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June 28, 2022

Christianity and Matters Such as Marxism, Capitalism, and the Poor

By Anthony Wade

Examining new article claiming Jesus would promote capitalism...


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Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. - Proverbs 19:17 ESV

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. - Proverbs 14:31 ESV

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. - 1 John 3:17-18 ESV

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. - Isaiah 58:10 ESV

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" - Acts 20:35 ESV

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.' - Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV / 353 helpful votes

If Jesus were physically here today, He'd promote capitalism

There is nothing more fun and annoying to watch than self-titled Christians argue over what human definition they believe fits the creator of the entire universe. God is an evangelical! No wait, Jesus was definitely a Republican! No, no, He was definitely a capitalist! If you think this sounds absurd that is because it is but do not think for a second that arguments like these are not being made every day by people trying to shove God into the box they feel most comfortable in. The above link is to a recent article declaring if Jesus were physically around today, He would be promoting capitalism by someone named Roger McKinney. Mr. McKinney apparently has an economics degree as well as seminary. Heck of a mix there. McKinney has also written a book entitled "God is a Capitalist", so at least he is consistent with his unbiblical claims. Let's reason together once more and hold the bible up to these fanciful claims.

"Roger Olson, Emeritus Professor of Christian Theology at Baylor University, recently published an essay with the title, "Why I Am a Socialist: Because I Am a Christian." He added, "I do think that laissez faire capitalism, especially its Social Darwinist variety, is contrary to the spirit, the ethos, of Jesus Christ, which is compassion for the weak, the vulnerable, the 'little ones.'"What would Jesus advocate for if he were here, in person, physically, today?" In other words, today Jesus would be a socialist, according to Olson. But the professor errs in his logic, hermeneutics, history, and economics." - Roger McKinney

Interesting, so a fellow academic postulated that some tenets of socialism line up better with the teachings of Christ than capitalism. McKinney feels the need to respond. Now let me be clear, I do not promote the idea that God is a socialist anymore than a capitalist. The notion that we can define in human terms, the beginning and end of everything, is nothing short of pure human arrogance. Are their traits in socialism and capitalism that mirror some of the teachings of Christ? That is what we are about to find out.

"The obvious error in Olson's reasoning is his logical leap, called the non sequitur fallacy. Olson believes that compassion requires the state to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Otherwise, there is no compassion. What about charity? Olson never mentions it. Is there really nothing between socialism and ruthless oppression of the poor? Olson believes so. The Bible says we should care for the poor, but insisting that only the state can provide for them is an Evel Knievel logical leap across the Grand Canyon. A PhD in theology ought to be familiar with the principles of hermeneutics, which are logic applied to interpretation of the Bible. One of the primary rules to guide this interpretation is to consider the audience. When Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor," and encouraged His followers to give to them, was He addressing politicians? No, politicians avoided Jesus and He wasn't a political policy wonk, anyway. He spoke to crowds of the most common people in the nation, many of whom would become part of His Church. So, He encouraged individual charity to the poor. Charity in the Bible is never enforced by the state. It is required by God, not the government." - Roger McKinney

Charity is a wonderful thing but often abused in this manner by people like McKinney, who are seeking to make excuses for why the government should not help poor people. Any cursory review of the entire bible shows a God who cares deeply about those most needy and marginalized. Yes, God does expect Christian charity but that is hardly all He expects. It is painfully ironic that McKinney blames Olson for being myopic, while he is encouraging the opposite myopia. He knows full well that charity alone will never be able to meet the needs of the poor in society. The other thing at work here is rampant hypocrisy. Biblical interpretation does not mean you check your brain at the door. If the bible encourages taking care of the poor that is what it encourages and to look for reasons why the government is exempt is not required. Especially when you do not do so with other issues. For example, the bible says nothing about abortion but the McKinney's of the world looked at the bible as a whole and saw that life mattered to God, regardless of what laws man passes. We see this similar hypocrisy regarding Romans 13, which is wielded when we do not like a given law and then revered when we do. We are rank hypocrites and it is not lost on the world that needs the gospel.

"Another important principle of hermeneutics is to consider the historical context. Olson needs to read Jerry Bowyer's book, The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics, which shows that Jesus' attacks on the rich took place when he preached in Judea where most rich people had stolen their wealth from others. The Bible often condemns the wicked wealthy, but portrays wealth gained honestly as a gift from God." - Roger McKinney

Ah-hah! So it was Professor Plum, in the Library, with the Candlestick! So, when Jesus says in a teaching that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven, He really meant only rich Judean men? That is not hermeneutics beloved. That is proof texting extrapolated out to its worst conclusion. It is making it up to fit your narrative. It is similar what women do to justify preaching and pastoring over men when the bible clearly forbids such. Suddenly the letters Paul wrote were only meant for the individual congregations and not teachings for the church. Spare us. All wealth is not inherently evil. The love of such is and McKinney is showing that spectacularly.

