Tag Archives: The Economy of Jesus

is Christian Capitalism a heresy? #HobbyLobby

STOP! PAUSE! I already realize there will be people on both sides of this debate arguing that “well Christian communism” or “Christian socialism” is also wrong, yada yada. Sure I’ll concede this but these concepts aren’t the status quo or relevant to this discussion.

Last year I went down close to the San Antonio area with my church’s singles group for a Baptist conference for singles. I had some good memories, and also some not-so-good memories that I live-tumblred. Even wrote a song.

At that time I was working two part-time jobs, 1 in retail, the other substitute teaching. I wanted a little bit more stability so I attended the “manage your finances” seminar. The lesson was taught based on the premise that one was full-time employed, with benefits, and earning $40,000 at minimum. The lesson was irrevant to the needs of the working poor/unemployed and to the message of the Gospel. Jesus’ liberating mission (Luke 4:19) was completely ignored. God’s favor for the oppressed was dismissed in favor of free market talking points clothed in religious piety. Just because our lecturer, a white collar worker at an investment firm, was at the top, did not mean he had the clearest view. But again, that’s the problem with the Church’s marriage to Capitalism; there’s very little space to hear the voices of those who are suffering.

In Christianity, we have a bad habit of hiding behind power. The 4th century bishops hid behind Emperors like Constantine; Martin Luther had his princes, John Calvin had his city councils; church going slave owners had their Bibles and plantations; the abolitionists had Lincoln, later Woodrow Wilson; the Moral Majority had Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In today’s world, the culture wars are almost out of the hands of politicians, and in the hands of businessmen through the media, social media, and various institutions. Who are the Defenders of the Faith today? Christian celebrities from Duck Dynasty, and the owners of Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, respectively. #NoShade

Systematic theologian Joerg Rieger asked it best, “what if our theologies and our churches have, at least unconsciously, become part of the religion of the market? What if the God worshipped on Sunday mornings looks more like Mammon everyday?” For more see Rieger’s Liberating The Future.
What I see happening is the cycle of Christians coalescing around the powerful, placing their hopes on them. This adoration of money and influence isn’t limited to the church of course; what I am saying is that this is happening in spite of our Savior’s teachings on the subject of money. Yes I already know the Parable of the Minas (Talents) and you’re wrong. When a person has the audacity to speak up and compare Christ’s teachings to the American church’s economic practices, they are labelled “communist.” Such red-baiting only exemplifies how much people are willing to go to cling to their idols.

One practice that happens in mainline and evangelical churches that goes unchecked is denominational structures investing their money in stocks and futures. About two weeks ago, the Presbyterian Church USA applauded itself and its white saviorism for divesting from THREE corporations implicated in destroying Palestinian lives. At the general assembly, America was seen to be the “real” Promised Land and anti-Jewish propaganda were first placed then taken down from the PCUSA website.

What doesn’t go questioned is WHY ARE CHURCHES INVESTING in the stock market in the first place? Why not the lives of the poor? Why not homes for Palestinian refugees? This paternalistic white saviorism is part of the legacy of capitalism. James Baldwin said it best, that Israel was created for the salvation of Western interests.

Neoliberalism and neocolonial empire is built upon the history of divide and conquer among conquered groups, the Palestinians and Israelis being just two of those. The imperial missionary religion transplanted overseas said, “love your neighbor at home, except if she was black or First Nations. Love your neighbor in a foreign country, except if she is a woman of color.” This hypocrisy remains today. Take for example, “Christian” business Hobby Lobby. As Tyler pointed out, we think it’s great that HL is paying a living wage. However, they are inconsistent in their “pro-life” ethic by expoiting Chinese workers and investing in abortion pills still here and abroad. The Supreme Court ruling given on Monday was not about religious freedom. It was about economic liberty and power as understood by the Christian capitalist managerial class. In the words of Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

There are ways towards resisting the Church’s sacramentalizing the free market, and that starts looking back with the teachings of Jesus, and being present in the here and now with the least of these. One of my favorite Gospel passages our mother had us to memorize was Matthew 6:21, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If you value fellow human beings as all being made in the image of God, from fetus to factory worker, you will show them love, struggle against the systems of death with them, and bring them life. This may mean church may have to stop giving in to the status quo, take risks, and in a rare moment of agreement with Wayne Grudem, invest in people, not corporations and power.

In the words of James Cone, from hid A Black Theology of Liberation,

“Embracing the world is a denial of the gospel. The history of traditional Christianity and recent secular theology show the danger of this procedure. Identifying the rise of nationalism with Christianity, capitalism with the gospel, or exploration of outer space with the advancement of the kingdom of God serves only to enhance the oppression of the weak. It is a denial of the lordship of Christ. To affirm Christ as Lord means that the world stands under his judgment. There is no place or person not subject to his rule.”

Waiting For Krypton: Education Post for Media Diversity UK

Lee's depiction of DC Comics' Superman and Batman.

Lee’s depiction of DC Comics’ Superman and Batman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opening scenes of the documentary Waiting For Superman depict education reformer/charter school advocate Geoffrey Canada as describing one of the saddest moments in his life. When he learned that Superman was not real, he was distraught because there was, in Canada’s words, “I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” From his perspective, DC Comics’ Clark Kent/Superman “just shows up and he saves all the good people,” “even in the depths of the ghetto.” As a fellow comic book fan, I would have to question whether Mr. Canada knows the story of Superman, and the criticism thereof from the likes of one of his allies for justice, Black Lightning (Jefferson Davis, who, in one rendition, just so happens to be a public school principal) , who noted that Superman may be Kryptonian, but he is still white, and avoids the Suicide Slums (the poor side of town where Metropolis is).

