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When it comes to the crunch

Christians in the United Kingdom, most of whom are comfortably middle-class, are less likely to be personally affected by financial crashes than some. But difficulties in the banking sector do affect issues on which they are likely to campaign. Money that might have been reserved for aid or debt relief, for example, can often disappear. Ironically, problems within those systems of international finance that campaigners have wanted to overthrow have, in fact, endangered the promises made by rich countries about their global responsibilities.

It is right to point out, as Archbishop Sentamu did in September, that the funds made available for bailing out banks have dwarfed those that have been directed to the two-thirds world. It was probably less prudent to criticise the short-sellers who allegedly caused the collapse of HBOS, since Church of England funds had also been accrued that way.

This all suggests that financial comprehension inside the wider church is not quite what it could be. The often-dizzying vocabulary of hedge funds, arbitrage and the futures market is inaccessible to many of us (many of us, that is, whose pensions fuel the process). We seem to believe that these things should be regulated without knowing how or why. The call to prohibit short-selling, for example, ignores the fact that when it was banned in Pakistan it had no discernible effect in the long term.

One obvious answer is to educate ourselves, which would inform our campaigning as well as our personal financial choices. But those who operate inside the City are always likely to be one step ahead. What then for Christians who want to do more than cross their fingers - or pray - and hope? It might be glib simply to invoke Christ's command that we do not worry, but it is worth remembering that, however indebted or threatened, we are likely to maintain a standard of living inside the world's top 3%. In fact, the upside-down Kingdom of God approach might even be to - with the help of ethical microfinance initiatives like Oikocredit - invest. Such systems, used widely, would ensure that even while our governments are backing out of aid pledges, our money is helping businesses which are most in need of support - those in the developing world.