Thanks for the fresh and honest feedback, Justin. I’ll be honest in saying that I had the original title when I was drafting the article as “Capitalism Defies Christian Principles.” I was under the impression that capitalism so defied the faith that it was universal among the Christian community, that Christians should stand apart from Red Scare-type socialism shaming due to a separation of the culture and faith.
But I was wrong. I learned quickly that this is a pretty heavily contested topic among Christians. I asked multiple pastors I knew what they thought, and they gave me arguments for both sides. My pastor now, in a PCA church in Sandtown-Winchester, Baltimore, told me that capitalism wasn’t necessarily “un-Christian,” and Joseph stored and sold grain, with a vision from God, to save the people of Egypt.
Anyways, Christians in America and Christians in Scotland I believe have very different views on capitalism vs. socialism and the best way to impart Biblical equity on the fallen world.
You’ll see a lot of differing opinions in these comments, too.
This is a fairly straightforward condemnation of exploitation and obscene wealth, which are both inherent in capitalism. You can implement laws to mitigate some of the excesses of capitalism to a certain extent. You can also create a robust welfare state, but the nature of capitalism is exploitation of labor, which is to say paying workers less than the value their labor produces.
I would say that the condemnation of exploitation and obscene wealth aren’t inherent in capitalism, but the sin of greed that capitalism is predisposed to. And yes, capitalism is predisposed to the exploitation of labor and all these things.
Much like socialism, capitalism works differently without its proper safeguards and allowing a wild-west like atmosphere to pervade. I want to challenge and ask what human sin would socialism be predisposed to? Here is an interesting countertake I found from David Read:
“First, it is an ideology based upon covetousness and theft, and therefore violates two of the Ten Commandments. A common definition of sin is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, and socialism breaks two of them.
Second, socialism is steeped in utopianism, which is the belief that human society can be perfected. Socialism posits that society’s problems are the result of private ownership of business and industry, and could be solved by replacing private ownership with public or common ownership. In contrast, Bible Christianity teaches that society’s problems are the result of Adam’s Fall and the resulting sinful condition of the world. Christians believe that societal perfection will come only when Jesus returns to the earth, puts an end to sin, and makes a new world.
Finally, wherever it is implemented, socialism harms people, severely and in large numbers, leading to want, poverty, starvation, and ultimately mass death. One can no more advocate socialism without moral guilt than one can push a person off a ten-story building without guilt. The laws of human action that cause socialism to end in disaster are as ineluctable as the law of gravity that causes a man to fall to his death from a great height.”
But I am constantly frustrated when Christians point to examples like Venezuela, the Soviet Union, Communist China, etc., as examples for why capitalism is the far less sinful and more “Christian” system, and a cop out for expanding the social safety net. The scriptures were written at a time when there was just no vocabulary for either system, and I am more left-leaning as a personal bias than many of my peers.
I write these articles with an attempt to “figure it out” more so than to preach and your feedback is very helpful. I know you said you weren’t Christian since a teenager, and a lot of people I talked to, too, told me the line that this is a world marred by sin, where Biblical equity won’t be accomplished. But doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t try? And wouldn’t the Christian thing to do be to reign in big banks, big tech, etc.?
A big part of the problem is that socialism/capitalism mean different things to different people. It was in writing this that I had to re-shape my definition of capitalism, but to some, expanding Medicare/social security would be “socialist” reforms, but to me now, it’s just expanding the social safety net, and the politically charged terminology around capitalist vs. socialist misses a lot of nuances in day to day life and politics.
I struggle with these questions a lot, but I’m also a new Christian (about 1.5 years). What I’m observing more and more is the way the Holy Spirit and my faith intersects with everything I do, and how it’s not just a Sunday thing to be a Christian — it’s an obligation to be a Christian and love God and love others in everything we do, and the question I posed a couple weeks ago was whether capitalism was truly doing that.