The Capitalism Question

I have a friend in the USA with whom –through the wonder of the Internet–I’ve had several disagreements about various religious beliefs and political issues. She is ultra-conservative, a die-hard Republican and fundamentalist Christian. What strikes me most about her point of view is that she consistently speaks of capitalism as ‘God’s way’ and ‘backed by Scripture,’ and socialism as ‘the devil’s way’ and ‘evil.’ She was none too vocal during the most recent election campaign (and since) proclaiming her good news of the triumph of good (to be read ‘God’) over communist, socialist, fascist liberals (into which camp I, and most of Australia, was dumped).

The recent blog post (you can read it here) by Brian McLaren shows how what many deem to be sacred can actually encourage greed, covetousness, murder, hatred and the worship of other gods above the One. Given the money-centered culture we are part of and often subscribe to, it’s a challenging read.

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In fairness, the principles of the free market can be harnessed compassionately to help those struggling with generational poverty and desperate need. I think of businesses who ‘trade not aid’ or micro-finance organisations such as Kiva.org who help thousands of people help themselves. Then there’s the other end of the charity spectrum: huge multinational corporations sinking millions into charity projects–perhaps, relatively speaking, not as generously as dedicated non-profits, but effective nonetheless. Many books have been written about what has been called ‘compassionate capitalism’ and here is a short article about it on the Suite 101 blog.

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Regardless of what we choose to believe about the 21st Century’s ‘isms,’ the words of Jesus should still command our attention and action:

“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:9, NIV)

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