Capitalism and Christianity--jk

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Capitalism is an ungodly system

The message embedded in the words of Christ, and in general in both the New and Old Testaments is that of what good will my actions produce?  The answer is for to please Yahweh.  What pleases god is listed in a set of behavioral laws, and includes diet, worship, going to war, enforcing god’s laws, and constructive behavior on behalf of ones family and community (which was all of one faith).  The message is not just spelled out in the Pentateuch, but also in the examples contained within the narratives, and in the “wisdom books” such as Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, and these themes are carried forth in the New Testament.   Based on the authority of the Bible, usury and homosexuality were forbidden by the Catholic Church.  Capitalism is a system where actions are measured by what’s in it for me (as measured by profits).  Thus for 8 or more hours per day the owner of a business is endeavoring to maximize his return on investment including his laborers.  His interest in employees is as tools for an end.  The workers sell their labor to their masters.  In the bible there is scarcely an example of a Hebrews selling his labor, for the position of servant was filled by wife, and the position of field hand by slaves, who were foreigners.  Foreigners were beyond the law. 

The stories in the Old Testament center on serving god and making his people a mighty nation. When Solomon amasses great wealth it is not on the back of the Hebrews through taxation, but through conquest.  The only tax on the people was the tithe, which went to the Levi who served god full time by being his priests.  Those who became wealthy did so by the labor of slaves—people not by blood Hebrews.  Part of being a mighty nation was to live well so that one would have strong sons, weapons, chariots, horses, well-fortified cities, and well stock granaries.  Being a mighty nation was a way to secure the borders and to multiply and spread—as Yahweh promised them.  They were not to convert the world, but to conquer it and replace the gentiles.  Those who chose to convert were accepted but couldn’t enter the temple until the third generation, so states the Pentateuch.  The service of god stood before all else.

In the New Testament, the message was similar; however, because they believed that wealth distracted the person from the things that are godly.  The wealthy were considered ungodly.  Jesus tells a well off young man to put aside his belongings and follow god, and in a parable he states that it easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.  The problem with wealth is the having of two masters.  The message of Jesus is that of love of god before all else—just like in the Old Testament.  In the more urban world of the 1st century, wealth was obtained not just from the labor of slaves, but also freedmen of the same and other faiths.  Hebrews got caught up in the world of commerce.  Greed is one of the seven deadly sins.  Pride and avarice are others.  The poverty of Jesus and his followers and their commitment to a less worldly life do not congeal with the worldly ways of the men of commerce.  There is a fundamental conflict between a for-profits system and the ways of the Christian/Hebrew lovers of god.

        There also is a positive message of Christ, that of putting away worldly concerns.  There is a vision of a different kind of man who became part of the community of Christ.  Worldly possess held in common.  The earliest Christian communities were communes.  The community is to strive as a whole to obtain purity.  As a group they are stronger than as individuals.  Many of the early Christians gathered in socialist communes—this is confirmed by the Epistles--a practice continued to this day in the monastic orders. 

        The Church and the rabbinical teachers adjusted to the developing reality of commerce.  Any sect of zealots that didn’t, they remained small—such as the Essenes.  But the adjustments to commerce are not within the spirit of the teachings in the Bible.  Capitalism with its drive for ever increasing profits even to the degradation of the environment, of family, and of the nation; this is contrary to the spirit of the Jewish and Christian teachings.   

There is through the record proof of these three.  The long work hours of the sweat shops of the 19th century and the poor conditions and continuing long hours in the underdeveloped nations is proof of how little concern the corporate entity has for the family.  There is an every continuing move by business to form an alliance with the politicians and have them roll back medical benefits, social security, and wage gains such as overtime.  As for the nation, the outsourcing of jobs is proof of how profits come before the nation; so too is the cornering of markets and subsequent price gouging such as with oil recently, of grain in the 1920s.  The environmental record of business has required government regulations.  London had deadly clouds of smog which hid the sun so permanently that the children of factory workers developed rickets.  Corporate capitalism is ungodly when measured by the lessons of the Bible. 

This drive for profit and its ungodly compromises extends to the petty capitalist as well.  It is regulations which causes the boss to properly vent his small shop, to properly dispose of pollutants, and to limit the hours of workers and pay overtime. 

The other vision, that of group activity, of building as a team for to promote the wealth of the nation, of distributing the wealth of labor according to the need of the people, this Christian/Hebrew view is found in the Bible, it was also embraced by socialism—yes ungodly socialism.  People need to better regulate the profit system so that the public weal comes first. This drive to do good ought to come first and changes are needed for to build a just society which promotes the public good first.  Changes are needed which do not repeat the difficulties inherent in the communal and socialist systems.   Yes capitalism is an ungodly system, but with modifications the spirit of promotion of the good can be restored. 

Of course the skeptic finds it a delusion to believe in a caring Yahweh who requires of us to uphold his laws.  However, good ideas have been adopted both by major religions and socialism, and by skeptics and those of faith.   Ask not what is my gain? but rather how best I can promote the public weal.    

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