Theological Responses to Demonetisation

Introduction

According to the Bible, every person is required to be “subject to” the governing authorities. In this case, Prime Minister Modi and his band of financial experts who deem that demonetisation is the best route to take if we are to root out the scourge of black money from nation. “Subjection” includes obedience but implies even more. Subjection chiefly has to do with the spirit or attitude of the individual, which leads to obedience. It recognises authority over us to which we are obliged to give not only our obedience but our respect.

Demonetisation

Demonetisation is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender. Demonetisation is necessary whenever there is a change of national currency. The old unit of currency must be retired and replaced with a new currency unit.

Why Demonetisation in India?

There are multiple reasons why nations demonetize their local units of currency. In 2016, the Indian government decided to demonetize the 500- and 1000- rupee notes, the two biggest denomination notes. These notes accounted for 86% of the country’s cash supply. The government’s goal was to eradicate counterfeit currency, fight tax evasion, eliminate black money gotten from money laundering and terrorist financing activities, and promote a cashless economy. By making the larger denomination notes worthless, individuals and entities with huge sums of black money gotten from parallel cash systems were forced to convert the money at a bank which is by law required to acquire tax information from the entity. If the entity could not provide proof of making any tax payments on the cash, a tax penalty of 200% of the tax owed was imposed.

What is politics? 

Politics is the process or dynamics of people acquiring the power needed for participation in decision making on behalf of the total community. It is the process of acquiring and exercising power for the governance of a state. Should Christians be involved in politics?

The Bible tells us that God created from one stock every nation of men to inhabit the whole of earth’s surface and determined their eras in history and the limits of their territory (Acts. 17:26).

The Bible testifies to the involvement of the people in political activity. The story of the Exodus is about the politics of liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their development as a nation. The history of the monarchy in Judah and Israel deals not only with spiritual matters, but also about politics. It was the desire of the people of Israel to be like other nations that led them to adopt monarchy. In I Sam. 8 we have an interesting description of what monarchy would mean for the people. In spite of the warning given by Samuel the people wanted monarchy. The prophets were involved in politics and had much to say about the practice of justice in political life.

For the understanding of politics we need to clarify the notions of country, nation, society, state and Government. A country is determined by the geographical boundaries. Nations refers to the people who know themselves as belonging together. Within a nation there may be different societies such as urban, rural, tribal etc., held together by some common concern or interest. The state is the structure which provides a well ordered life for the people, exercising coercive authority. Different states have different structures for decision making and for enforcing discipline. The Government is the instrument for implementing the mandates and programmes of the state. It is through the different arms of the Government that the state maintains law and order.

Traditionally, there was the view that the state’s coercive power is to fight evil or check the consequences of sin. In Rom. 13 while asking people to submit to authorities in power, Paul regards the role of the government as mainly to punish the wrongdoers. It is like a dyke to prevent crime or the consequences of sin.The state certainly needs effective instruments to maintain peace and order against all forms of crime and violence within and from without. The police and the military represent the instruments the states have organised for this purpose. But this negative role is only based on a partial understanding of the function of the state. With advancement of society all over the world the state’s main role is the positive instrument of the common commitment to work together for improving the quality of life of all members of suciety in all spheres, physical, intellectual, cultural and spiritual. It is the role of the government not only to prevent law breaking, but also to develop programmes for increased production of resources for better quality and for just distribution of goods and services.

For a proper understanding of a Christian approach to politics, it is good to begin by asking what we can learn from Jesus’ attitude. He did his ministry in the midst of the Jewish people who were living under Roman suzerainty. It was an authoritarian regime and the people were subjected to a coercive authority. At the same time the Roman rule also maintained peace and gave a sense of security to the people through the enforcement of law and o~der within the Roman empire. Rome possessed a large and powerful army which could stop any invasion by hostile forces and save the unity of the empire. There is no evidence of Jesus saying anything against the Roman rule. There were movements among the Jews against the foreign rule, such as the Zealots, who wanted to overthrow the Roman rule by use of force. Jesus did not condemn this movement, but only said that those who take the sword shall fall by the sword.

