In last week's Comment article, Cardus Senior Fellow Paul Williams noted that "the primary biblical motif for redemption in the economic realm is 'Jubilee'" and that "the social goal of this biblical vision is not economic growth or efficiency but relational peace or shalom."
This doesn't suggest that growth or efficiency are the opposite of shalom—indeed they might even be necessary for it—but it makes these things and all economic activity assume a higher goal of "relational peace", which in turn assumes a rich conception of the human person as made in the image of God.
Surely by now you're asking: what does it taste like when the social goal of a business is shalom?
Well, if you were in Ontario and lucky enough to get to the LCBO in time to pick up one of 1,404 Westvleteren 12 six packs, you would note that jubilee is dark chestnut-coloured and,
has an aroma of dried fruit, demerara sugar and freshly-baked bread. In younger bottles, the demerara character is the most obvious note in the flavour. The potent level of alcohol (roughly 10 per cent), however, cuts the sweetness, keeping it from becoming cloying, as does a noticeable but not overwhelming hop bitterness on the finish. After a few years of age, the more obvious sweetness fades, and the boozy heat is better integrated.
That's right: jubilee tastes like trappist beer.
My colleague Ray Sawatsky, recently returned from a tour of the low countries, visited the abbey and "can confirm that this beer is, as the article suggests, the greatest beer in existence."
But why equate the greatest beer in existence with shalom? Well, take a look at what their abbot says about why they brew beer:
As every man we must be able to live. So we have to try to earn our living and let others share in what we have to abstain from. Indeed, we have to live 'from' and 'with' our brewery. But we do not live 'for' our brewery. This must be strange for business people and difficult to understand that we do not exploit our commercial assets as much as we can. We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.
Now, I don't think all of the monk's practices—limiting batches to sustenance levels, refusing to sell to those who will resell for profit, refusing delivery—are directly translatable to those who live outside religious communities. But their philosophy could be a profound example of what Williams was imagining, for those trying to live economic life in line with the Christian faith, including those who deal in surpluses of cash and goods.
Of course I am hopelessly biased. After all, we at Cardus believe that "it is right and true for Christians to drink beer." Moreover, we stand by the dictum that "Christians should not drink beer that is of poor quality." Perhaps, like this essay's subject, my judgment is a bit cloudy. But if you're looking for a place to taste and see jubilee, book a ticket to Flanders.