The following column was written in response to Recorder columnist Jon Huer’s September 10 column “Christianity and Capitalism in Conflict.”
Recently, a prominent local pastor posted a very joyful photo online of the grand opening of his church’s new multimillion-dollar campus. It’s about a pastor who has obvious liberal-democratic leanings and whose son proudly calls himself an “anti-capitalist” online.
But, this pastor’s wealthy church is full of capitalists and he needed their money to build this new building.
It’s the dichotomy. Capitalism elevates Americans who participate and engage. It gives hope that a person can become more successful and secure today than they were yesterday. Capitalism motivates anyone to learn a skill or trade that will help support their family. Stories abound of immigrants working two or three jobs to help their children get a good education and a good life. Conversely, capitalists are often the ones society – and Christianity – depends on for charity, emergency/crisis support, and most taxes that support schools, community resources, and public services.
It is fashionable to attack “millionaires and billionaires”, although, ironically, many sports stars, as well as politicians fall into this category. Why do I always have the impression that there is a political agenda when an “educator” pronounces the incompatibility of Christianity and capitalism?
In fact, if you destroy capitalism and the good works it brings, can Christianity ever thrive? Can you name a country that has large-scale socialism and also has flourishing Christianity?
In short, it is hypocritical to attack the only system that can supercharge an individual’s aspiration to be better, smarter, and more skillful as a greedy and anti-Christian. The goals of socialism are to meet everyone’s needs, but it simply keeps everyone down. Without hope for the future.
It is a flimsy generality to characterize capitalists as worshiping money or possessions rather than faith. To assert that all capitalists want to monopolize, crush competition, conquer all or destroy and dominate shows a profound lack of understanding of business. These comments could only be made by a long-time academic far removed from the business world.
Are there instances of fraud or unethical behavior in business. Sure. Is this the case more than in any other area of society, including religion? I do not think so.
But, capitalism at its best is uplifting people, creating a new product, service, innovation or efficiency. Free market capitalism discovers new medicines, new technologies and makes millions of lives more comfortable, productive and connected. Businessmen add value to raw materials to provide the products necessary for our lives. Whenever there is a crisis somewhere in the world, it is the capitalist countries that take the initiative to provide aid.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about college or graduate graduates not being able to repay their loans. It is true that colleges charge high prices whether or not a student learns a skill that will be valuable in our capitalist society. There is no reimbursement for those who do not achieve a high level of academic competence in their chosen field or who study in a field of low economic demand.
Something tells me that the same professors who attack capitalism are the same ones who leave their graduates woefully unprepared to compete in today’s economy.
Jesus preached against the sin of loving money above all else. But capitalists provide resources for wonderful charitable initiatives in society every day. It is political and dishonest to say that Christianity is only focused on “bliss of the soul” and capitalism is only focused on “pleasure of the flesh above all else?”
Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan recently spoke at the World Affairs Council in Charlotte, North Carolina on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without addressing religion or Christianity, Moynihan emphasized that capitalists have the obligation and the power to help achieve these SDG goals.
“Why does capitalism have to provide the SDGs (of society) and progress? Well, it’s simple. Capitalism has money. Capitalism has talent. Capitalism has innovation behind it. And, yes, it is for profit,” Moynihan said.
And that’s true. Whether an entrepreneur starts a local auto repair or air conditioning shop or is the CEO of Bank of America, capitalism is the engine that can lift all boats. You can pursue profit and “soul happiness.” Christianity and capitalism are compatible. Never in history has socialism provided prosperity and a flourishing Christianity in a large, diverse country like America.
Dan Owens is a Christian and businessman who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.