When Jesus was asked, “Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor?” (Matt. 22:15-22; Luke 20:2-26; Mark 12:1317) Jesus’ answer was “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. Before giving his answer Jesus also asked for a coin they had for their use which has the head and the inscription of Caesar. Jesus reminded them that they had already compromised and accepted the authority of Caesar. But by his answer Jesus made it clear that they had already compromised and accepted the authority of Caesar. But by his answer Jesus made it clear that the authority of the emperor was not absolute. It was limited by what the authority of the kingdom of God required. If the people who came to him learnt to give to God what belonged to God, then they would know how to resist the authority of the emperor. Jesus did not yield to the desire of the people who wanted to make him king (John 6:15). He made it clear that he did not come to establish an earthly kingdom, but to proclaim the kingdom of God. He also reminded Pilate that the ultimate source of all authority was God and that he wQuld have no authority over Jesus unless God had given it (John 19: 11). Jesus also exposed the wavering and hypocritical attitude of the Jews and gave no support for their hopes of agitation against the Roman government. We cannot conclude from this that Jesus was concerned only about an other worldly spiritual kingdom. His teaching was that only through commitment to the ethics of the Kingdom of God transformation of the earthly kingdoms will happen.

Turning to the teaching of the early apostles we see that in the first struggle of the Christians with the government they declared that they should obey God and not man (Acts 4: 19). However, in the early apostolic teaching there is no call to oppose the authority of the government. We also need. to bear in mind the numerical weakness of Christians at that time. Any opposition would have been immediately crushed and made ineffective. Both Peter and Paul in their letters urged the Christians to be subject to the authority of the state and to intercede for those in authority (Rom. 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-17). It is also possible that the efficiency of the Roman rule providing peace, security and stability was considered by the apostles as a help to their missionary activities. They also regarded the government as the instrument of God against evil. But later when the book of Revelation was written the image had completely changed. Rome, mentioned symbolically as Babylon, is seen as a beast under the judgement of God. Rome is described as “Babylon the great, the mother of whores and of every obscenity on earth” (Rev. 17:5). Nero’s unjust persecution of the church had changed the church’s attitude to the state.

This means that the Bible does not ask for an unconditional submission to the state. The basic loyalty of the Christian is to God and his rule. Loyalty to the state or opposition to it is inspired by loyalty to God. We may recall the example of Thomas More who went to his death ordered by Henry VIII describing himself as the King’s good servant, but God’s first. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Rebellion to tyrants was obedience to God”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, because of his Christian commitment, thought it proper to join the Resistance movement in Germany whose objective was to kill Hitler. Resistance to any totalitarianism which exalts Caesar to the position of God was considered as obedience to God.

Money

Money occupies a very important place in an economic system based on division of labour. All the people become specialized and adapted for the producing of one particular kind of thing (or perhaps for producing only a part of a thing) or for rendering a particular kind of service. If these farmers, miners, engineers, wood-workers, .cloth-makers, merchants, clerks, lawyers, teachers, etc., are to obtain all the things they need but which they do not themselves produce, they must get them from other workers in exchange- for the things they themselves do produce. But it would be very inconvenient if the coalminer, e.g., had to go around offering to exchange lumps of coal for the yards of cloth that he wanted, or for the house repair he needed, or for the train journey he was taking. To get the cloth he needed, he would have to find someone who not only had cloth available but who also happened to want coal. It was in order to have a means of exchanging better than this very inefficient and inconvenient method of barter that money came into use. Under the money-system everyone exchanges his products and his services for money, knowing that all the other people who make things and do things that he wants to have or to enjoy will be ready to give their goods and their services in exchange for that same money. In this way money becomes the universal means of exchange and the measure of values.

The working population of a country-workers of all kinds, mental as well as manual, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled-are continuously producing a stream of goods and services. The amount of these goods and services that any particular person can secure for himself depends on the amount of purchasing-power, i.e., the amount of money, that he can command. Money therefore is a very powerful thing, for it is the means of obtaining products and services of all kinds.

In our modern societies if people are to live they must get money somehow. There are three ways of getting it: (i) by work; (ii) by owning property (land, houses, investments); (iii) by charitable doles. The money that comes by work is called salary or wages. The money that comes by owning property is called interest, rent and dividends. The income called interest (or usury) was condemned by the medieval Christian Church and is not regarded as legitimate by the Muslims. But there is nothing wrong in receiving interest on capital used in business enterprises. People save money (i.e., abtain from spending it) and lend it to businessmen or to Governments or Municipalities, who use it to make irrigation works or build factories or start enterprises of various kinds. and from the money received by selling the products of these things a part is paid to those who lent the’ money that enabled the enterprisers to operate successfully.

