Monday, October 20, 2008

What makes life valuable?

Why do we value the person? What makes life valuable? As it is handed down to us, we are made in the Image of God. (Imago Dei) This rather unique concept tells us that God has expressed God's self in making humans and that God cares for humankind. This effort of God gives humans intrinsic value that goes beyond just what they can do, or provide. In fact, this value is greater than the value of utility (what they can do or provide). Further, this concept, when grasped by humans allows those humans to participate with God in bringing about God's will. Humans can become co-creators with God.

So we value people because each person is in some way an expression of God. If we do not value others, then it is a serious reflection of how we feel about God. America in particular does not value people for being made in the image of God. In fact we work hard to push aside those who do not provide utility. If you don't make some sort of profit for another, you have no reason to be. That we have homeless people and people who get executed proves this point.

So, can we value people? I don't think capitalism will allow it. The working of capitalism means that the capitalist, the one with the capital who organizes some effort to make money, has to compete with other capitalists to make that money. The premise is that the marketplace will force all who are competing for the same market slice to work to reduce their costs, increase their efficiency, and /or make themselves appear special in the eyes of their potential consumers. Consumers will most often seek the lowest cost for a given product or service unless that product or service stands out as special and worth extra. For the capitalist then, it usually works best to strive for a lowest cost of production in order to provide a lowest price in the market. The pressure to pay employees as little as possible is strong. This system is built only to value the output of the employee, not the person the employee is.

That impulse carries into many areas of life in the US. It is the opposite of what we say we believe when we say we believe that people are made in the image of God. It has been this way a long time and I am not certain we should change it. But it sure stinks.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

People can be capitalists and use their money to help people- the homeless, the jobless, the orphan, the poor or people can be socialists can be lazy and support abortion and euthanasia. If you look in history, the masses are abused and devalued if they are not rewarded for their labor.a