Class Warfare Blog

April 22, 2018

Capitalism: A Conservative Christian Religion

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:14 am
Tags: , ,

Since it is Sunday, I observe …

Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have decried “Godless Communism” and “Godless Socialism” for many, many decades. Some of the most prominent public evangelicals have been more than a little strident on this issue. (Think of Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and especially Billy Graham, etc.)

And while these economic systems, actually political-economic systems, have been excoriated, capitalism has been mentioned only to praise it as something very close to God’s Will. This seems passing strange, no?

I start with definitions of capitalism and free markets.

Definition of Capitalism (Merriam Webster OnLine)
an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Definition of Free Market (Merriam Webster OnLine)
an economy operating by free competition

Any references to God or Jesus there? No? I do not see any.

Well, what does the Bible have to say about capitalism, which is basically a wealth distribution mechanism, providing a few with a way to get rich and many a way to get poor, a system reeking of winners and losers.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5: 1-6)

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

I could go on … for page after page, mind you, but I think you get the point.

So, why would these devout evangelical Christians (and many others of similar ilk) stand so stalwartly behind a system, capitalism, that if not severely confined results in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the ultimate “redistribution” that conservatives rail against? (Actually, they are fine with redistribution in this direction, they just don’t like it when it goes the other way.) My argument is that for a religion to prosper it must serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. Almost by definition the secular elites are defined by their wealth, so unless a religion serves the wealthy, its status declines.

If you look at Evangelical history in the U.S., they have had very little impact (save the occasional savant) until they hitched their wagon to the Republican Party. It was Billy Graham who presidents consulted, not a panel of religious leaders or an interfaith council. Upon Graham’s death, photo after photo showing Graham posing with presidents were to be seen in the epitaphs.

So, Christianity in this country, Protestant Christianity mostly, has favored democracy and capitalism, not because these are favored in scripture (they clearly are not) but because these are favored in the halls of power.

What Would A Christian Economic System Really Look Like?
I wish I could really answer this question. I can but start on an answer. Our economic culture is currently “pay-as-you-go,” if you want something, you must pay for it. Our motto is TANSTAAFL, which if you are not read up on Robert Heinlein, means “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

So, in our culture there is a line we could label “Ability to Pay” that goes from zero to as near to infinity as any of us can conceive of. At the “zero end” there are people who have no job, no housing, no money, no food and live via begging and theft. At the other end we have people who make more than a billion U.S. dollars a year, which as I have indicated before means that if they to work ordinary work hours and take ordinary holidays, they would be “making” $532,000 per hour … for the whole year. That would be to make “just” $1 billion; some make more. To put that in perspective, in my 40 years of work as a teacher, I made $2 million, which these people would make in one afternoon (knocking off early if they wished).

Capitalism does provide incentives for people to work, so there are some of its bones that could be incorporated into the new system, but an economic system that is in accordance with Christianity would have to have both ends of this line truncated.

At the bottom end, everyone would have shelter and food to eat and a reasonable amount of medical care (not to include casting out demons, that would only be included in the Platinum Plans). If people with shelter and enough to eat, couldn’t improve their lot in a fair system (not rigged as our current system is with Right to Work laws and tax breaks for wealthy people, etc.) then that would be their lot in life.

The top end would also need to be truncated, if only to protect rich people from an eternity in Hell (I’m kidding … I think). As incomes reach very high levels, tax brackets need to approach 100%. Now I know this sounds heretical, but I am talking about an economic system that is compatible with Christianity here. Anybody accumulating obscene amounts of money is either doing it legitimately or illegitimately. If they are doing it illegitimately, taxing their socks off is a way to get them to turn away from their illicit behaviors. If they are doing it legitimately, the accumulation of vast wealth is an indicator that they are not taking care of those around them. For example, Walmart could double to wages of its employees and the owners would still make billions in profits every year. Or they could donate those “extra” profits to charities, to avoid very high tax loads, etc.