Because money is so powerful an instrument for comfort, for self-expression and for getting other people to serve one’s purposes, it is capable of all sorts of good and bad uses, and it is closely related to all our social problems. It can be used entirely selfishly for one’s own security and pleasures, and it can be used with unselfish generosity in helping others. For its sake evil things are continually being done, as the newspapers every day in-. Form us-stealing, lying, betraying, bribing and even murdering. By its means individual and family life can be maintained in -material well-being, cultural standards can be supported, and good causes advanced. Money has great potentialities both for good and for evil.

The problem of poverty, the existence of slums, the division between rich and poor, the fact that we can speak of the” haves” and the” have-nots”, the privileged and the under-privileged, make it impossible for us to shut our eyes to the social problem. These things also indicate that this problem is closely related to the distribution of income. The abolition of poverty involves somehow securing to every family in the land an adequate incoming flow of money, so that they may be enabled to obtain a share of the goods and services sufficient for their civilized needs. The current controversies regarding free enterprise, socialism, mixed economy, welfare state and communism could be regarded as controversies as to which is the economic organization most conducive to an adequate income for everyone in the nation.

Money is so potent a thing and so subtle an attraction that it can become an idolatry. It can come to appear to be the only thing worth striving for and any means for acquiring it be approved. We even tend to measure a person’s worth according to the number of rupees he earns per month. But a man’s income merely measures the commercial value of hi~ services in the competitive market. His real value is to be measured by his goodness as a father, a friend, a workman, an artistic creator or a benefactor. Money is only a means. True goodness and true happiness have much deeper roots. “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Jesus).

The supreme value of the human soul and the danger to its true welfare which arises from the love of money are clearly shown in several passages of the New Testament. E.g., “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew, 16: 26). “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many ‘Sparrows” (Matthew, 10: 29, 31). One of the parables .of Jesus is about a man whose material prosperity was .overflowing and who planned to pull down his store-houses and build bigger ones and who said to himself, “soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke, 12: 17-21). Another parable -the Rich Man and Lazarus-shows the danger of wealth wrapping a person in selfishness and making him callous to the crying needs at his very door (Luke, 16: 19-31). An interesting incident is recorded in St. Mark’s Gospel of Jesus meeting with a rich man who was full of enthusiasm for high ideals. Jesus was greatly attracted to him and’ called on him to follow him: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing Thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possesions.

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God”. That man was called to an heroic life, but his riches kept him from it (Mark, 10: 1727). The Epistle of James speaks very trenchantly against valuing persons by the measuring-rod of wealth. It is wrong if we welcome effusively to our assembly the man with the gold ring and the goodly apparel, and treat the man with the shabby garments with rude contempt (Epistle of James, 2: 1-9). The author of the Epistle to Timothy -sees money causing discontent, deterioration of character, and leading men to shut God out of consideration. He goes so far as to say that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1st Epistle to Timothy, 6: 6-10).

Money is a power that can be used for good or for evil. It can be used as a means of securing real wealth -or of bringing about veritable illth. Many of the serious ethical choices in modern days are concerned with the making and spending of money. Money should be got by fair and honest means and in ways that are not detrimental or oppressive to others. Money should be spent in ways that are good for oneself and others. We should regularly give away some portion of our money for the support of good causes. Like all else that we have money is rightly to be regarded as a trust from God, to be used in accordance with ethical principles. For an enlightening recent discussion of the right use of money (see R. P.. Masani’s The Role of Wealth in Society, Bombay, 1956).

BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION

A bribe is the giving of something to a person to do something for you of an unethical nature. It may be something which he ought to do in any case, or something that he ought to do in a fair and impartial way, or something that he ought not to do at all. E.g., a peon exacting money for bringing a petitioner’s letter to his master, or a railway official avoiding issuing a ticket till he is offered money for doing it; a government official giving out contracts not on fair business principles but according to which firm offers him the biggest inducement; the agent of a firm permitting a contractor to use raw material inferior to what had been promised, or an examiner under some kind of inducement marking a particular candidate’s paper up beyond its deserts.

Bribery always involves abusing one’s position for personal gain of some kind. The initiative may come from the person who holds the position and who, seeing the chance of gain, makes demands, more or less open, for payments from those who have to come to him. Or the initiative may spring from those who want to get something done, or to get priority over others, or to obtain some favour. They tempt the person with their offers, and, if his character is not good and strong, he falls to the temptation.

