Christianity and Capitalism

            There is a bias within our American culture that seems to say that business men cannot be Christian and Christians cannot be business men. In a story written for the Huffington Post, Neroulias (2013) reports that a new survey found that 44 percent of Americans polled find the free market conflicting with Christian values. The survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute with the Religion News Service, “found that although conservative Christians and evangelicals tend to want their clergy to speak out on issues like abortion and immorality,” they are more likely to support economic views that are “left-of-center.” (Neroulias, 2013)

            The Survey also produced other indicators worth mentioning.

“Half of women believe that capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37 percent of men.

A majority (53 percent) of Democrats believe capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents. A majority (56 percent) of Tea Party members say capitalism is consistent with Christian values.

Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans with household incomes of $100,000 a year or more believe that capitalism is consistent with Christian values, compared to just 23 percent of those with household incomes of 30,000 a year or less.” (Neroulias, 2013)

Others argue that not only does Christianity have its place in capitalism, but that it is the founder of capitalism. According to Novak, it was the church more than any other agency that created the conditions for the development of modern capitalism. The church helped establish the rule of law, a process for resolving disputes, established a specialized labor force, and sustained intellectual and physical efforts. (Novak, 2012)

Webster defines capitalism as an “economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”  Crockett says capitalism and Christianity go hand in hand, as demonstrated by comparing Webster’s definition of capitalism with scripture. Crockett states that “God affirmed the validity of personal ownership in the 10 Commandments” in Exodus 20:15, “Thou shalt not steal.” Productivity is also fundamentally good, Gen 1:28 says, “Be fruitful, and multiply.” Employment is fundamentally good, as Luke 10:7 says, “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Commerce is fundamentally good, as stated in Prov. 31:16, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard,” and in Prov. 31:18, “She sees that her trading is profitable”.(Crockett, 2013)

Crockett strengthens his argument for the compatibility of capitalism and Christianity with the Parable of the Talents found in Matt. 25:14-30. In the parable the master rewarded the servant that took the talents and multiplied them and chastised the servant that did nothing.  This parable is symbolic of the nature of capitalism and speaks to the Biblical expectation that productivity is good.   (Crockett, 2013)

Despite the fact that “separation of church and state” is a common question brought up among many advocacy groups and not-for-profits engaged in a wide range of enterprises, Baron does not address the issue. I find this a curious short coming of his work. In his opening chapter, Baron describes the non-market environment of a firm by the “four I’s”, Issues, Interest, Institutions, and Information. (2010, P. 11) Religion crosses every one of those characterizations. While Baron does not speak directly about religion, I believe he does provide a substitute with the idea of morals and ethics.  It should also be noted that Baron does include “moral concerns” as one of his five basic sources for non-market issues. (2010, P. 11) In chapter 20 of his book, Business and the Environment, Baron (2010, P 654) establishes that “ethics are based on moral standards that are independent of the declaration of governments or other authoritative bodies”.

Since Baron has already established that ethical issues will lead to the development of non-market issues and business must respond to non-market issues, then ethics has its place in business.  Since Baron has further established that ethics are independent of worldly authorities, I can, therefore, conclude that Christianity and capitalism not only can be compatible, but that true capitalism cannot exist without influence that comes from beyond our “government’s authoritative bodies.”

About the Author

Jerry Landers is the Vice President of Business Development for Aspire Indiana. While the beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mr. Landers you can learn more about community mental health and how it intersects with business and media at http://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana

References

Baron, D. (2010), Business and Its Environment (6th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Neroulias, N. (2013) Poll: Americans See Clash Between Christianity, Capitalism, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/poll-americans-see-clash-_n_851712.html

Novak, M (2012), How Christianity Created Capitalism, Retrieved from http://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-10-number-3/how-christianity-created-capitalism

Crockett, J (2013), Is Capitalism Christian? Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/57477818

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About jerrylanders

Executive Director for Aspire Indiana Health and Vice President for Aspire Indiana. Doctorial Student at Columbia Southern University studying business. Married and father of three children. I blog about mental health, business, social media and how all three intersect.
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