Agenda for a New Economy launched in New York City the week of January 18, 2009 at a national theological conference, Radical Abundance: A Theology of Sustainability, hosted by the historic Trinity Wall Street Church located in the very heart of Wall Street. There were some 300 ministers, theologians, and lay leaders participating at the church, in addition to several thousand who participated in the more than 80 satellite video conferencing sites around the United States and the world.
My presentation made the case that the Wall Street financial crisis is at its core a spiritual crisis born of a violation of the biblical injunction against the worship of Mammon, the false god of money. I called on religious institutions to join in an effort to shut down the Wall Street Temple of Mammon and replace it with an honest financial system designed to serve the god of life.
A print version of the talk appeared in the March-April 2009 issue of Tikkun magazine as “Spiritual Awakening: A New Economy and the End of Empire.”
The opportunity to deliver this message to a global audience from the grand church looking directly down Wall Street just a block from the New York Stock Exchange, the global temple of Mammon, was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.
My troubadour friend and colleague Raffi recorded a new song No Wall Too Tall especially for the occasion. Raffi wrote this song years before I wrote the book, but it turned out to be a perfect fit. (I’ve been known to, occasionally, break in the middle of my presentation to get everyone singing and dancing along with “No Wall Too Tall” to get inspired and energized for the work ahead.)
The visit to New York for the launch included a number of high profile media interviews that are available for viewing on the web. An interview on the conclusions of Agenda for a New Economy with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez aired January 26, 2009 and is available on the Democracy Now website. It was YES! magazine day on Democracy Now, as this show also featured an interview with my wife, Fran Korten, on her relationship with Ann Soetoro, Barack Obama’s mother, when we lived in Indonesia.
I was later interviewed by David Brancaccio for PBS NOW. David asked me whether the measures proposed by the Obama administration to rein in Wall Street go far enough. My response: “Not even close.” You can view the interview and read an excerpt from the book on the PBS NOW website – “David Korten: Let Wall Street Fail.”
The New York visit also included a panel discussion with Benjamin Barber and Elizabeth Reynoso, hosted by Laura Flanders for a GritTV episode on positive approaches to dealing with the financial crisis.
On the way to and from New York, I made presentations on the themes of Agenda for a New Economy at events in the heartland in Kansas City and in the deep south in Birmingham, Alabama. These were opportunities to have conversations with many people of widely differing backgrounds and political orientations. I can say that the outrage over Wall Street greed and the use of taxpayer money to bail out those those whose excesses created the current economic crisis is near universal.
Everywhere I shared my message, people asked the same question. “Have you gotten a copy of Agenda for a New Economy into the hands of President Obama.” People are clearly eager to let him know it is time to shut down the Wall Street phantom wealth machine and replace it with a new financial system designed to serve the needs of the real wealth economy of Main Street. A year ago, people might have considered this a radical message. Now they seem to view it as just good common sense. It is truly time to expand the conversation on our economic choices to include previously out of the box ideas.