Bribery is wrong because it is unjust. Justice requires that rules and regulations be applied impartially and fairly, and that benefits and services and opportunities be given on reasonable grounds and not on grounds of the personal gain accruing to the official. Moreover, bribery is dishonest. The traces of it have to be covered up. The pretence has to be made that it did not take place. Bribery also makes for inefficiency in the social and economic life of the nation. By its means merit and worth are set aside in favour of those who give inducements to secure what they want. If people who desire to give good value and good work feel themselves compelled to give bribes in order to get business contracts, then inevitably the price of their products is raised. Just and good businessmen feel disgusted in an atmosphere of bribery.

The words bribery and corruption are rightly associated. For bribery brings about decay in the body politic. It impairs integrity, virtue and moral principle. It spreads like an infection, especially if the top people are suspected of indulging in it. We hear the excuse made that “everybody does it”. But that is never a satisfactory ethical reason inducements to secure what they want. If people who desire to give good value and good work feel themselves compelled to give bribes in order to get business contracts, then inevitably the price of their products is raised. Just and good businessmen feel disgusted in an atmosphere of bribery.

The words bribery and corruption are rightly associated. For bribery brings about decay in the body politic. It impairs integrity, virtue and moral principle. It spreads like an infection, especially if the top people are suspected of indulging in it. We hear the excuse made that “everybody does it”. But that is never a satisfactory ethical reason.

Never offer a bribe. Never accept a bribe. The person who holds steadfastly by these maxims in his conduct will be a good influence, an agent of health instead of corruption. He may be inconvenienced and even have to suffer loss, but he will be a witness to righteousness and a soldier in the good fight. The person who cannot be bribed, who cannot be purchased, is a great asset to a nation. Such persons are the antidote against the nation’s corruption. They are the hope of the time when the nation will be purified and exalted by righteousness.

Collateral damage of demonetisation

Indians prefer using cash for good reason. Cash keeps the economy moving even when there is a power cut and bank branches are shut, or when automated teller machines are not working. Cash doesn’t rely on how far a bank branch is from where you live or work; cash doesn’t require you to remember complicated passwords, and cash works even when telecom networks are shut down because of unspecified terror threats, and even where cellphone network is spotty. The woman who sells vegetables at your doorstep wants only cash. The man delivering milk won’t accept a cheque. Some shops don’t accept cards. Cash is the language of transactions, with which you, and millions of others, are used to conducting business daily. Cash is trusted, understood, legal; keeping it is legal; it is yours.

But only just. The government has taken a series of measures that have undermined the value of cash. You do technically have money in your account, but the choice of how much you can take out or spend is being taken away from you. If chip-and-pin cards and e-wallets seem indecipherable to you, then you may have to trust intermediaries—like typists at post offices—who will do business on your behalf for a fee. The transaction cost it adds may be negligible for people who announce on social media that they had a haircut for Rs661 and the barber shop accepted the money electronically, but that segment of the market is but a sliver. Six hundred and sixty-one rupees is nearly three weeks’ income for someone who lives on the poverty line.

It is patronizing and paternalistic to assume that the poor need to be educated and compelled to open bank accounts; that they aren’t doing so out of ignorance or obstinacy. The poor know how they are treated at branches if their bank balance is low, and smartphones aren’t cheap.

To be sure, many of the constraints that have kept nearly half of India’s population unbanked can be fixed. More branches should be opened away from the cities and they should operate at hours convenient to account holders, not the staff. ATMs are useful only if they work and only if they have cash. Both branches and ATMs should be spread throughout the country, and not concentrated in major towns and big cities. Power supply should be uninterrupted and telecom networks should not be shut down without proper cause, and if shut down, alternative means must exist for people to go about their daily lives.

This requires sensible sequencing and persuasion—instead, the government has issued a diktat and starved the economy of liquidity, to force people to act as the prime minister and his select group of advisers have determined.

Correct sequencing is important before any transformative change is undertaken. Singapore’s former prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, hated traffic jams. He didn’t want his island republic to suffer the fate that befell Bangkok and Jakarta. In 1975, Lee established an area licensing scheme (ALS) which levied a small charge on cars entering the central business district during peak hours. Since the levy wasn’t high, people continued to drive into the city, and so in 1990, a vehicle quota system was introduced which made it prohibitively expensive to own a car (those who wished to buy a car had to bid in an auction to acquire a certificate of entitlement, or COE, which was like a permit that allowed the individual to buy a car). Three years earlier, in 1987, Singapore started operating a mass rapid transit system, and by 1991, sleek trains started running, connecting a little over 40 stations across the island. The stick—of COEs and ALS—hurt, but there was the carrot—the MRT—which softened the blow by providing a world-class transit system. Then, in 1998, a more sophisticated electronic road pricing system was introduced.

