Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rethinking Christianity's support for Capitalism

It is good to have a blog, because one's views are always and constantly evolving. After some interaction with friends and introspection based on some thoughts expressed in my previous blog post on the American 2012 election, I have given some thought to my current ideology, paradigm and worldview. In my previous blog, I espoused views that endorse preference for a capitalist economy over a socialist one. After interaction, conversation and introspection, I reflected on views on socialism and asking the question are my views on socialism really Christian or are they inspired by the traditions of men?

So much of the New Testament is written about money and personal money management. Just take for example the book of Luke. Luke records many stories about money. Luke 18 - parable of tax collector and the story about the rich ruler, Luke 19 - parable of 10 pounds + Jesus cleansing the temple of the money changers; Luke 20, paying taxes and wicked tenants; Luke 21 - widow's offering. Consequently, in the scriptures one can find so many references, stories and parables about money. Yet does the scriptures either sanction socialism or capitalism? That is not as obvious.

I know that most of my views though on the relationship between capitalism and Protestant Christianity are inspired not by the Scriptures, but by the work of the German sociologist Max Weber. Weber (1930) wrote on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (for more about this see this entry in Wikipedia), pointing out how much the Protestant ethic was compatible with and also aided the initiation of capitalism.

Weber's work is not the only one to point to the compatibility of capitalism. I have also read the biography of  John D. Rockerfeller and have seen in this evidence of such compatibility in action. Collier and Horowitz (1976) tells us how John D. Rockerfeller's worldview was influenced by his mother's Protestant teaching. Rockfeller learned how to relate to money and personal money management and accounting from his Christian Protestant Baptist beginning (Collier & Horowitz, 1976)

As such, I now question if capitalism is really compatible with true Christianity or is it only compatible with fallen or apostate Christianity? These are the questions that I now pose for others and myself, at the eve of a possibly new America, as the conservatives and the harbingers of the old American Protestant story of democracy have suffered defeat to the new America of minorities and youth.

In one regard the old story of American Protestant is not very applicable today. Protestant story works when there are stable families that care for each other. However, with America's new demographics of unstable (if it is not politically correct to say 'broken') families, poverty concerns are inevitable. There are no guarantees that families will take care of each other in the present or future. People "fall in and out" of love, and no longer decide to commit to and persevere in keeping the family together and caring for each other until death.

Within this context, the issue then is, should not the Christian support widows and orphans, with widows in this case being single parents? Our New Testament theology answers with a resounding yes (See for example, James 1:27). Hereby, it is Christian to support and help single parents and those in unstable family conditions or situations of distress. The question however arises: should that duty be done through compulsory tax deduction via the state or through philanthropy, charity and good works?


Collier, Peter and David Horowitz. The Rockerfellers: An American Dynasty. New York: Holt, Rhineart and Winston, 1976.

Weber, Max. (1930). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Roxbury Publishing Company

1 comment:

FIONA said...

Something to think about.