On Facebook recently, Adventists in my news feed have been sharing news articles describing the Vatican's call for a "World Central Bank." Many have reposted it as a clear "sign" of the end time and warning to others: Rome is calling for a global, financial authority, precisely in an effort to control buying and selling. On one page, I read: "the signs couldn't be clearer!," "this thing is wrapping up soon!," etc.
Of course, the reality is far less "sexy." Here is the relevant paragraph:
Specific attention should be paid to the reform of the international monetary system and, in particular, the commitment to create some form of global monetary management, something that is already implicit in the Statutes of the International Monetary Fund. It is obvious that to some extent this is equivalent to putting the existing exchange systems up for discussion in order to find effective means of coordination and supervision. This process must also involve the emerging and developing countries in defining the stages of a gradual adaptation of the existing instruments. In fact, one can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of “central world bank” that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks. The underlying logic of peace, coordination and common vision which led to the Bretton Woods Agreements needs to be dusted off in order to provide adequate answers to the current questions. On the regional level, this process could begin by strengthening the existing institutions, such as the European Central Bank. However, this would require not only a reflection on the economic and financial level, but also and first of all on the political level, so as to create the set of public institutions that will guarantee the unity and consistency of the common decisions.
The idea of a World Central Bank is an old one, especially common since the 1940s. Economists who propose such an institution claim it is necessary within a global economy to level the international playing field, and encourage developing economies. Unlike the national central banks that presently dominate the global economy (e.g., the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Central Bank of China, etc.), a world central bank would not be hindered by narrow national interests (e.g., accommodating national budget deficits, military and domestic spending, the rescue of failing domestic institutions, or currency valuations for trade advantage, etc.)--interests that disadvantage poor and developing nations in the global economy. Rather, as a transnational institution, it would provide a secure and consistent experience for all nations. It would likely create a global reserve currency, regulate interests rates fairly, lend to nations, supervise other banking systems (against fraud), and act as an intermediary between indebted societies and foreign creditors. If a politician, economist, or journalist wrote in favor of this view (and thousands have), it would arouse little interest in the Adventist community. It's the stuff of WSJ or NYT op-eds. It's the stuff of graduate seminars in Finance.
But now that the Pontifical Council or Justice and Peace (PCJP) has dedicated a paragraph(!) in a dense forty-one page document to the proposal, Adventists are raising an apocalyptic alarm.
Sadly, not one Adventist reaction I have read has had anything to do with the substantive issues in this discussion; not one of them has gone so far as to at least gain some familiarity with the concept, and appraise it appropriately. Never mind that many of their political leanings might make them more sympathetic to bold solutions to assist the developing world. Most of my friends who have posted this link are average, balanced, mainstream Adventists; only one is especially conservative (on an Adventist scale). I decided to engage one friend employed by an Adventist University on the subject. Anyone would categorize him as a mainstream/centrist Adventist. Disappointingly, even after introducing him to the benefits and concerns surrounding such a solution, he still weighed this recommendation not on its theoretical merits within the fields of Finance or Macroeconomics (its proper context), but from a conspiratorial mindset (claiming he is "not surprised" the PCJP favors this plan is because it would give the pope a future "ability to influence the worlds economy," and establish "a unified world under a single religion").
Needless to say, my confidence in the Adventist "center" is not especially high today.
What is so alarming in the Adventist reactions is a baseless desire to attach prophetic import and conspiratorial speculation to virtually any statement released by any Vatican office. Nothing in the Adventist prophetic paradigm requires this type of reactionism; in fact, I would suggest it is antithetical to any healthy, careful, and measured consideration of biblical prophecy. One can believe in the Adventist paradigm without viewing this document as anything more than a Vatican office's response to contemporary discussions of macroeconomics, social justice, and subsidiarity (an office whose consultants include university professors, social ethicists, economic theorists, and theologians).
My friend noted, "For [Adventists] it is a duty to point out what they see as the 'signs of the times'". Of course, this little recommendation is hardly a biblical "sign." Nothing in Revelation says that the Beast will prefer a world central bank to an oppressive network of powerful regional (e.g., EU) or national central banks. No prominent Adventist has previously suggested such an institution is necessary to the realization of the Adventist prophetic paradigm. And lest we forget, 167 years of Adventist interest in such minute "signs of the times" has proved a futile exercise. Nineteenth century Adventist fascinations with "the signs of the times" absorbed them in constant speculations during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Civil War (including Mrs. White's speculations of a British-U.S. War), post-WWI interest in calendar reform, the Kennedy presidency, etc. The two-century-long record of failed "signs" speaks for itself.
My friend cynically responded, "there are other ways to help developing countries other than creating a global financial authority." Of course, this is exactly why the PCJP released this document: to spur thoughtful discussion on just ways of regulating international trade and currency. The PCJP merely produced recommendations building upon the statutes and principles underlying the IMF and Bretton Woods Agreements, and in keeping with its defined goal: 'to stimulate the Catholic Community to foster progress in needy regions and social justice on the international scene.'" Its recommendations are certainly not binding on Catholic economists and social ethicists, many of whom will no doubt take exception to various suggestions in the document, and indeed already have. Such responses are usually rooted in such wide ranging concerns as appropriate oversight for such an institution, concerns it could undermine national sovereignty, conservative/right-wing ideologies, and in at least a few cases state-side, American exceptionalism. Adventists should at least ask themselves, to what extent is the Adventist reaction to such a proposal truly representative of biblical concerns, and at what point is it more a reflection of conservative politics, “NWO” alarmism, knee-jerk confessionalism, and the like?
Adventists should pick their fights more wisely. When did it become necessary to take issue with the latest economic reflection issued by the PCJP? When did an economics debate become significant to proclaiming the "Three Angels' Message?" What are these reactions reflective of but a psychosis that oversteps the secure parameters of biblical prophecy and has devolved into a form of conspiracism?
—Hugo Mendez studies Historical Linguistics at the University of Georgia and blogs at Seventh-day Adventist to Roman Catholic.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3499