A Voice in the Wilderness In Defense of "Mere Conservatism"

22Sep/12Off

A Reader Response: Jesus Wasn’t A Capitalist

I have penned a series of essays on the general topic of "The Bible & Economics" that I add to from time-to-time.  Most all of them have been published at the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" blog and I'll re-Tweet them on Twitter and re-post them of Facebook from time to time when something in the news touches upon something I've covered.  Because I am tackling issues at the intersection of faith and socio-economic (and political) ideology, and because I am advocating for the superiority of a free-market/limited government worldview, I tend to get more than a few negative responses from people on the Left (or who simply disagree).

A man who lives near me in the Los Angeles area by the name of Jake Pentland and I went back and forth on Twitter for a while last week over whether or not free enterprise and Christianity were compatible (from a Biblical perspective).  Eventually, as I could see the 140-characters at a time conversation wasn't progressing to the point something as important as this deserves, I offered to let him put together some of his thoughts and post them on my blog.  That's what you're about to read.  I regularly offer stuff like this to people who don't like my point of view, but rarely do they ever take me up on it.  So kudos to Jake!  (Note: for disclosure's sake, Mr. Pentland is not a Christian)

Please read what he has to say, leave us some of your own thoughts/comments at the bottom, and always remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  It's not just a cliche, it's a mandate.

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Some Thoughts on Jesus and Capitalism

By: Jake Pentland, Contributor

First off, I just want to thank RJ Moeller for this wonderful opportunity to post my retort here on his very own site. I believe that the two of us probably agree more than we don’t, and I do not for one-second doubt his passion for this great country.  I can only hope that after I blow his mind and challenge the very fabric of his wandering and confused ideology, we can still crack a beer together someday. With that said, cue my awesome entrance music and pyrotechnics as I prepare to body slam him into submission on the center of the mat.

I feet it necessary to state my case from the very start: I believe a Christian cannot support a system that has the main objective of profit. Capitalism is defined as: “a political and economic system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit”.

Jesus’ very life and teachings centered on preaching the exact opposite.

RJ Moeller has written many essays on the subject of Christianity and capitalism and although thought provoking and well researched, they do very little to convince me, or anyone who understands the teachings of Jesus to change our minds.

A Christian talking about being a capitalist is akin to a Jew telling you where to get a really good bacon wrapped shrimp cheeseburger. It is a contradiction, actually, it is THE contradiction. One that is so rare and opposite that it cannot help but be called it out at the very first sight of it.

Now the way in which RJ attempts to bridge the anti Christian agenda to his faith of Christianity is actually to cite the Torah. You know, the book of Jewish law.  I am still dumfounded as what the Old Testament has to do with the teachings of a one Jesus H. Christ. Yes, Jesus was a Jew, but he was revolutionary in his contempt for those who merely sought profit. He was so against it that a whole new religion came out of it called “CHRISTIANITY”.

(For the record it could also be called it could also be called ‘Socialism” )

Don’t believe this awesome non-Christian? Lets see what the big man, Jesus, said himself;

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."-Matthew 6:24

Is that Milton Friedman’s “greed is good” right there? No? The complete opposite? Oh ok. Got it.

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'"  -Matthew 25:41-45

Obviously no one told Jesus about the awesomeness of privatizing those prisons!

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"-Matthew 19:23-24

Go back to Russia, Commie!

"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."-Proverbs 17:5

The maker(dad) wants you to know, dear Jesus, that he understands the contempt for him isn’t personal, it’s just business.  He isn’t the type to drown whole cities or anything.

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"-Matthew 19:21

I think Jesus misunderstands capitalism.  It’s not about giving it away Jesus!  NO wonder your carpentry company failed. And now you want handouts, Jeez!

"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."-Proverbs 29:7

That doesn’t sound pro capitalist to me. Oh well what do I know, besides obviously… everything.

"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."   -Deuteronomy 15:11

I don’t think Jesus understands trickle down economics very well.

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."-1 Timothy 6:17-19

I’m calling you Jesus Marx from now on, for Christ sakes!

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have."-Hebrews 13:5

That sounds like the EXACT OPPOSITE of capitalism!  I wonder why that is? Oh…. because it…..is.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." --Acts 4::32-35 NIV

RUN! SOCIALISTS!!!!!

So, here is what we do know….if Jesus returned, as foretold by his followers (non capitalists) he would be so upset with RJ and his Friedmenesque essays that he would no doubt drift back up into heaven never to return again.  If you are a follower of Christ and you choose to cite scripture to claim being a Christian and capitalist can work together, shouldn’t you cite Christ, and not Judaism?(everyone knows Jews are fine with making a buck or two)

To be clear, I am fine with ignoring his teachings, as I am not Christian.  I love capitalism and don’t need to assuage my guilt by twisting his words.  It is well documented what Jesus believed, and any actual Christian would be well served to pay attention to the “Christ” in Christianity.

If you want to make a profit, go ahead, this is America, but you don’t have to ignore your lord and savior while feigning the opposite to do so.  Just continue to ignore him guilt free…

 

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Mr Pentland confuses usury with profit. The wage earner exchanges his/her time for what he/she deems a profitable exchange. The Apostle Paul was a tent maker with his friends Aquila and Priscilla and there is no scriptural evidence they were selling them at cost ;-)

  2. There is no such thing as “trickle down economics”, Mr. Pentland. And I am going to go with RJ on Christian theology here–he did attend one of the top seminaries in the country.

  3. I think RJ also has an undergraduate degree in Finance/Economics.

    RJ is also too modest to say so, but he is an extremely well-read person. I trust his judgment on economics and theology, especially relating to something personal as his own faith.

