Linking Greeks, Christianity and Economics

I had written a while back on how  Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, an economist was invited to speak at the 66th National Pediatrics Congress at Rome. He did it really well pointing how both Pediatrics  and economics is connected to building human capital. Do read it when you have time.

I just figured another such invite. Charles Calomiris was invited to Hellenic American Women’s Council and asked to speak about oikonomia from a religious standpoint, and the role of women in spiritual stewardship.

His remarks are here and is a fascinating read. He links Greeks, Christianity and Economics really well.

Oikonomia is a Greek word with multiple meanings, or rather, one meaning that has different aspects, and applies to various levels of human organization (individual, family, community, and society). Nemein means to manage or control and oikos is a house. The concept can have a purely individual connotation: “the rules which control a person’s manner of living,” or “making the most of one’s resources.” The management of a household is the most literal translation. In addition to applying to a person or a family, oikonomia is also used to describe the stewardship of a community or a society. “The administration of the concerns and resources of any community or establishment with a view to orderly conduct and productiveness.”

The ladies of HAWC asked me to talk about the concept of oikonomia from a religious standpoint, and the role of women in spiritual stewardship. I am no theologian, but I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

So, here I am. There are three aspects of the religious application of the concept that I want to discuss: (1) what Orthodox Christianity has to say about our oikonomia as individuals and families, by which I mean the stewardship of our souls; (2) God’s oikonomia for us, meaning His stewardship of our souls, and (3) the role that cultural values play, in addition to religious beliefs, in realizing righteous oikonomia.

Why Greeks embraced Christianity?

Keith Roberts, in his forthcoming book, The Origins of Business, argues that ancient Greek economy and society, unlike other ancient economic and social systems that had preceded it, was decentralized in its structure. The laws and institutions that governed economic and political life in Greece reflected the goals of relatively small groups of people living in scattered settlements. Unlike the great riverine societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, or Persia, Greece’s geography and political structure produced a society in which economic activity uniquely reflected the goals of individual Greeks. This is reflected in the etymology of the word oikonomia, which defines the purpose of economic life as serving the aspirations of the household, not the ruler.

Uniquely in Greece, the central premise of social and economic organization was that individual purpose mattered. Material pursuits, philosophy, and religion served the individual’s well being, dignity, and understanding. That mindset likely explains why Greeks found Christianity so attractive. Christianity was a religion focusing on the salvation of individuals, not the promotion of a ruler or a ruling class. The apostles taught that all people are equal before God and that the salvation of each individual has equal importance. The dignity and worth of the individual, and the importance of the individual’s freedom to choose, are at the center of Christian theology.

Winston Churchill, citing Alexander the Great, argued that the essence of the Greek cultural commitment to individual dignity and freedom lay in the unique willingness of its citizens to “pronounce the word ‘no’.”The Greeks have always celebrated the courageous withholding of consent. Leonidas’s refusal to surrender at Thermopylae is an early and prominent example. It was followed centuries later by thousands of Christian martyrs who were tortured and killed for their refusal to deny Christ (“martyr” means witness). The Greeks courageously said no (ohi) to the Italian invasion of 1940, and still celebrate that decision every year on a day dedicated to the word ‘no’ (Ohi Day, October 28).

Greek cultural values that celebrate individual dignity, virtue and freedom serve the central religious objective of oikonomia – making the daily world sacred. Even those who do not regard themselves as religious can reveal through their actions what is known as “the hidden Christ,” meaning actions that promote Christian life without the explicit recognition of Christ. In Orthodox theological tradition, such actions can be a route to eventual salvation even for those who do not accept Orthodoxy. 

I really do not much about Christianity so cannot say much on the paper. All one can say reading this and current Greece crisis is how and where did these Greek values/culture got lost?

A real good read..It again shows economists can talk about and link to anything..They just need an invite to speak..

One Response to “Linking Greeks, Christianity and Economics”

  1. Rachael Parks Says:

    thats intersting 🙂
    i just read this good article on
    http://half-bridge.blogspot.com/2011/12/greek-economic-problem-and-difficult.html
    ………………………………..for my examinations …. it was pretty good !!!

    yours is a different way to look at things ………..
    i wonder if i can write this in my paper ……. hmmm
    most teachers are annoyed by the word “religion” hahaha 🙂

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