"Olson is also ignorant of the 150 years in which economists proved Marx wrong. But for Olson, ignorance of economics is no problem; Marx said it, and that settles it: "The socialism I embrace is not tied to any political party" It is not Marxism, although it believes Marx's critical analysis of capitalism has merit".it's best visible representations are in the Scandinavian countries." Olson is unaware that Finland (9), Denmark (10), and Sweden (11), rank above the U.S. (25) in terms of economic freedom according to the Heritage Foundation's index. But that doesn't mean those Scandinavian countries are capitalist. They are not. It means the U.S. is more socialist than the socialist countries Olson admires. Nor does he care that the poor in the U.S. are wealthier than the poor in Scandinavian countries because our standard of living is higher. But he recognizes that the U.S. has implemented many socialist programs: "Much of socialism is actually manifested in many things American society take for granted such as social security and Medicare and Medicaid and public ownership of many of the means of transportation, etc." Olson ignores the warnings of 19th century Christians who feared giving too much to the poor instead of too little, as Marvin Olasky demonstrates in The Tragedy of American Compassion. Indiscriminate giving, which government welfare programs do, encourages drug and alcohol abuse, laziness, and single mother-headed households that produce most of our criminals. Indiscriminate giving to the poor vastly increases their numbers as more choose not to work and encourages the vices that keep people poor. We have proven that any American who finishes high school, stays off drugs and alcohol, doesn't commit crimes, shows up to work on time, and is faithful to his wife or her husband, can live a middle-class American lifestyle, the highest standard of living in human history." - Roger McKinney

Yeah, we proved that in the 1950's and have spent the past sixty years dismantling it into oblivion now. Finishing high school now is a guaranteed ticket into the working poor. College is now required to have any shot at the lower middle class, which is rapidly being eradicated. The racist attitude here is also quite stark. This is the same welfare queen nonsense from the Reagan era. The notion that the social safety net can become a hammock is a racist trope designed to marginalize the marginalized even further. The real problem is that the entry level of work in America is now not a step up from the poverty of government reliance giving no motivation to leave welfare. The solution is not to eliminate the welfare but rather to improve the standard of living.

Perhaps the more disturbing thing here is how quickly McKinney abandoned scripture and Christ as the barometer. It does not matter what economists, who favor capitalism to begin with, think of Marx anymore than it matters what Marx himself thought. Finland, Denmark and Sweden do no matter either. The Heritage Foundation certainly does not matter. While it is true that there already is socialism baked into the American system that is irrelevant as well. The only thing that matters is what God says. I randomly chose some verses you can find above in the key verses. This was not even trying hard, believe me. All of these things were not said because the Judeans were illegitimately rich. This is one of the recurring themes throughout the bible and we would be wise to get on the right side of this argument. Stop demonizing those that need the most. Why in the world would you be believed when trying to share Christ if you refuse to share anything of this world?

"Allowing Marx to define capitalism for him, Olson offers a dishonest depiction of it: "What would Jesus advocate for if he were here, in person, physically, today? I believe he would speak out prophetically, as did the Hebrew prophets, against those who advocate government that allows the weak, the disadvantaged, the sick, the disabled, the poor to fall through the cracks simply to keep in place 'economic freedom' for the rich and powerful." But having a drunk atheist define capitalism is as reasonable as letting atheists define Christianity; they won't come close to the truth. The 19th century was the golden age for laissez-faire capitalism in the U.S. and U.K. because theologians considered it to be Christian economics. It lifted citizens in both nations to extraordinary levels of prosperity compared to previous centuries. And because of our greater wealth, Christians took care of the poor better than anyone in history, without subsidizing alcoholics or men who refused to work." - Roger McKinney

There appears to be so much hate and disdain in the heart of Roger McKinney. But for the grace of God go I is something he apparently never considers. I am grateful that I won the "where were you born" lottery that automatically consigns so many to a life of abject poverty. I was not and am not, rich but I am not foolish enough to think that I did not have opportunities that so many people never have. A life on government welfare is not some extravagance that we should be taking offense at. We barely bat an eye when untold billions are doled out in corporate welfare but heaven forbid a penny goes to the poor without examining history and social economics through a Marxist lens. This is bad enough from the world but remember these are Christians making these arguments. Who would Jesus impoverish?

"Yet Olson considers capitalism a great evil. Does he analyze the economic theology of great proponents of capitalism, such as Francis Wayland, a Baptist Pastor, president of Brown University when it was a Christian school, and author of one of the most popular economic textbooks of the 19th century? No, Olson doesn't bother. Few theologians have devoted the time necessary to learning economics. Like Francis Wayland, Paul Heyne was one who did, and he is worth reading, especially Are Economists Basically Dishonest? Christians should shun PhD-gilded theologians who, bored with theology, stray into the lanes of other disciplines like economics. They know no more than any random man off the street in other fields. And doing so, they dishonestly try to project the authority of their PhD in one field onto their ill-informed opinions in another. What would Jesus advocate for if he were here, in person, physically, today? He would promote laissez-faire capitalism, because He wrote the Book from which the principles of capitalism came." - Roger McKinney

Yeah, no. Just because man twists the teachings of Christ to fit their economic narrative does make Jesus a capitalist. McKinney sadly offered very little in terms of a defense of the notion he was proffering. Was Jesus a socialist? Of course not but you do have to admit that many of His teachings were very much for the people and anti-establishment. Was He capitalist? Of course not and one can make a cogent argument that His teachings on wealth were clearly the opposite. The problem of course is that Jesus Christ was neither capitalist or socialist. He was the Son of God and because His kingdom was not of this world trying to define Him with carnal terms is folly. His message and ministry were solely about the eternal life, not this mortal one we have become so enamored with. He cared about money as much as He cared about politics, which is to say not at all. You want my taxes? Go catch a fish! Let me close by stating what should be obvious to everyone who claims to be Christian. Before the pandemic, in 2019, the United States had a combined wealth of 96 trillion dollars yet 34 million people lived below the poverty line. Someone dies from poverty every 12 minutes in this country. If you think Jesus looks at these things and wonders how Marxism compares to the teachings of Francis Wayland then you are sadly mistaken. Wake up before you are stranding before Christ trying to explain why you spent your life preventing poor people from being treated with an ounce of dignity, or even a hot meal. Capitalist or socialist? Get over yourself and try helping someone. Not theoretically, but actually.

Reverend Anthony Wade - June 28, 2022

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.