Martin Marty – American Christians and Capitalism

This is a hot topic, that needs to handled carefully at this time of history.

Marty talks about it in one of his latest Sightings, because of new survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). According to it, ‘more Americans (44 percent) see the free market system at odds with Christian values than those who don’t (36 percent), whether they are white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics or minority Christian’ (see HERE). This opinion is held even more strongly members of minority groups. Thus:

In other findings:

  • 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.
  • Most Americans (61 percent) disagree that businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. White evangelicals (44 percent) are more likely than Catholics (36 percent), white mainline (33 percent) or minority Christians (34 percent) to say unregulated businesses would act ethically.

(You may find HERE the questionnaire and the summary of answers.)

Commenting on this, Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of the Washington-based group Faith in Public Life, said:

“People of faith have a unique ability to show political leaders that the economy is a moral issue,” she said. “Even some members of Congress are beginning to echo our argument that protecting the most vulnerable as we get out of debt is a moral duty.”

Marty himself, concludes on this topic, saying:

“Hold on!”Abstractions like “capitalism” and “Christianity” are too blurry to serve as neat definers and dividers among the publics. These are modern words for historically complex and always evolving phenomena. Handle with care. But then: “Let go!” Remembering complex data and discoveries from polls like this, one should advise, when next time blustering cable-TV and radio broadcasters suggest that the public has made up its mind and sided with the tea partiers and that its sentiments should frighten governmental leaders, note further that the Bible does not make generalizations all that safe and easy. De-ideologizing the subject might lead to better discourse. Might it not?

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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