I want to lay aside that criticism, and talk about the idea of power, and what it means in eyes of education reformers. As I quoted Mr. Canada above, he was distraught that there was no one with all of the power to save what Geoffrey Canada calls “failure factories,” or schools in predominantly impoverished neighborhoods that primarily feed the community drop-outs and/or felons, and yes these are communities that are of predominantly black and Latin@ American populations. These “failure factories” are what stifle economic growth, deprive corporations of an educated workforce, and communities of stability. From the perspective of philanthropists such as Bill Gates (from the documentary and his history of being active in the Education Reform movement), children receiving education is for the purpose of the workforce, so that multinational corporations can keep up with global competition. In Waiting For Superman, the topic of power is not discussed again until we see education reformer/charter school advocate Michelle Rhee at work, who was given “broad powers” to make sweeping changes. The issue of power is an interesting topic, and to see it discussed explicitly in these two instances are what caught my attention. Where does power come from? Who has it? What does it look like?

For the rest of the essay, please go read Waiting For Krypton: Race, Ableism and Education Reform

20 Things The Working Poor Do Every Day

 

On The Glorification Of The Wealthy

 

Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker- Proverbs 17:5 NIV

Income Inequality

Income Inequality (Photo credit: mSeattle)

 

Every once in a while, the interwebz throws the wretched of the earth a bone, a glimmer of hope, perhaps a random kid becomes a youtube sensation-turned-international sensation. Maybe it’s the rise of a popular reality t.v. star. Yet, the uber-rich always seem to want to share their secrets (seems funny, the only thing they want to share, huh?). TAXES IS STEALING!!!! And every now and then, there’s an article that goes viral like, “20 Things That Make Rich People Morally Superior To Poor People.” The Opulent make sure that celebrity status doesn’t reach divinity, but they do demand (from their regular publicity campaigns) admiration and respect for their values and efforts. Scary part about the making of capitalism sacrosanct is that we find the history of private property rights cannot be neatly severed from the history of enslaving other persons. All of this whitewashing of history hides the experience of the losers in history, and really the REAL SECRET about economics throughout history. Read the rest of this post and its conclusion to find the answer. Without further ado, 20 things the Working Poor Do Everyday.

 

1. They have to endure myths such as “poverty is the root of all evil.” If the rich do not believe that “money is the root of all evil,” that means the do not believe the Bible. WHAT ARE THE ODDS, YAHOO FINANCE! What this does is inform the working poor that they are the living embodiments of all that is wrong with society.

 

2. The Working Poor believe that selflessness is a virtue. The Rich believe that selfishness and self-centeredness is. O R L Y?

 

3. The Working Poor really value meritocracy. The Wealthy practice nepotism and “networking.”

 

4. The Working Poor see education as an invaluable means of liberation. The Wealthy view education as thing to be purchased and to lord over underlings with, a tool for power.

 

5. The Working Poor do the things they have to do to survive and spend time with the people they love. The rich are sometimes fortunate enough to do the things they love more than people.

 

6. The Working Poor earn capital. The Wealthy rule cities and states, steal money from the working poor, and then they get richer.

 

7. The Working Poor realize that relationships are more important than money. Rich People find restless nights over their acquisitions.

 

8. The Working Poor read as many books as they possibly can in the limited free time they have. The Wealthy have libraries of books to show how much time they have on their hands.

 

9. The Working Poor see an inclusive society as ideal; The Wealthy benefit from a hierarchal, stratified world.

 

10. The Working Poor make the connection between the importance of having a strong social safety net. Wealthy persons look down upon social programs and their dependents.

 

11. The Working Poor have to walk past fast food chains, living in lives of food insecurity, sometimes even on food stamps. Fast food restaurants, smoking parlors, and liquor stores target the working poor. The Rich mock and demean the poor, and rob the poor of their wages, ahem, McDonald’s.

 

12. The Working Poor are task oriented and driven, multi-taskers. Rich persons are narrow minded and with singular visions.

 

13. The Working Poor who are parents do not have time to read fiction books to their children. How many rich families take the time to read books at homeless shelters?

 

14. The Working Poor cannot often say what’s on their mind. Usually, that’s because the big bosses upstairs have deprived them of their freedom of speech, and first amendment rights because unionization is banned. The Rich love to talk abstractly and universally when it comes to free speech, except for when it comes to the expressions of black people.

 

15. The Working Poor do not believe in luck. The Rich do because it’s pretty convenient!

 

16. The Working Poor have very little access to exercise programs because neighborhood gyms avoid locating where they live. The rich have all of opportunity in the world to go to 24 Hour Fitness.

 

17. The Working Poor know how to use public transportation and build community on buses, trains, and other commutes. The Wealthy disparage such things and ask, “why don’t you get a car?”

 

18. The Working Poor know that the lottery is a hoax to get the impoverished addicted to gambling. The Rich rely on the Lottery as a voluntary tax on the poor so they can get access to education.

 

19. The Working Poor want to learn from the past. The Rich have delusional, naive hopes about the future.

 

20. The Working Poor are logical in their money-decision making. The Wealthy are too emotionally caught up with their money to make reasonable decisions, in the name of “following their passions,” like three summer homes!

Are you rich? Or are you poor and you want to be rich, and you find some of my comments in this post downright offensive? Well good, because this is the kind of frelling crap that Christian idols like Dave Ramsey tells people each day in their books and on their radio programs. It’s this baloney, these lies made against the poor that keep the rich in power. False myths about poverty abound, even about homelessness.

The dirty little secret to all the posts and books about the secrets to being rich is this: THERE ARE NO SECRETS. The rains falls on the just and the unjust.