Christianity and Capitalism: The Great Debate

I totally lied – this isn’t a debate. It can’t be. I’ll just have to pose my question(s) based on the commentaries I’ve seen.

Full disclosure: I am a Christian.

I am also NOT a Republican…

nor a Democrat…

nor do I have any political affiliation with a label.

I think the political party system is kind of a farce. I think both main parties are dominated by the whims of their large donors and are then beholden to champion, not the will of the people, but the will of their donors.

So now that we have gotten that out of the way, a question has been percolating in my mind for some time. Why do so many self-proclaimed Christians feel as if capitalism is ordained by Christ himself and is the only legitimate economic model? Why do so many Christian people equate only capitalism with democracy when one is an economic system and the other is a form of government?

The questions got me thinking about my own upbringing in a Christian, staunchly Republican home. My mom was a single issue voter; she voted for whoever was on the ballot registered as a Right To Life candidate. She did not care about any other policy but that one. My father was a republican too, but a little more complicated. He was pro-union through and through. If he had to choose between the two, I think he would have chosen union over party.

And me. Where did I stand?

People often assume that since I was a teacher for so long, that I was a Democrat. Others assume that since I grew up republican, white, and in the burbs, I was am a Republican. Both assumptions would be wrong. I am also not a single issue voter. I am a Christian who struggles all the time because there has never once been a candidate who actually represents my beliefs. I’m always forced into a Scylla and Charybdis type situations choosing the lesser of two evils – neither of whom fully embrace all of the policies I do.

As a Christian, there is a very specific set of rules we are to follow – ten in fact. You shall have no other Gods but me.

When Jesus was asked about which was the greatest commandment of all, His response was, that all the law and prophets rested upon the idea that one must love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. Everything rests on loving God and your neighbor. You can knock out the 10 commandments with those two alone. If you love God, you won’t put anyone or anything before Him. If you love God you will worship nothing but Him, nor will you abuse His name, and you will honor him on the day He asks. If you love your neighbor, you will respect your parents, you won’t kill them, cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or wish you had what they had instead of them.

Seems pretty simple, right? Even when the Bible tells us NOT to love things, it all comes back to the commandment to love God and your neighbor. When we are admonished not to love the world, it is because, if you love the world and all its trappings, your focus strays from your love of God. When we are told over and over that the love of money is the root of all evil and that we cannot serve two masters – it is because the love of money would remove our focus from the love we should have for Him or for our neighbors. Jesus tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of heaven and it is precisely because of the greatest commandment. If you focus entirely on wealth – you are not focused on God, nor are you focused on your neighbor.

According to the World Happiness Report, many of the happiest countries do not follow the kind of capitalism we do in the U.S.. In fact, many are socialist or socialist in all but name. The Nordic model has a strong focus on social welfare and the care of their people. Many of these countries have some of the strongest educational systems in the world. It does seem that if we are caring for our neighbors, we and our neighbors would tend to be happier in their lives.

This is a very long lead up to my ultimate question. If capitalism is an economic system based entirely on accruing individual wealth and riches, and we know what the bible says about wealth, why does it seem that so many Christians so emphatically embrace capitalism as if it is a Christ ordained economic system? Is there a type of economic system should Christians embrace?

Before I ask you to respond, I’d like to add a comment and a request. Lots of people have told me over the years to never discuss politics; they say it causes strife. I disagree. I have lots of friends who disagree with my stances on a variety of issues, but, because we love and respect each other, we can have a conversation about the topic without attacking each other. Perhaps instead of avoiding political talk – we should encourage each other to listen and respectfully state their own beliefs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the question. Please comment below.

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