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Book Chapter

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The relationship between Christianity and the global economic order is murky. The influence of certain Christian thinkers can be seen in certain aspects of the international economic system, but it would be difficult to sustain the case that the system pervasively reflects a Christian character. There is little ongoing engagement between formal Christian institutions (churches or church groups) and formal political institutions such as the WTO, IMF, or World Bank, because the work of elite global political institutions has become technical, technocratic, and specialized. At a retail level, Christians of course exert influence on the global economy in their capacities as entrepreneurs, consumers, employers, employees, etc., but given the immense variety in social and economic perspectives among Christians, it is difficult to discern a distinctively Christian influence on market behavior. Finally, enormous multinational corporations play an ever-increasing role in defining norms and practices in global commerce, and many Christians are involved in these organizations. However, most large corporations strenuously eschew any suggestion of religious affiliation in order to avoid offending any constituency; hence, the corporate sphere is becoming increasingly like the public political sphere—a zone into which religion must not intrude. Given all of these facts, one might struggle pessimistically to identify the role of Christianity in the global economic order. Nonetheless, the church is commanded to engage rather than retreat; determining its distinctive role in the global economic sphere remains a daunting but unavoidable challenge for the twenty-first century.