Virtuous Capitalism And The Evangelical Church

As much as I want to write about Dr. Monica Wehby, and the lousy politics that tried to paint her as a emotional female that likes to stalk people. Or how she is an accomplished neurosurgeon. No, instead of writing about this horrible attempt to discredit a successful pediatric doctor in the state of Oregon who is running for a position as Senator, I have chosen to write about another topic near and dear to my heart.

This morning I want to challenge the Evangelical Church to begin to think about Virtuous Capitalism. Why do I want to challenge the Evangelical Church? Because why should the Catholic Church have all the great books and articles that discuss the power of Capitalism to do good in society? I know there is the side of the Evangelical Church that is said to present the social gospel, focusing on taking care of the poor, and I know there is the other side of the church that focuses on the salvation of mankind, stating their responsibility is to preach the good news. But I do not believe there is a separation of focus. The church is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ while caring for the least of these. That is our call. What got me thinking about this was an article in yesterday’s WSJ written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Dolan starts this editorial by referring to the May 9th meeting between Pope Francis and the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “From media reports, one might think that the only thing on the Pope’s mind was government redistribution of property, as if he were denouncing capitalism and endorsing some form of socialism.” I think in this editorial Dolan is attempting to clarify the mind of the Pope for us. I think he does a pretty good job at explaining what the Catholic Church teaches on this subject.

After making the above statement Dolan clarifies the churches teaching on property rights. “The church believes that prosperity and earthly blessings can be a good thing, gifts from God for our well-being and the common good.” This is consistent with what has been called the protestant work ethic. The Puritans believed in hard work, frugality, and diligence. As a result of this, according to the Puritans, there would be a visible blessing demonstrating the grace of God. WE must remember that the Puritans did not believe this was a motivation to get more things, but to reflect the goodness of work and human productivity as it related to the grace of God. The Puritans did believe it was right for those that work hard to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Dolan affirms the Catholic agreement with the Puritans. “It is part of human nature to work and produce, and everyone has the natural right to economic initiative and to enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

If you ask me why I am not a socialist, it is because I understand the evil that lurks within the heart of humankind. To trust government with the responsibility to own and fairly distribute property is a disaster waiting to happen. However, the opposite is just as false. To say that the free market will lead to the economic salvation of society leads us to believe in a fool’s errand. This is also related to the fallen nature of humankind. We do not like to share. But, as Cardinal Dolan ably points out, “Abundance is for the benefit of all people.”

All we need to do is look out our front window and we see the reality that all do not participate in the abundance of the economic harvest. Pope Francis warns of a “throwaway culture, economy of exclusion, and culture of death,” which emerges when our society attempts to marginalize the poor. We do that by limiting their opportunities and pushing them to live in certain parts of the city. We only see them when they are panhandling on the side of the freeway off-ramp. It then becomes easy for us to say “let them eat cake.”

I truly agree with Dolan when he writes, “But the church certainly disapproves of any system of unregulated economic amorality, which leaves people at the mercy of impersonal market forces, where they have no choice but to sink, swim, or be left with the scraps that fall from the table.” I think the Evangelical Church would agree with this statement, and I think all of us would agree that the “Wolf of Wall Street” is not a good model of economic prosperity.

I found his following statement to be compelling. “It is also worth noting that what many people around the world experience as capitalism isn’t recognizable to Americans.” I think this is a fair statement. If it wasn’t, then why do Wal-Mart, Nike, the Gap, Apple, and other major corporation struggle with monitoring their supply chains to ensure their suppliers are not using child labor, paying appropriate wages, and have safe working conditions? So I Think it is true, that the capitalism that these countries, Thailand, Vietnam, and others, are experiencing is much different than ours. Dolan describes them as exploitive, benefiting the wealthy few, instead of a system that rewards hard work while helping those less fortunate. As I write this I immediately think of Boaz and Ruth. As Boaz was harvesting the wheat, he allowed the poor to glean the leftovers on his field. Boaz’s abundance helped others.

So Evangelical Church why aren’t you screaming this from the housetop? I can’t tell you how many books I have read on this subject that were written by Catholic writers. Where is the Evangelical voice on this subject? To often we are seen as being a pawn of one political party or another instead of being the ambassador of God that we are meant to be.

“As Pope Francis reminds us, individual generosity, private economic development, community and family initiatives, and public policies of legitimate redistribution of economic benefits all have a role in enhancing economic opportunities, and in alleviating and eliminating poverty.” I like this, and have been teaching this in my classes for the last two years. I am a free market guy all the way, but I also recognize that there is a responsibility to give to the poor. I also believe that economic advancement will only occur as the Community, Business, and Government come together to develop a plan. I also believe that “to whom much is given much is required.” This is what Jesus said, and He said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Let’s start writing about this. Let’s leave the politicians to their futile actions and let’s take responsibility to shout from the housetops the importance of productivity and serving the poor. But serving the poor in a manner that does not reinforce their poverty.

And that is my thought for the day!




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