The additional taxes collected would go to providing the “economic floor” so needed by the poorest among us.

Conservatives should like this system. It would be more “Christian” and with the poor guaranteed a roof over their heads and a full belly and a “fair shake” at improving their lot, if they do not do so, then conservatives would be free to refer to them as being shiftless and lazy.

The additional tax monies acquired through such a system would also allow us to take care of those unable to work: the severely physically handicapped, the mentally ill, wounded warriors, etc. And the rich would still be rich, if they wanted to test the proposition that “Hell is real.”

 

7 Comments »

  1. It is the big con. The religious freeloader types in league with capitalist say the poor will get their rewards in heaven, will those evil wealthy types will get their justice in the lake of fire. Hey I have a bridge in New York you can buy! Got toll booths set up already!

    Like

    Comment by Holding The Line In Florida — April 22, 2018 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

    • Hey, aren’t you in Florida? Shouldn’t you be selling prime housing lots .. in the swamp?

      On Sun, Apr 22, 2018 at 12:01 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 22, 2018 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  2. How the evangelical scam persists is beyond me.

    Like

    Comment by john zande — April 22, 2018 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

    • Unlike Calvinists, their main reason to exist is to evangelize, spread the word. That certainly helps. But I think their rise to prominence has been more political than religious. With regard to religion they are fairly insular, not so politics.

      On Sun, Apr 22, 2018 at 1:38 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 23, 2018 @ 7:43 am | Reply

  3. I am not sure you’ll take this as the compliment I intend it to be, but you are “crying prophetically into the capitalist wilderness.” Good on you for poking the eye of unquestioned entitlement that passes for “Christian” (sic). It’s easy to be merely cynical about all this – as you say:

    “My argument is that for a religion to prosper it must serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. Almost by definition the secular elites are defined by their wealth, so unless a religion serves the wealthy, its status declines.”

    I guess my question is, when did it become all about the religion to prosper?

    Thanks for your article.

    Like

    Comment by R.H. (Rusty) Foerger — April 25, 2018 @ 10:32 am | Reply

    • Craftsmen end up being identified by their tools and the religious and secular elites have been using one another to gain power for as long as civilization has been around. We end up being who that power is exercised upon and the sad thing is we now identify with the oppressive tool and, to some extent, own it and amplify and extend it. We kind of decorate our shackles because, ‘Don’t they look chic?”

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 25, 2018 @ 11:12 am | Reply

  4. Very interesting and well written article. I have no problem with free markets as long as they are truly free. Which in modern America they are not. You think some start up company sprung out of nowhere (there are some but…) only to find out they had backing from some rich family member. Cronyism, bureaucracy, corruption and identity politics has ruined much of what was the America dream… a land of the free. Once an honest person’s hard work has miraculously found success there are those on the left or right, rich or poor, who scheme to take it away. Christ did argue against much of the greed that goes on in America. I would add driving the money lenders out of the temple which most modern Churches, be it Catholic or Protestant, seem to circumvent. However, Christ was not the enemy of the honest tradesman or against the freedom to make an honest living or seek out one’s passions or gifts. God, after all saw Joseph, a carpenter, as worthy of being Christ’s earthly father. The problem I have with socialism or communism is that governments in their past attempt to legalize fairness suffocated the masses with regulations and limited people’s freedom including the freedom of religion, speech and occupation. Christ’s ministry is not about the oppression of man but freedom from the wages of sin, which is death. Nor was Christ a political or social leader as he made clear when he said to “Render Unto Caesars what is Caesars.” Capitalism maybe the engine of America but it has no direct relation to Christ or His Kingdom. If the corruption and greed continues and the rich keep on getting richer everyone else will cry out for a political hero and in walks the mob’s champion and the line of dictators will continue: Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin.

    Like

    Comment by mtonline — May 8, 2018 @ 12:13 pm | Reply


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