The 4th Annual New England Anglican Studies (NEAS) conference will be held on April 11-12 at Harvard Divinity School and will include a presentation from School of Theology seminarian Katie Bradshaw, T’15. The theme of this year’s conference is “Christianity and Capitalism.”
Five years after the worldwide financial crisis, two years after Occupy Wall Street, and in the midst of widespread movements challenging the global economic system, the conference will ask: How should Christians relate to contemporary capitalism? How should contemporary "capitalism," be understood, economically, historically, and theologically? Are there fundamental conflicts between our current economic order and our identity as Christians? If so, what can, and should, we do about them — as individuals, congregations, and institutions?
The conference includes speakers and contributors from a range of interested academics, practitioners, pastors, students, as they explore this topic with papers, plenary discussions, workshops, and worship. Bradshaw responded to a call-for-papers in December 2013 and her proposal was accepted by the NEAS review committee shortly after. She will make her presentation at the conference on April 12.
In her paper, titled “The For Profit Prison Industry: Why Theological Investing Is Important,” Bradshaw explores the dangers of economic profiteering in the name of justice, through the lens of the privatization of prisons. In recent years, the question of whether or not to privatize prisons has been widely debated, as the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Mass incarceration has created a thriving prison economy employing nearly 800,000 people — more than the auto industry. For every 100 new inmates, 26 new jobs are created. In 2011, after realizing it owned nearly one million dollars of stock in private prison corporations, the United Methodist Church Pension Board divested all stocks in private prisons. The UMC divested their interests based upon the fundamental conflict between revenue generating incarceration, and the moral and economic life of Christian community. Bradshaw explores the UMC divestment decision, and argues that Christians should evaluate their investment in economic industries whose profits are in opposition to the Gospel, specifically, mass incarceration.