  4. Kudos Mr. Pentland! I, as a capitalist Christian, definitely understand your point of view and found your commentary to be highly engaging and well thought out.

    However, I think that one place that you and I agree should completely debunk your entire synopsis. You see, the Christian Church is not, and should not be, a governing body. The entirety of these statements ring loudly and truly to a group of individuals who by their free will share openly and completely with one another (socialism in government is NOT the same thing as a family unit, which is how we describe ourselves). However, isnt it obsurd to assume that Christ’s vision for His family is also his vision for government? If that were true, Christ would not be a socialist, but instead a dictator, since we are many times told to be as slaves to Christ…

    You see, the separation of church and state is not a new idea, it was Christ’s idea. Remember, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s?

    However, I will not write an essay, but I did want to say that your Bible study has really encouraged me in my faith, but didnt do much to challenge my position as a Christian Capitalist… I don’t feel very “body-slammed”. :)

  5. Some obvious gaps in your Biblical understanding:
    1) Creating “Christianity” was not Jesus’ purpose in life.
    2) Christianity was never a method of abolishing free enterprise, neither was it intended to.
    3) Christians are taught to set their minds on things above this world. Recognizing the fallen and broken aspects of everything man-made – markets and government included, deters Christians from political panacea dreams, e.g., Sharia, Facism, communal fanaticism.
    4) I see no inherent connecting between participating in a free market and worshiping money, remember “Sell your possessions… you will have treasure in heaven”?
    5) Holding on to your own money while asking others to help the sick an needy for you (but in your name) is not what the Bible teaches.
    6) Jesus teaches that salvation is impossible for any man, rich or poor, except through Him. Any difficulty in accepting Christ which results from worldly security and provision is not exclusive to private wealth – government largess hardly makes a man poor.

    If a Christian bases life of off the example of Christ, they ought to be reading the New Testament. And the Old Testament. Since Jesus regularly quotes the Old Testament. The monolithic interpretation of the context-free verses you chose is unconvincing and boring. What I did find thought-provoking was impressive cynicism and mental acrobatics it must have taken to form the predictable “case closed” attitude your diatribe assumes throughout.

    The argument additionally presumes the following: that religion can be scholastically digested to fit a preconceived world view which can thus be used it to attack other world views whose incredibility are also a foregone conclusion. If you are actually interested in interpreting the world through a religion’s lens, I recommend you actually act on the presumption that the religion is true rather than beneath you.

  6. Most of what Jesus said in the text quoted above refers to sacrifice. Sacrifice as worship to God is a pillar of the Christian faith. Sacrifice needs to be the choice of the person to truly be worship. When the government TAKES money (taxes) and gives it to the needy, it is no longer sacrifice. Therefore what Jesus was talking about can’t be applied for the argument against capitalism.

  7. I do not doubt RJ is my intellectual superior. I know he is. But we can learn from anyone. I hope to engage and at least challenge him in the only way I can. A fist fight:)

  8. Jesus was a Jew and as such affirmed the OT-17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
    18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
    19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Further, he constantly spoke of “the scripture” and was referring to the Jewish Scriptures-aka the OT)

  9. I see that Mr. Pentland has done us the service of actually indicating what Conservatives have always known; Socialism is a religion. That is why it totally fails as a political and economic system. Christianity is also not a political and economic system. It is able to be practiced under many systems.

    Christianity and Judaism lay the foundation for Free-Market Capitalism by giving us property which is enshrined in the Law along with the truth that Theft of property is Evil. Free-Market Capitalists understand that a persons body and time are his property and we believe everyone should have the opportunity to use their labor and intellect to better themselves, possibly earning profit and eventually even accumulating wealth, thus being able to be generous towards God, if they are wise. Any system that disallows property, property rights, and even profit from using your property is Evil. Socialism is Evil. Socialism is an Evil system. Christianity is not a system. Christianity is not Evil.

    I notice is that Mr. Pentland assumes profit is evil. He is wrong. Jesus even told parables about profit (the talents) and to the one who had ten (after making profit on five) he gave another one. (that the idiot had buried instead of even getting interest for his master) Profit, or increase is one of the many blessings God allows to his people, and to all people since the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

    Why does Mr Pentland himself quote OT Deuteronomy and Proverbs, while condemning Mr Moeller for doing so?

    The quote from Deut. is wildly out of context. If you read the whole chapter you will see that God says first that there will never be any needy among you, then he states there might be some needy among you, then he gets to since there will never cease to be needy among you. The point is that the outcomes are dependent on the people living out the commands given to them, including property rights, and that the needy will have to work to eat. (gleaning the missed grapes, and the edges of the fields)

    The unwise do love money, and wish to hoard the blessings they have from God, and God will take care of them in His own time. The parable of the Wealthy man tearing down his barns to build new bigger ones comes to mind, and yes, he was admonished that he should have been generous with his wealth and we all should heed that warning, but it has nothing to do with capitalism.

    The quotes from Proverbs seem to indicate that Mr. Pentland thinks that any profits are theft of food or support from the needy. In fact, profit and increase are what enables the poor and needy to eat. We should all care about justice for the poor. Profit does not take anything away from the poor. Neither the rich or the poor should have an advantage when seeking justice.

    The Bible is a practical book, a complex book and an inspired book that is alive with Wisdom and Truth for those wishing to understand God. Seeing how Mr Pentland tries to use it to bash someone is really sad and shows a complete lack of understanding the very things he claims to understand so well.

    One last thing. Mr Pentland, Using our Lord’s Name in vain as you do will bring on problems for you that you may wish had never happened. You should repent and seek forgiveness.

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