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It’s the economy, stupid

They came to the other side of the sea to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he [Jesus Christ, AD 31] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. …… And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd … rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. …… And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. Mark 5: 1, 13, 17


“It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase widely used at the time of the last US recession. George H W Bush was, in 1992, fighting for re-election as US President. But he had concentrated on foreign policy and, allegedly, allowed a recession to arise. Bill Clinton adopted a catch phrase - “It’s the economy, stupid” – and he won the day.


The present US recession has seen Barack Obama elected 44th US President and, as President Elect, assuming immediate responsibility for the economy.


Jersey’s economy is also regarded, consciously or semi-consciously, as the key to all our futures. The changes arising from the 2008 elections will work through before year end to a new Chief Minister, a probable new Treasury Minister and a possible new Economic Development Minister. And all three will know that it’s the economy that is vital.


Pity then the folk who lived in Gerasa in Jesus’ day (see above). Gerasa now has a slightly-altered name – Kerasa. It’s on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Back in AD 31 it was, as now, a small town. The principal town of that area was Gadara – hence the phrase “the Gadarene swine” - a phrase much used today as shorthand for the herd instinct that possesses all of us from time to time.


(Maybe we are suffering from a herd instinct to borrow so as to have now and pay later? Maybe Alastair Darling this week is trying to encourage the herd to spend, spend, spend? The reason? The economy, stupid.)


But the really interesting thing about the economy of Gerasa was that it was pigs and not finance that was its key feature. And here was one big herd of 2,000 – a very valuable economic resource.


The Jersey 2008 equivalent? You choose.


On the other side of the scales of assets and liabilities was one man – a man who had been “living” (if you can call it that) among the tombs. He had often been bound with shackles and chains but he wrenched those apart. He was always screaming and cutting himself.


When the evil spirits left him he was totally, totally changed – “clothed and in his right mind”. The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma from which we get “pneumatic” meaning “wind” “breath” or “life”. The man’s life purpose was damaging to himself and others.


So, in AD 31, this herd, this economic resource was lost to the community because of the actions of Jesus but one man was saved.


Not quite. The record states that the evil “breaths” or ”lives” within this self-destructive man asked to be sent into the swine – and Jesus then said, “Go”.


Jesus permitted economic damage so as to “save” a man.


But, “it’s the economy, stupid”, so the people who came from Gerasa to see what had happened wanted no more of it (see above). They began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. Please go away, Jesus of Nazareth.


Unlike the man who, restored and in his right mind, begged to be with Jesus wherever he went...for ever more.


Stupid, really.

‘Economy, n. Purchasing the barrel of whisky you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.’  (Ambrose Bierce, Compiler: The Devil’s Dictionary, 1842-1914)
‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C S Lewis, Author: The Chronicles of Narnia, 1898-1963)
Richard Syvret

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