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Christian Capitalists?

Updated on March 6, 2016

Does "capitalism" mean "mammonism"?

Harold F. Hunter, chancellor of Trinity Theological Seminary in Indiana was recently quoted as saying that "Donald Trump has amassed a fortune, and that by that he has shown he understands capitalism, which is the strength of our country".

How bizarre. A self-declared Christian leader says that capitalism is the “strength of our country” and that the ability to “amass a fortune” designates the kind of leader Christians should look for!

Wouldn’t giving away that fortune and following Jesus be a bit more indicative of a leader who understands the Lord and knows where the true strength of a nation comes from?

A thorough study of the Bible (the whole of it -- especially the prophets who decried the practices of the religious establishment) would give the religious “right” a better method of deciding who to vote for. The prophets -- and Jesus as well -- challenged and dis-qualified the leaders of the religious establishment, who lacked the justice, mercy, humility, and neighborly love that expressed God’s purpose for a community.

Christians might look back and re-aquaint themselves with the mandated practice of Jubilee in the Old Testament…which seems designed to ensure that a permanent underclass did not develop. It was a regular, system-wide redistribution of capital (land). Yes, you read that correctly.

How have sharing, divestment, and care of neighbor become such dirty words among evangelicals and other religious conservatives? They have championed leaders that want to continue corporate welfare... tax reductions for the wealthy. Where in the Bible can we find any support for the idea that the wealthy should be able (not just able, but have legal protections and loopholes) to keep most of it? Where in the incredibly wise prophetic books or the New Testament does God champion the cause of the rich as the ones who love their neighbor?

It might be instructive to note that the god called Mammon was the god of wealth and to note that the major indictments of the Jewish people that led to the massive deportation and exile into Babylon had to do with the absence of mercy, the exploitation of the poor and the workers, the excesses of the rich, and the neglect of the clergy who did not address these issues. That is what coldness toward God looks like. To love God is to love neighbor (especially the weak ones).. Jesus took this point much further. Remember:

"Sell all you have and give it to the poor….and come follow me...(Matthew 19:21). Or “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God?….” (Luke 18:25)

To care and bring justice to “the cause of the poor and needy” is to know God. (Jeremiah 22:16).

"In God, the orphan finds mercy" (Hoseh 14:1-3).

“You cannot love God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24).

The God of the Bible is a God of social justice.

What does God require?

Try looking at it all (politics, the Bible, your neighbor…) through this lens: When addressing what God requires, recall his own words:

“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God”….(Micah 6:8).

I suggest we all consider which candidate most looks like that? Which has loved the orphan? Which has most challenged the god of Mammon (the god of capital)?

This issue is the elephant in the corner for Christians…

You decide.

Hogan Pesaniello, MD

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