grappled with the complex challenges of the economic order, as several of the contributions to this issue make clear. The earliest warning that it is not possible to serve God and Mammon (Luke 16:13) posed a challenge that has echoed through the centuries, from the efforts of Medieval theologians to sixteenth-century Reformers to shape a just society down to the papal encyclicals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the engagement of Christian leaders to proclaim a Social Gospel. The effort to make the Gospel relevant to the realities of our day has been a constant concern.
This issue of Reflections attempts to contribute to that effort, by identifying voices that address our situation with analytical insight and thoughtful pas- toral guidance. In seeking out those voices we relied, as one might expect, on some of our colleagues in academic theology and ethics, and we drew on the experience of pastors intimately engaged in the economic turmoil of their congregations. We also sought out colleagues from the economics profession who were willing to talk about the moral dimensions of the contemporary economic scene; we are delighted to have several leading economists contributing to the issue.
The release of this issue coincides with a conference on the economy May 6-7 at Yale Divinity School. The annual conference is named in honor of the late Sarah Smith, who served as chair of our Board of Advisors. The event brings together some of the contributors to the journal, as well as other specialists in the relationship of religion and society, to engage with one another and with our faculty, students, and alumni. We hope that both this is- sue of the journal and the results of the conference will prove helpful to all who are concerned about our current situation. The task of making sense of economic turmoil is part of the role of religious leadership; the human toll of the recession is too severe to ignore.
Harold W. Attridge