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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Capitalism And Christianity - Part One

By Dan

What does Christianity have to do with capitalism? The short answer is, "not much, really; at least not directly". You see, economics is, simply put, the allocation of scarce material resources. The Christian would do well to remember that Christianity not only thrives today in all sorts of harsh economic systems, but it has done so all through the changing systems throughout history. In fact, the argument could be made that it has thrived more hardily in oppressive systems, especially if we accept the fact that the church, in its purest form, is interested much more in men's eternal destinies than in any carnal-minded concepts such as the fair distributions of material resources.

The Christian therefore must beware of those who fix their eyes on worldly "material" as, not only  their source of joy and purpose but also a suitable solution for all that ails society. The very idea of the economic system of communism was born out of just such a perspective. The father of communism, Karl Marx, rejected God and became an atheist.  Then he set out to make things “fair” for those whom he saw as the down trodden masses.  But he could only see them in a strictly material sense.  Man's attempts to bring about the Utopian system he envisioned succeeded in bathing the 20th century in blood. Yet Utopia never arrived; only deeper levels of hell and fear for those under its oppressive fist ... oh, and lots of disparity in wealth distribution too.  In fact, history, as well as Jesus, tells us that wealth disparity is part and parcel to Man's existence. Man's attempts to "fix" that problem only end up changing who gets more than "their fair share".

From the Christian perspective -- that is, from the perspective that takes into account eternity -- it is the hopelessness during this life that causes the Church to thrive. In the free market system, you see, no matter what the material circumstances of one's birth, there is hope of improving those circumstances. This hope, which focuses primarily on material gains in this life, can present strong competition for our interests and affections and so be a formidable distraction from a future eternal hope after death. The irony should not be missed that the system dreamed up by Karl Marx, who proclaimed that religion was the opiate of the masses, caused those who discovered Jesus in the midst of his hell to thrive, albeit not materially.

Affluent free-market systems on the other hand provide a soft bed for the believer -- so soft, in fact, that there is no consequence for being a believer. Compromise becomes normal as worldly wealth finds itself in competition with our life in Christ. Our beliefs begin to die the death of a thousand compromises as our thinking increasingly conforms to this world. In the process we become increasingly less distinguishable from the world until one day we wake to find that our “Christian” bedfellows are not Christians at all but are wolves dressed in sheep’s’ clothing who have co-opted the Christian banner for anti-Christ causes based on social justice, which is just another way of saying "material justice".

Worse yet, affluence begins to inculcate the "religion" of Christianity with a confusion between material wealth and the abundant life in Christ. When terms like "thrive" are used in reference to the life in Christ lived out by those in poor oppressive systems, it doesn't make any sense to the affluent hearer because of this confusion. It is not mere coincidence then that the very term "abundant life" in John chapter 10 is found in the context of pointing out the existence of hireling shepherds -- shepherds who are there for the material outcome they gain and not for the eternal good of the sheep.

Keep these things in mind as we further examine, "capitalism and Christianity."

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