Globalization is routinely decried for its disruptive effects, particularly as it relates to the health of our social relationships and community enterprises and institutions. Even as it’s proven to drive significant economic growth, questions remain about its steamrolling influence on the culture and society.
But what about the opportunities?
In a lecture at the Faith@Work Summit, Tim Liu, a healthcare administrator and CEO, reminds us of the potential for a “Godly globalization,” noting that amid the disruptive effects, we also see an enduring pursuit of individual identity, cultural distinction, and human connection — not to mention a range of new channels for social collaboration.
“It is a phenomenon that is highly paradoxical,” he says. “We understand the McDonaldization of the globe…but there is an opposing force of the need to localize…There is a need for people to continue to retain their unique identity, as much as globalization as come across the globe.”
While I disagree with several of Liu’s observations about the severity of income inequality and the overall trajectory of economic progress (the picture is far rosier), he points to a range of legitimate risks and challenges that we continue to face, whether tangible (e.g. high inflation, job disruption) or spiritual/social (e.g. isolation, disconnection). Yet the paradox remains.
It’s up to the church, Liu continues, to ride these tensions without subscribing to an “either-or” mindset. It’s up to us to use our newfound interconnection not for increased idleness or passive detachment, but for increased collaboration and deeper, more expansive social, community, and economic transformation.
This requires a healthy theology of work and a holistic view of Christian mission, but just as important, it requires an economic imagination that understands the role of that work and Christian service a complex global economy.
“Even those who see this workplace ministry and hold to it strongly, they work almost as individuals,” Liu says. “But in the globalized world, we need to work within a system and network, because the problems that we deal with in the city and across the globe are interconnected. You need governance. You need businesses to work together. You need to use technology to enable things to get done. You need to build communities around them. You need to build the financial infrastructure. You need to build the physical infrastructure.”
Liu focuses more specifically on forming intentional Christian partnerships, but we’d do well to expand our imaginations toward much more. The globalized economy offers plenty of channels and networks that already exist, from informal trading relationships to more sophisticated supply chains, and the opportunities to engage and serve are closer and smaller and more numerous than many of us think.
One of the key benefits of globalization is that Christians have the opportunity transform the global community from wherever we are, even if our tasks don’t feed directly into the grand global architecture. Indeed, the majority of our creative service should be more occurring from the bottom up, among neighbors and friends, managers and coworkers, clients and customers, and so on.
When we view our globalized world through in such a way — through the lens of fellowship and connection — we begin to realize that the path toward a “Godly globalization” is right in front of us. It’s up to us to cultivate the culture accordingly, creating for our communities and serving our neighbors in the day-to-day economic order — from the bottom to the top, from near to far, and back again.