Other Alternatives

In my last post, I wrote about the contradictions inherent in Christian Capitalism. The post served as a critique of a system that, I believe, is a hindrance to God’s Kingdom being ushered in during this present age. I don’t mean this in any kind of apocalyptic sense, but rather in the sense that Jesus has begun ushering in His Kingdom with his life, death, and resurrection; resulting in our invitation to be participants in His reign in our present circumstances.

With that being said, it was brought to my attention that in my criticism of Capitalism, I offered no solution in return. This is partly due to that fact, as I have mentioned elsewhere, that my knowledge of economics (particularly global markets) is limited. I don’t think this disqualifies me from general criticism (after all, the Pilgrims certainly did not have a suitable alternative worked out prior to boarding the Mayflower), but it does limit my ability to offer corrective responses. As someone who studies theology and literature, I know where my constructive limits are.

However, there are a few things I would like to suggest.

1) All things should be shared, equally distributing what we have to make sure that everyone that we can take care is taken care of (Acts 4:31-33). I’m not opposed to Marxism (even if he didn’t understand God like one would wish). Unfortunately, I have yet to see someone correctly implement Marx’s philosophy. Thus far, all attempts turn into a wretched disfigured form of what Marx wrote (like the USSR, the DPRK, and the PRC). Still, I don’t think the principle is what is wrong, but rather humanity’s distortion of it.

2) Debts should be forgiven regularly, and without penalty in order to avoid abuses (Leviticus 25). This isn’t to say people shouldn’t pay what they owe, but rather this is to remove the oppression that debt maintains over so much of the world. While I hold that the current credit crises is a result of greedy materialism, a practice like the one in Leviticus would stem the tide to some degree.

3) The Kingdom of God must be understood as something that effects everyone in this life, here and now (Matthew 5, Matthew 13). We behave as though we must operate under the guise of “take what we can get,” but such a mindset is never promoted by Jesus, nor His disciples. Acting in this present life to bring God’s Kingdom to fruition today is a critical part to all of this. Reforming the system will never truly work, because we don’t need reformation. We need transformation.

Perhaps these tidbits are not a cohesive structure (yet) but they still offer what I view as a better system than the one we have at present.

How do we implement such things? On a global scale, I have no idea. But operations like Spilling Hope and Advent Conspiracy I think are on the right track. On a local scale, it is up to the local Church and the members who comprise it to bring these things to reality. On an individual scale, it’s simpler. Obey Jesus’ commands to love God, our neighbors, and other Christians. Pray the Lord’s prayer, and mean it when we ask God to complete His will on earth as it is in heaven.

How does that change Capitalism? It doesn’t. At least not at first. But by transforming the individual, we can transform the local community, and then, well, the world.

It’s not going to be easy. And it may not ever be completely fulfilled. But I would rather live for Jesus, sharing Him with those who are oppressed, poor, down-trodden, and marginalized, than worry about my mortgage, or buying that HD TV I really want.

It starts with Jesus. But He invites us into His reign. So let’s get started.

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Can we bridle Greed?

How is that Christians believe that we can work Capitalism to our own ends? I realize that many within the Christian community believe that Capitalism is a good thing. The idea breaks down into something like this:

1) The best kind of society is one where freedom, in particular religious freedom, is the norm.
2) Politics and economics follow the same outline in that freedom is what is best.

2) Capitalism promotes freedom through competition, therefore it is the best economic system available.

Of course, the Industrial Revolution taught us a thing or two about the abuses of freedom (as if we had not been taught this lesson throughout history already), and so began regulations. Two World Wars, and three substantial economic crises later (‘20s, ‘80s, 2000s), the regulation continues. In fact we could add to the above outline:

4) Complete freedom, particularly in Capitalism, is dangerous so we must learn to control and direct the path of our economy.

While not a detailed economic blueprint, the above sketch is how many people (not least American Christians) think about the current economic system. This video serves as a prime example:

While it would be most prudent to go into a complete explanation of how our global economy currently functions, we cannot. My own knowledge is too limited for such an endeavor (without merely resorting to parroting someone else). But, I would like to challenge Dr. Deimer’s thought all the same.

