Jim Wallis starts his book with the statement that the 2008-2009 economic crisis presented us with an enormous opportunity to rediscover our values as people, as families, as communities of faith and as a nation. He says we can’t sustain a true economic recovery without a moral recovery and a moral compass (p.1). What is this “moral compass” that enables us to stop repeating the same economic blunders?
Wallis suggests for some time we have asked the wrong questions such as: what’s the fastest way to make money? Ads suggest dubious answers to our needs. Instead of the question when will this crisis be over? the question to ask is how will this crisis change me? (p. 2-3). Can you identify any priorities, successes measures, ways of conducting business, and self-regulation that changed as a result of the economic crisis – nationally, locally or in your household? Can you identify any signs of social change or personal change that you feel has come out of the crisis?
Wallis refers to Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins (p.4) as diagnostic of our current crisis. One of these is wealth without work. How do you interpret this in your social context? What does this mean? Can you give an example?
On page 16 and 17 there is reference to two markets, one of which is the “real market occurring in the back room … this weird Wall Street side bet”. This is compared with the concept “wealth is work” (Stewart, cited on p. 17). Does this value go far enough in your opinion?
Roosevelt is quoted as saying “the measure of restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit” (page 18). What specific social values do you think could help to restore society?
What do you think of the concept that our good is tied up in the common good? Wallis argues that “caring for the poor is not just a moral duty but part of our own enlightened self-interest” (p.23). Provide an argument in support of or in opposition to this view.
“When good people are in a bad system those good people start making bad decisions” (p.136) is a quote from the book. Economically, those trusted with other people’s savings were not thinking about decades later but about the next day’s trade. This short term thinking is contrasted with Native American thinking that considers the impact of decisions for the people and the land for the next seven generations. Identify some “seven generations” thinking and some “next day’s trade” thinking and compare the effect.
What is your response to the idea on page 139 that love for our neighbours and love for the planet on which our neighbours live cannot be separated?
Wallis says that who children admire is important because it affirms and shapes a particular set of value. Celebrities are role models for good or ill and therefore we need more of them to be heroes (p.144-145). Who are the celebrities and the social heroes that you and your family members admire and why?
Detroit is written as a parable of urban depression and economic suffering resulting from broken and unsustainable social contracts (pp. 201-215). However, it also shows community restoration. What meaning can you find in this parable? How relevant is this city to your city? What parallels can you draw?
There are twenty moral exercises given in the final chapter (pp. 227-240). Select twenty ideas to practise over twenty days to deliberately apply the principles of this book. Tell about what worked for you and what was challenging.
For further book club questions, and an interview with Jim Wallis go to the following website: