Economy

Can someone who owns 10 yachts enter the kingdom of God? I’m not sure. Only God can judge a soul. What I can say is that it’s unjust for billionaires—including the wealthiest Christians in human history—to amass obscene profits while gutting the public goods and social safety nets that help ordinary people. Capitalism is so deeply ingrained in our Christianity that it is the default. Yet, this arrangement is neither natural nor inevitable.

In One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America , historian Kevin Kruse highlights how business leaders partnered with Christian libertarians in the 1940s and 1950s to demonize the welfare state and elevate an unfettered market. They associated the New Deal with theft against business owners and with deification of the state. Under the banner of freedom, preachers such as Billy Graham and media moguls such as Cecile B. DeMille linked Christianity with free enterprise.

Andrew Wilkes 8-30-2018

On June 28, 1894, the United States government designated the first Monday in September as a holiday to commemorate the achievements and contributions of American workers. Christians, like other people of faith and conscience, have a complicated relationship with employment, exploitation, and our global political economy. We should explore what it could mean to forge an economy that more adequately respects—and protects—various forms of labor than our current socioeconomic arrangement of racialized capitalism.

Image via RNS/Creative Commons/Bret Hartman/TED

The talk — a surprise for all in the audience — recapitulated the key themes of the Argentinian pope’s view of the human person: We are all related and interconnected; scientific and technological progress must not be disconnected from social justice and care for the neighbor; and that the world needs tenderness.

I am a scholar of modern Catholicism and its relations with the world of today. From my perspective, there are two essential elements of this talk that are important to understand: the message of the pope and his use of the media.

Image via RNS/The Catholic University of America/Dana Rene Bowler

For much of its long history in the U.S., the Catholic Church was known as the champion of the working class, a community of immigrants whose leaders were steadfast in support of organized labor and economic justice – a faith-based agenda that helped provide a path to success for its largely working-class flock.

In recent decades, as those ethnic European Catholics assimilated and grew wealthier, and as the concerns of the American hierarchy shifted to battles over moral issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, traditional pocketbook issues took a back seat.

Walter Brueggemann 2-22-2016

Image via Kent Weakley/Shutterstock.com

In this season of Lent, Isaiah 55:1-9 may be a sobering text for us. In this election season amid shrill or buoyant rhetoric, we may not notice that there are real choices to be made — even as Jews in ancient Babylon were confronted with real choices of a most elemental kind.

Photo via Alessandro Di Meo / Catholic News Service / RNS

Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican on June 3, 2015. Photo via Alessandro Di Meo / Catholic News Service / RNS

Pope Francis praised poor families and their ability to “save society from barbarity,” on June 3, at a general audience at St. Peter’s Square in which he also named war and individualism as twin evils.

Addressing crowds of followers undeterred by the hot summer weather, the pope urged them to “kneel before these poor families.”

“They are a real school of humanity and they save society from barbarity,” he said.

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, by Kevin Kruse 

Beau Underwood 4-01-2015

Paid sick leave helps not only the workers but businesses as well.

Brian E. Konkol 11-18-2014
Volodymyr Baleha / Shutterstock.com

Volodymyr Baleha / Shutterstock.com

One of the dominant dogmas of the season seems to be both loud and clear: Our value as human beings is often dictated by our capacity to contribute toward economic growth.

This is what happens when Decemberism crucifies Christmas.

One may define “Decemberism” as a state in which the value of human life is determined exclusively by our personal rates of production and consumption. We notice this condition most often, of course, in December. Decemberism is the predominant religious tradition of the so-called “holiday shopping season,” and the significance of Christmas is consistently crucified as a result. As Victor Lebow states:

“Our enormously productive economy … demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption … we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

In striking contrast to the Christmas ramifications of God’s incarnation, to be a human of any value in our current context is closely connected with supply and demand, even if it all leads to our personal and public self-destruction.

Molly Marsh 11-06-2014

A Path Appears. Knopf Publishing. 

Sikivu Hutchinson, a well-known atheist speaker and member of Los Angeles’ Black Skeptics. Photo courtesy of Diane Arellano/RNS.

Absolutely, say organizers of a first-of-its-kind conference to be held by atheists of color in Los Angeles this weekend. And, they add, it’s about time those issues got some attention.

Called “Moving Social Justice,” the conference will tackle topics beyond the usual atheist conference fare of confronting religious believers and promoting science education. Instead, organizers hope to examine issues of special interest to nonwhite atheists, especially the ills rooted in economic and social inequality.

“Atheism is not a monolithic, monochromatic movement,” said Sikivu Hutchinson, an atheist activist, author and founder of Los Angeles’ Black Skeptics, one member of a coalition of black atheist and humanist groups staging the conference.

“By addressing issues that are culturally and politically relevant to communities of color, we are addressing a range of things that are not typically addressed within the mainstream atheist movement.”

The conference is unusual for an atheist gathering in another important way — its lineup of speakers includes members of the religious community. Hutchinson, often an outspoken critic of religion, described the conference as “effectively an interfaith conference.”

Julie Polter 8-05-2014

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. IVP Books.

Fracking for oil and gas has toxic consequences for surrounding communities. Even worse: It's fueling climate change.

Duane Shank 7-09-2014

Fifty years later, does the political will exist to win the "War on Poverty"?

5-08-2014
These tensions are also increasingly relevant to the Democratic Party. After decades of playing defense when it comes to faith and politics, Democrats have begun to coalesce around a set of issues important to the faith community. Organizations like Faith in Public Life,NETWORK, Sojourners, PICO and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (all of whom the authors consulted for the Faith in Equality report), provide external communications and political support to core Democratic issues, including economic fairness and addressing inequality.
Micah Bales 2-11-2014
Empty seats, LU HUANFENG / Shutterstock.com

Empty seats, LU HUANFENG / Shutterstock.com

A couple years ago, a survey found that one in five Americans don’t identify with any religion. For Americans under 30, the number was far higher – more like one third. This report is being cited constantly throughout the religious-nonprofit world. In many quarters, there seems to be a deep sense of shock at the decline in religious membership.

Me? I’m not surprised at all. What does surprise me is our failure to see that affiliation with a traditional, God-centered religion is no longer the primary way that many Americans express their deeply rooted need for faith. We humans are relentlessly religious animals, and post-modern America is no exception. We’re just embracing a different kind of faith.

Jim Wallis 1-30-2014

We are all neighbors now, whether we like it or not.

Rosa Lee Harden 1-30-2014

Jesus was quite clear that our allegiance was to be with the POOR, not the barons of Wall Street.

God's laws are immutable Gravity. Aging. Those sorts of things. We cannot change them. But we DO know that mere humans MADE UP the laws of the market economy and we don't have to follow its rules. We can choose to, but it’s a choice.

The rules that run our capitalistic system were invented by us. And we really do not have to play by those rules.

Jim Wallis 1-15-2014
Photo courtesy The Shriver Report

The Shriver Report examines the problem of poverty as it pertains to women. Photo courtesy The Shriver Report

Watching the news cycle for the past week or so, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much the issue of poverty is being discussed. There have been many analyses of the successes and failures of the War on Poverty, the 50th anniversary of which we marked last week. But there is one report that has particularly fascinated me — and many others — as it describes how women have been struggling the most against poverty in the United States. In partnership with the Center for American Progress, this year’s Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink examines the problem of poverty as it pertains to women and proposes solutions to eradicate it.

Although those of us who have lived and worked in low-income neighborhoods have witnessed firsthand how poverty affects women and their children, seeing the numbers laid out is still overwhelming.

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