Think of the sequencing—a surcharge to enter the city; creating an efficient transit system; raising car prices; then pricing roads. In the Indian context, it is as if people are told to return their cars to the state with the promise that new cars will be distributed, but they are being rationed, and the mass transit works only sporadically, benefiting a few, compelling people to walk long distances, and the government’s cheerleaders are telling those pedestrians—walk, it is good for your health; don’t be selfish, walk; soldiers guarding the borders walk miles daily as part of their drill, and you say you can’t walk a little bit for the greater good of the nation?

The prime minister wants to change Indian habits. Those habits have a rationale—people prefer cash because there are no functional alternatives. The reasons given to change their habits have changed week by week. Indians have good reasons to use cash—convenience being one, anonymity being another. The government may find such stubbornness annoying. But democratic governments change people’s behaviour by persuasion, not through coercion. The glaring failures in implementing the currency note swap shows either incompetence or deliberate design. The former is inexcusable; the latter, dishonest.

Maybe going cashless is good in the long run. But the short-run pain is unconscionable, and much of it is borne by people who have little money, and none of it is black. They are the collateral damage in this quixotic battle. Like the commander in the Vietnam War who destroyed a village to save it, the government has made life harder for those who had little and now even less.

Evaluation

R.A. Hauley in his book on “Paul and Roman Empire Order,” he maintained that the Roman Empire order as the context of Paul’s mission, instead of being oppose to Judaism. Paul’s gospel of Christian was opposed to the Roman Empire, but not in a openly way. This show in Rom. 13:1-7. Paul encourages the early Christian to be subject to the governing authority and not rebellion against Roam rule. He didn’t even preach about how Roman opposes subject people and even he didn’t pronounce prophetic oracle of divine judgment against the Empire in Roman. He did he actively oppose as agitate against to local Roman rule in the cities where he organized new community. In this he insisted the Thessalonians “live quietly” and “minded own affair” I Thessalonians 4:11 nor Paul doesn’t proclaim his gospel public space but in conspicuous space of household.

Likewise Paul said his gospel at Christian to the early Christian community who are under Roman Empire order. Because the whole system was bound on hierarchical structure such as power relation, ideology of “peace and security” generated by “wealthy, powerful and nobly born” and dominated the rule of this age. At the climax at which stead the empire savior. Empire power relation operated in complex way through cultural-religious terms integral related to social economic form of domination, and not simply by the sword: similarly Paul preach his mission in complex cultural mode integrally related to social formation that he and other were catalyzing.  

The rhetorical cultural aspect Paul and his assemblies shows they were having complete with the Roman Empire order not on the in cultural but also in social political in economic aspect. This gives us to see the ekklesia in the context of Roman Empire in early Christian discourses. The NT scholars have investigated Greek and roman rhetoric in order to appreciate betters the form taken by Paul argument. During the early Christian context the rhetoric was develop as instrument of participatory politic in which rival politician would attempt persuade the city assembly to take a particular course of action or rich a particular verdict in a judicial. In a society compose of slave holding patriarchal families, the rhetoric articulated particularly in the field of domination, legitimating slavery as destruction of women right. On the other hand, under the Roman Empire all the important decision or matter of the city affair was made either in Rome or small governing growth which roman authorize. In this the roman patricians who created the Roman Empire always oppose on democracy. In Greek city, the elite grout control the city, and roman elicits the city assembly and gradually destroy the law-court, and establish a property requirement holding public … correspondingly the roman and Greek aristocracy further develop rhetoric as key instrument of empire order. Whoever was under Roman Empire order they were beneficiaries. Aristotle observe that a century before “party strife in everywhere due to inequality”. Paul opposed the Roman Empire order, on the other hand, he was a citizen of Rome. For which he share the language of empire and even some of the particular form of persuasion. He borrowed theme and term of the empire and he establishes community that remains dominant culture. Yet he used those theme and term to articulate the gospel and build assemblies’ royal to the Lord.

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