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.
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
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…