Do Capitalism and Christianity Fit Together? Let's Just Say It's Complicated

I like doing more than having.  Anti-consumerism just seems right to me. To be a lover of God and humanity more than a lover of things, to be a Christ follower who chooses abstracts like love and peace over crass commercial objects--this world view feels, to me, like a soft blanket I just discovered in my closet. On most days Henry David Thoreau feels legit. 

But my house is full of those same crass objects I claim to dislike. I bought a new messenger bag the other day when I already have two, and I was certain that the made-in-China wooden bird I bought for my kitchen table would make my house feel, you know, more bohemian. The capitalists who have custom-built their jacked-up mansions along the bluffs outside my city have also bankrolled dozens of charities and helped pay my salary as a public school teacher. In short, the paradoxes of capitalism are keeping me up at night, especially in an election year. To make things worse, most of the Christians I know don't see the paradoxes at all. 

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Turning on a Dime (from thankful to lustful in sixty seconds)

I've just been perusing news about the violence among bargain-crazed shoppers in the U. S. yesterday.  "Black Friday" is a national phenomenon when retailers push sales to move themselves out of the red and into the black before the end of the year.  It happens on the day after Thanksgiving. 

So, we pause.  We give thanks.  We look around the table and say we're thankful for our families and our friends.  We recognize that we are blessed.  We say, "I am so thankful!" 

But, apparently, it's not enough.  It doesn't actually fill us up. 

The very next day, we go absolutely mad over manufactured stuff that we HAVE to have.  

Our Money Which Art In Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name

In the wake of the BP disaster and ecological nightmare, which is unfolding in our Gulf of Mexico, I sit back and ponder the deeper elements of our current social climate, worldview, and social progress. I look at the seriousness of the close to 22% unemployment rate in California (based on the actual 10% unemployment rate and factoring in those who are discouraged workers, entrepreneurs, and those who are independent employees who cannot claim unemployment insurance), a government without any real “teeth” to tackle the greed of our country, and an economic system which seems to only benefit those who are wealthy, I am saddened. Moreover, I am also enraged by the sheer amount of greed, which exists in our country today—and not just our country, but it is passing onto other nations too.
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Are You a Greedy Capitalist?

I’m at the Acton Institute and I’m thinking about greed.  Greed is the essence of capitalism, right?  Michael Douglas captured this sentiment as corporate villain, Gordon Gekko, in the 1987 movie Wall Street

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good.  Greed is right.  Greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.  Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore echoes this attitude in his movie Capitalism:  A Love Story, calling the free market system “legalized greed.”  Well, if Hollywood is correct, then a free market economy isn’t an option for the Christian.  Jesus is clear on the matter:  “"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  Greed is immoral.  But is capitalism based on greed?  No, and if you think so, you’ve bought into the myth.

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This Is It?

This is it? Well, not quite. You see, money is a powerful element in our society; and money tied to a world icon is an even greater draw to that money. Michael Jackson’s posthumous documentary drops this week and I have to say, I’m going to wait until it’s out with Netflix before I go and see it. I’m just not convinced that its what its geared up to be—it seems to be home video of Jackson dancing and preparing for his last concert. It’s hard to let icons die—I know, people still think Tupac is alive in Jamaica somewhere. Jackson made a lot of people a lot of money, moreover, he continues to make people money even in death; this documentary is just another step in the Jackson money making machine.

Now, I hate to sound skeptical, I’m sure there were plenty of people who worked on this film who had their “heart” into it. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that are just going to love this. However, the reality of it all is that money rules the roost. For the last few months, brutal battles of what belongs to whom have been hashed out in Los Angeles courts to get control of Jackson’s estate. Furthermore, there have been several people who have come out of Jackson’s camp attempting to get their “15 minutes” and early payday by talking about their interactions with Jackson.
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General Motors and Jesus Christ

On Monday, June 1, 2009 General Motors unveiled plans to close 14 plants and three warehouses in a move that could ultimately slash up to 20,000 workers from its payrolls, as the company undergoes an historic bankruptcy restructuring.

This is terrible news for just about everyone, most particularly the thousands of workers who have lost (or will lose) their job. As an economically engaged Christian, I do not think that God desires anyone to stay indefinitely involuntarily unemployed and I believe we should be praying for everyone affected.

Here are few points to consider

1) Difficult circumstances are a time to become stronger. A year or so ago, two friends of mine were facing personal finance challenges. Today, one of them is sinking into alcoholism, is divorced, and has little custody of his children. The other is working two jobs, sweating a lot, but has developed more character in the last year than in his previous 34.

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