In Which We Opine without Qualifiers

Why should a Christian defend the concept of Capitalism as if it were God’s economic system? I ask without guile and without an alternative drum to beat. It bothers me that most conservative Christians treat any questioning of capitalist assumptions with the knee-jerk violence commonly reserved for blasphemy.
And yet, “pure capitalism” requires one to reject in one way or another the law and the prophets, the love of God and Neighbour.
A few simple theses I would like to start with.

– “Efficiency” should not be a goal, nor does the abstracted concept bear any moral quality in itself: It is neither good nor ill, but rather a qualifying descriptor, like ‘beautiful’ or ‘green’ which may be judged only by it’s context.

– Likewise, power and the acquiring thereof are not goals, they are tools for service of others.

– Power as such is the desire of Satan, and the efficient means of acquiring it his first, last, and greatest temptation.

– The ‘survival of the fittest’ is a fallen reality which should appall Christians wherever they see it manifested, whether amongst the animals in the jungle or on Wall Street. An inefficient sacrifice of power on behalf of the ‘unfit’ is the gospel, but antithetical to the capitalist model.


10 comments on “In Which We Opine without Qualifiers

  1. […] Carnahan asks the questions that I’ve been asking myself for a while now over at his blog Gilgal Check it […]

  2. Hooser says:

    It almost seems to me like another variation of the short-sightedness we suffer from as American’s. I wonder if the knee-jerk reaction you mention would really be present without the religious right.

  3. seems to me that an increasing number of our generation of believers (in the reformed neck of the woods, anyway) are starting to question the right-left dichotomy on this and related issues. i know i lack perspective, but semper reformanda, you think?

  4. C. says:


    I’ve been arguing this way ever since I got into New Urbanism, which often lends itself to fascism. The idea of a “greenbelt,” a band placed around an urban area where construction is halted in order to focus development on the core, is an example. It robs those in the greenbelt of the ability to develop their own property.

    “WHAT ABOUT MY PROPERTY RIGHTS OMGBBQ!!!1?” was the immediate cry of my more libertarian friends, and honestly, I had expected this and had a hard time coming up with a good answer.

    While talking this over with Mr. Ryan, who owns rural property outside of town (which had been threatened with greenbelting by a new initiative in Moscow), he answered in a way I would have never expected, and in a way I’ll never forget: “If it means loving my neighbor by ensuring a better city, I’ll surrender any property right I ever had.”

    Take that, Capitalism.

    And of course, there are the old saws: the 1st Century Church looks a lot more like communism than capitalism, even if you allow for the fact that it was voluntary. Redistribution of wealth is redistribution of wealth, no matter how you slice it. And the idea of the tithe isn’t exactly capitalist, or libertarian, or any such thing. It’s a God tax, and one I’m happy to pay. If the Free Market took over tithes and pastor salaries, we’d all be showing up to church to hear Joyce Meyers preach a sermon about White Teeth and the Gospel.

    The Free Market is no god I’d ever want to serve. Mammon is still Mammon, even if he’s wearing swim trunks with the wind whipping through his hair.

  5. C. says:

    Oh yeah, and Semper Reformanda.

    Also, Obama for President. (I didn’t just say that.)

  6. Mrs. Cumbee says:

    Where were you when some of us were discussing Economics in One Lesson?

    Lately I’ve been reading Allan Carlson’s book Third Ways, very interesting reading. I’ve been saying for a long time that capitalism and communism aren’t the only options. Also reading with interest the posts on economics at Scribbliative Agincourting.

    I guess C is talking about the Jubilee when he mentions redistribution of wealth — but I don’t think that’s quite what’s happening. When someone sold his land the purchase price was equivalent to how many crops the buyer could expect to get out of the land between the purchase date and the next year of Jubilee when it would return to the seller’s family. This is a form of forgiveness — the children and grandchildren don’t have to permanently lose their inheritance because of one man’s folly (or indiscretion or “bad luck” or whatever). Would to God we had real generational property rights like that today!

  7. one and all: follow the links to wrf’s “stained glass urbanism” project in the post preceding this one. you will be edified like nobody’s business.

  8. C. says:

    Mrs. Cumbee,

    I was actually referencing the early church in Acts 4:

    “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

    This system differs wildly from communism, in that the surrender of wealth is voluntary, and the redistribution is determined by the church and not a coercive state. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that the early church didn’t seem to be comprised of Free Market Capitalists. Their almost-communism isn’t nearly as notable as their not-capitalism, though I find it ironic that if McCarthyism had been alive and well in the 1st century, I’m quite sure our forebears wouldn’t have passed the Duck Test. Not by a long shot.


    SGU is one of my favorites. Churches, the big and beautiful kind that are right downtown, are absolutely essential to Urban Renewal in the West. You might enjoy the few diddies I posted on hpn about New Urbanism. Points for using “edified” on six or seven different levels without coming off like a Get Fuzzy comic.


  9. Mrs. Cumbee says:

    Thanks, C. I’ve been thinking about the other an awful lot lately and I totally didn’t connect “1st Century Church” with the following sentence.

  10. Sofortkredit says:

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