During the testosterone-fuelled boom years preceding the crisis, Christian faith was about surviving in the City, but since 2008 and the revelation that it was all built on sand, Christians have been saying unequivocally that the gospel is non-negotiable, that working in commerce is about transforming the way we do business, that Christianity is disruptive of systemic greed and corruption: that, in short, their work serves their faith and not the other way round. They are converting markets, not just people.
'They Are Converting Markets, Not Just People.'
With the emergence of this generation of self-confident, no-compromise disciples, the older City Christian benefactors, represented by figures such as Brian Griffiths, the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, have had their day. “It used to be that you made your money in the City and gave away big lumps of it to good causes,” Pitcher writes. “Griffiths was a driving force of the Christian Association of business Executives and its ‘principles for those in business’ - ‘Strive for excellence’, ‘Create wealth’, ‘Work ethically’ - which now look a bit like serving the system through the Christian gospel rather than making the system serve the gospel.”
James Featherby, Manoj Raithatha and Paul Szkiler
James Featherby, former partner of the City law firm Slaughter and May, rode the boom years and served the ‘temple of Mammon’, but converted. These days he writes books with titles such as ‘Of Markets and Men’ and ‘The White Swan Formula: Rebuilding business and Finance for the Common Good.’ “I used to think our financial system was good, but I was fooled by it," says Featherby in retrospect. "The system hasn’t delivered on the promises that were made. We took the enlightenment too far, with all the reductionism and individualism. We’re seeing the end of that now. In the west, we’ve all sorts of social problems we haven’t seen since the Second World War.”
'God is the CEO of my business, and I'm surrendering everything to Him.'
Someone elso who is making the change in City culture, is Manoj Raithatha, a property entrepreneur, who had a conversion experience in 2008 (he was raised a Hindu). He formed a think tank, business as Mission, with research scientist and Church of England priest Bridget Adams, which now claims a presence in 25 countries. “The Lord is doing so much in the area of business,” says Raithatha. “A whole new generation of people are coming up who want to use business as a means of advancing the Kingdom of God. God is the CEO of my business and we’re surrendering and giving everything to Him. We take His direction on all the big subjects. In the past, a lot of Christians have thought that what makes a Kingdom business is if it’s run ethically. But it’s more than being ethical. It’s about having a spiritual impact.”
Another ‘Power Christian’ is Paul Szkiler, chairman of Truestone Asset Management. For him doing business as a Christian is not about a fish symbol in his office or tithing. “We do rather better than that,” he says simply, and talks unassumingly about his interests investing roughly $20m in developing nations such as Mozambique and Tanzania “to empower them”. He is no great fan of the established Church (“The Temple does one thing well - it robs authority”) and speaks of ‘Churchianity’: “The traditional opposes the new. The established Church has a poverty mentality. But God is a God of superabundance. And what does the Church say? We haven’t got the budget.”
“It’s impossible to create disciples in the Church structure, in pews, dipping in to Scripture,” says Szkiler. “Disciples can only be created in markets.” And he sees a holy elision between economic prosperity and investment in the poorest developing nations. “Two years ago, JPMorgan estimated that social-impact investment was now a trillion-dollar asset class,” he says. He adds that seven of the world’s top-performing economies are in Africa and argues that, with proper governance and measured outcomes, there is no reason why serving the gospel and economic prosperity cannot coexist.
Before committing to Christianity, Szkiler was motivated vaguely by ‘doing good’, until he found himself in the presence of Jesus. His wide experience has given him an objectivity that can sound aggressive: “St Paul told us not to conform to pattern and to be countercultural. Most of us are subcultural rather than countercultural. We’re not causing enough ‘offence in love’ to make a difference. We need to die to ego. The more dead you are, the more God potential there is. There isn’t a man following Jesus hard who doesn’t have a limp. Everything is up for transformation.”
Pitcher is impressed by the Christians he met. He observes: “Radical stuff. I doubt if any of the old Christian guard in the City would have talked like this even five years ago. It occurs to me that Szkiler’s is a prophetic voice in the City. There is a new confidence in the Christian alternative, it’s a voice that is now being listened to rather attentively.”