There is no way in which Capitalism can ever truly be “bridled.” The recent economic crises around the world, not to mention in Greece and Ireland specifically, should have taught us that (this video was made in 2009 so apparently not all have come to the same conclusions as I have). Competition, whether we like to admit it or not, is in contrast to the character of God. Look at Paul’s writings to the Colossians, the Galatians, or the Romans. When he describes Christian virtue, does he list competitiveness? Does he mention anything closely resembling it?

No, he does not.

Why? Because it is not in Christ’s nature to compete, and His nature is what should govern God’s children (one could argue that God the Father is jealous, but that would be remiss…after all, God does not compete for our affections).

It brings me back to Matthew, and the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teachings on money are not vague.We either love money, or we love God. There is no in-between.

Of course, I’m stating the obvious, and no Christian, Capitalist or otherwise, would argue. In fact, they would say in my understanding of Matthew 6, I’m right.

The issue, then, comes from something else. After studying Scripture (in particular Exodus, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and the Gospels), I cannot fathom how any self-professing Christian can think that the economic system we have in the United States is anything other than a love of mammon. I understand that money is a useful tool, but that is not the limit of Capitalistic greed. Think of the housing collapse. Money, in the form of credit, was not being used as a tool. It was more a child’s plaything. We didn’t use it to end poverty, or better our communities. We used to get what we wanted. We manipulated numbers until the lifestyle we desired was achieved. There are, of course, exceptions to this (particularly people who suffered even though they did all the right things), but they are by far the tiny minority.

I don’t blame the people who took out home loans they could not afford. I don’t blame the banks who lent to people they should not have. Both of those  goats have been faulted enough.

I blame our habits, our hearts, our process of thinking. We believe that money can be tamed; that greed can be bridled. Regulation, deregulation, taxation, financial reform, and on, and on, and on. The truth is, no matter how you try to, you cannot accommodate greed. And what is Capitalism but greed put into practice?

Forgive the humor...We can do the math in way we want to, but the answer will never change. What is needed is not more of what we have, nor less of it for that matter. What we need is transformation.

 

 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:1-3, NASB)

It is only by this that things will change. And it is my continual prayer that things will indeed change. That’s what Jesus told us to do.

Christian Capitalism?

I’ve posted this video to Facebook a few times, but I doubt many people looked at it. And that’s a shame. Rarely have a seen such a concise and understandable explanation of why exactly Capitalism (i.e. the American Dream…) is bound to collapse in on itself. You should watch the video before going on…

…or not. The things is, Harvey is right on a several fronts.

Capitalism never solves its crises problems. It moves them around geographically.

But this is a governmental issue, right? The problem is the corporations and the politicians, right? “I don’t have anything to do with this,” we say. The reality is something else though.

Christians need to rethink everything about the manner in which they live their lives. For starters, how do most Christians choose the church they go to? Doctrine? Beliefs about the nature of God? Not really. Most Christians choose a home church based on the worship method. “What?” you say. How many Christians change churches because they don’t like the music, or they need “deeper” teaching on Sunday morning, or they want communion more often, or they want the church to stop hounding them about serving. “I’ve got a busy life already!” When it comes down too it, few Christians choose where they worship because of what the church believes. And what do we call that? Consumerism. We’re consumers within God’s church! We aren’t going to church looking to bring glory to God, but we go to be filled ourselves. We want to receive. Christian society has become one of taking, and it’s a lesson we’ve learned all too well from Capitalism.

Ultimately, something has to change.

More billionaires have appeared in India since the recession hit than ever before. How is this possible? Its possible because Capitalism, Consumerism, whatever you want to call it, is selfish. That sounds like an oversimplification, for sure, but that doesn’t make it not true. How does this affect anyone? Well, as Harvey points out, even he doesn’t have the solution. But what if there was a solution? What if there was a method that rose out of the mire of greed and offered a different view of how this world can and should function? Well, that might be something worth listening to.

I think paying attention to the new series at Mosaic is a good place to start, and you can listen to them online (through download or podcast) here. But, as with any place that might offer clues towards an answer, all preconceptions should be left at the door. I say that only as a warning to those who are seeking to have their own ideas validated, instead of genuinely seeking the Truth. The difference between the two approaches are vast, and not to be taken lightly.

So perhaps there’s an answer nearby. And maybe its not new. Maybe its time that everyone, Christians included, find a new mode of thinking.

And I guess, in order to find, we have to seek.