Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Jesus the Free Market Capitalist

This is without a doubt the most embarrassing thing I have read in a long time, coming from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council writing for CNN: My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier. What is really troubling is that I am not sure if Tony Perkins really believes this, which would be a sign of a serious lack of theological maturity, or if this is a callous attempt to use Jesus Christ as a political tool which is even worse.

According to Mr. Perkins, the parable of the Ten Minas, told by Christ to His disciples in Luke 19: 11-27 immediately before His entrance in Jerusalem, is proof positive that Jesus was a free market capitalist. Sure Tony admits that the primary purpose of the parable was the idea that even though Jesus was entering Jerusalem, the final manifestation of the Kingdom was far off but that doesn’t stop him from ascribing to Jesus a preference for a particular economic model:
The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.

Remember, these servants were not working for themselves, but under the constraints of their lord and for his benefit. Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

How exactly do we “advance the interests of the one we serve”, i.e. Jesus, by embracing and exploiting the free market system? That is not to say that free market capitalism is evil or even to say that it is not the best possible economic system. Given the various alternatives I think free market capitalism is the system that creates the greatest economic opportunity to the greatest number of people but regardless it is not a Kingdom imperative to embrace it over against other economic systems. A Christian can proclaim the Gospel just as easily in a nation with a socialistic economic system as he can in a capitalist system.

This attitude is as foolish as the statements by those who see the “all things in common” passages in Acts 2 and 4 as Scriptural support for government wealth redistribution schemes, a gross misreading that misses that the “all things in common” passages occurred as a result of lives changed by the Gospel, not as forced confiscation of the wealth of unbelievers by unbelieving bureaucrats in a secular system. Forcing an unbeliever to share with someone else doesn't make them holier or more receptive to the Gospel, it just makes them resentful.

You don’t advance the Kingdom of God by raising taxes on the wealthy and you don’t advance the Kingdom by lowering capital gains tax rates. Jesus is neither a leftie Occupy Wall Street protestor demanding free goodies nor a pinstriped suit Wall Street tycoon trading derivatives. Tony Perkins, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Rick Perry. Stop trying to claim Jesus as the champion for your political platform. We have enough work preaching the Gospel to every person in every tribe, tongue and nation without preaching free market capitalism or socialism.

1 comment:

Zach said...