Is it possible to be a Christian AND a Capitalist?

Isobel - posted on 07/21/2010 ( 5 moms have responded )

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"For most of its 2,000 year history, Christianity not only frowned on capitalism, but banned it outright. Capitalism is making money with money. Interest, capital gains, investment income — everything we call "unearned income" — these are the lifeblood of capitalism. But until fairly recently, they were all banned by the Christian churches. Even buying and selling at a profit was proscribed. It was unthinkable for a Christian to be a businessman.

This Christian view of economics is grounded in the Bible. The law against charging interest goes back to Exodus 22: 24-25, "If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him." This prohibition is repeated 22 times in the Old Testament. Proverbs 28:8 says, "He who increases his wealth by interest and overcharge amasses it for someone else who will bestow it on the poor." Psalm 15 says, "Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent, who can dwell on your holy mountain? Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who speaks the truth from the heart, ... who asks no interest on loans, who takes no bribe to harm the innocent. No one who so acts can ever be shaken."

Deuteronomy 15:1-11 orders the cancellation of all debts at the end of every seventh year. And it cautions against refusing to lend to one in need because this time is near. So your loan will never be repaid to you. So what? The Lord will take care of you. But if you refuse one in need, the Lord will hold you "guilty of sin." "I command you to open your hand to your countrymen who are poor and needy." Deuteronomy 24: 19-21 establishes gleaners rights for "the alien, the fatherless, and the widow."

The New Testament also has some things to say about economics. Most of them should be profoundly troubling to the wealthy. James 5:1, for example, says, "Next a word to you who are rich. Weep and wail over the miserable fate overtaking you: your riches ... will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire. ... You have lived on the land in wanton luxury, gorging yourselves — and on the day appointed for your slaughter."

Jesus himself had much to say on the subject. Perhaps the most famous is Matthew 19: 21-24: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ... Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

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what do you think?

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ME - posted on 07/22/2010

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Oh...don't get me wrong, Laura...most Capitalists do not make good Christians, but theoretically, it is possible to be both a good Christian and a good Capitalist, that's all I was saying...

Isobel - posted on 07/21/2010

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To be honest, if capitalism worked the way it was intended to work, I would agree with you Mary, unfortunately (like communism) the system has been distorted to benefit ONLY the top of the food chain.

The "invisible hand" of the market was never calculated to include the greed and illegal actions of man...exactly the same as communism...

neither system exist as they were intended...both have been abused by greedy humans who can not abide by the laws of their system.

ME - posted on 07/21/2010

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I haven't read this article, but as someone who teaches political philosophy regularly, i can understand why someone would make this connection...I don't think it's true, but I think the argument is interesting. Capitalism is a system based on the idea that unregulated rational self-interest ("selfishness") is the best way to run your country. Christianity is the idea that one ought to treat all human beings with the same respect, and that we have an obligation to be charitable to others...you can see how they seem to be at odds with oneanother. Not all capitalists behave in their private lives (or business lives) in a purely selfish way. For example, apparently, Bill Gates, gives over 50% of his yearly earnings to charity (or has done so at least once, I can't remember the exact stat, and don't feel like looking it up). A Capitalist may believe that it is in her rational self-interest to help those less fortunate than she, and still be a good Capitalist.

Christa - posted on 07/21/2010

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I don't have time to read this right now, but I will. . . But I was wondering do you have the source this came from??

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