One is tempted to accuse Elton John of hypocrisy – his net worth is reportedly $500 million – or ask the pope a few pointed questions about the nature of wealth creation. But we would be ill-served by yet another “Pope Francis Doesn’t Get Economics” essay or another article on celebrity hypocrisy.
Imagine that instead of a global gathering of elites and celebrities, the World Economic Forum tried to see the challenges facing the world through the lens of faith and the Judeo-Christian ethic that has guided the West to its current status of wealth and power. What might a Christian Davos look like? Would such an event even be possible?
We might begin by determining what a Christian Davos would not look like.
For starters, a Christian Davos would not be in Davos, an opulent city in the Swiss Alps notable for posh hotels and ski resorts. It probably wouldn’t be in Europe at all.
A Christian Davos would be one of the least ideologically homogenous places on earth. Participants would not be concerned with grand speeches, television cameras, and live-streaming.
A Christian Davos probably wouldn’t consist of the world’s crème de la crème: politicians, activists, governments, NGOs, corporate leaders, and famous artists.
My idealized – candidly, perhaps romanticized – conception of a Christian Davos would take place in Calcutta, Nairobi, or a remote and anonymous desert. It would be loosely organized, spartan, and notable for its lack of any clear hierarchy. It would consist of Christians of all denominations across the world gathering to freely worship, and fellowship, before they attempted to engage one another over the most pressing concerns facing the planet.
If this sounds a bit maudlin and quite impractical, there’s a reason for that: It is.
A massive, free-wheeling gathering of Christian equals – popes, priests, and paupers – sounds wonderful, but it’s a vision that runs counter to our species’ fundamental nature and need for structure, order, and hierarchy.
Aristotle observed that humans are not just social creatures; they are, by nature, political creatures.
“It is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal,” Aristotle wrote in Politics. “And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it.”
For this reason, my Christian Davos probably couldn’t exist, at least not for long. If such an event were organized, it likely would quickly become scripted, synthetic, lifeless. Disagreement would ensue over the topics slated for discussion. Someone would suggest Sao Paulo or Zurich as a more appropriate location. Arguments would erupt about who approved one presenter’s allotted speaking time. This would be quite natural.