Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Capitalism and other things

The time is coming when people will be insane, and when they will see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying: ‘You are insane because you are not like us.’

      Abba Anthony


I want to challenge [Christians] to form a stance on how one ought to walk the line between the creation of heavenly good and the formation of earthly goods. Capitalism has been at the forefront of the world’s largest beneficial leaps and behind the scenes in the perpetration of the world’s grossest injustices. It has been a force for good and evil.

      Grant Dunnavan


It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

      Jesus, as quoted in Mark 10



It was like a bomb dropped into the midst of the discussion


The foolish minister suggested that “blessed are the meek”

might refer not to weakness

but to the posture of following the example of Jesus

and humbling


That it might mean letting go of the need to put oneself forward,

To promote, protect, and benefit one’s self

And choosing instead to promote, protect, and benefit the person in front of us.


And then suggested we think of it in terms of the immigrants on the border

And the poor coming into the food bank


And in terms of our economic systems


And then he said the “C” word



Perhaps Capitalism, it was suggests

does not line up with the radicality of the Gospel




The foolish minister was of course me

And the discussion, actually, was healthy as we talked about how capitalism

has driven a lot of good things (and it has).  The world would probably not have seen the advancements it has seen, in medicine, technology, and more, if not for capitalism.


But we also had to face the fact that capitalism, for all of the ways it benefits society, is driven by individual desires to “get ahead.” 


This was once pointed out powerfully by the conservative economist Milton Friedman.  He was asked by Phil Donahue, “When you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed’s a good idea to run on?”


Quick as a wink, Friedman responded, “Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? … What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy. It’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests.”


I have my issues with capitalism.  And, if the truth were told, I have issues with socialism.  I have trouble with pretty much every economic system that has been devised because they all, even the most altruistic, have one flaw.  They are established and run by human creatures.


And it doesn’t generally turn out well.  This is why, in 2021, the top 10 percent of Americans held nearly 70 percent of US wealth, and the bottom 50 percent held a mere 2.5 percent of the wealth.


Tickle-down doesn’t work.

When profit is the goal, and growth is the goal, the tendency is for wealth to flow up.

So we have historic profit margins, and no increase in the minimum wage.

We have people who have more money than they could ever possibly spend

And people who have no home, not enough food

People who are barely making it

Or not making it


It is easy to say it is the fault of the poor (we do this all of the time)

They make bad choices

They spend money on frivolous things



Shame on them


I know about this

I have done it

Mea culpa

Mea maxima culpa


But this is where we are.  In a place where economic ideologies, and ideologies of power all take us away from the radicality of the gospel.  Of selling all and giving all.  Of making sure we all get there together.  Of picking up our cross and following.  Which means embracing the cost and loss of the following


And some of that loss may be painful

A loss of money






Instead, we are driven by a need for power

And a need to accumulate

And a need to be in control (be safe)


And we chase after leaders who promise us

Power, control, domination, wealth


And promise to remove anything, or anyone, who makes us uncomfortable


And so those furthest from God, out of touch with God’s way

Have great power

And they point at those who are not like them

Those who would welcome the immigrant

Who would take care of the poor

Who would embrace people who are LGBTQI+


And say

They are weak.

They are sheep

They are insane

They are snowflakes

They are anti-American



Martin Luther King Jr was accused of being maladjusted

Because he refused to accept the things the world had come to accept





He responded by saying he was proud to be maladjusted

Because we cannot become comfortable with

We cannot adjust our minds and hearts to go along with





We need to be maladjusted in a world where people have become adjusted

To the wrong things.


I don’t have a solution for greed

Or Donald Trump and the cult of retribution (now he is going to “get” MSNBC”  All enemies are now targets for annihilation)

I don’t have a solution for the desire for power and safety


I just know that the radicality of the Gospel

Challenges so many of the things I have become adjusted to, and comfortable with.


And I have to be willing to pick up the cross of change

The cross of humility

Even sacrifice


If I am going to be the kind of presence in this world

That Jesus wants me to be


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