Moore and mammon, revisited

michael-moore_0031Who says civility is dead, or that America is on the fast track to a new Idiocracy-style dark ages?

I was tickled pink by the 17 comments (so far) responding to Wednesday’s post on “Capitalism, Catholicism and Michael Moore.”

Christina and others debated a phrase in The New York Times Moore profile stating that there was a long tradition of social justice and activism in the American Catholic church “at least until Pope John Paul II.”

Jane and others explored the meaning and merits of capitalism, socialism, and free enterprise.

And Cheryl unsuccessfully tried to steer the discussion toward “life issues.” (Jerry spoke for many of us when he wrote: “Personally I don’t think that issue has to be part of every news story, important as it is.”)

My hope and prayer was that journalists would drill a little bit deeper during their interviews with Moore during his current media blitz so we could better connect the dots between Moore’s theology and his activism.

Some GetReligion regulars found insights in Moore’s CNN interviews with Larry King and Wolf Blitzer. I found more of what I was seeking in Fortune’s interview, which ran with this big, bold headline: “Michael Moore: Capitalism is anti-Jesus.”

The article quotes Moore’s conclusion in “Capitalism: A Love Story:”

“Capitalism is an evil and you can’t regulate evil. You have to replace it with something that is good for everyone.”

And reporter Scott Cendrowski asked a simple question that evoked an intriguing answer:

How is this film different from your previous ones?

I talk about my religion, which I have never talked about. I think religion should be a private matter. But I thought it was important to this discussion. I’m not a proselytizer, but I do have very strong beliefs and these beliefs were formed not in the school of Karl Marx, but in the Catholic Church. Priests and nuns taught me these lessons of how we’re to treat each other, how we’re to treat the poor, and how we’re to divide up the pie.

I’m one of the few people on the left who’s been fortunate to have access to a mainstream audience. I’m always thinking about ways to communicate with them and stay true to myself, because I am them, and I come from Middle America. I have very conservative values that go contrary to the fictional character that’s been created of me by Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and the Fox News Channel. I’ve been with the same woman for 30 years, I don’t invest my money in anything but a savings account.

This is getting interesting! In addition to Catholicism and capitalism, Moore is now raising questions about what’s good and evil, what makes a true conservative, and so much more.

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  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Does Moore look young and thin to anyone else?

    I stretched him sideways a bit. Do we need fat Moore art?
    ;-)

  • http://www.verumserum.com John

    I always sort of assumed Moore was a Christian the same way he was a member of the NRA, i.e. it’s a useful debating trick even as he opposes everything for which they stand.

    Haven’t seen the film so maybe I’m wrong about him.

    I respect the faith of people like Jim Wallis and Scott Burns and even agree that their focus on “the least of these” is a Biblical one. I’m not yet convinced Michael Moore belongs in that camp.

  • Hank

    Moore is filling a vacuum in raising questions of good and evil. The void he’s filling is the moral values in the realm of muckrakers, a void created by the narrow issue constraints that enable many religious leaders to avoid discussing. Like it or not Moore is effective in characterizing the immorality emerging from the profit motives of hard-core free market capitalism. I think the topic really hits a nerve with the socialist bailouts of bankers and Wall street. But the point is that Moore is willing to bring the subject up, and religions media and leadership have not or will not.

  • JOHN WICKEY

    So, Michael Moore believes capitalism is evil. If the production of wealth via capitalism is evil, how can the world acquire the wealth to provide for the population that needs sustenance. The production of wealth has not been characteristic of any socialist or state socialist schemes. We will all be as poor as Cubans if this idea takes hold.

  • JonathanR.

    One may wonder what Moore thinks is a system that is “good for everyone”. If he answers “Socialism”, somebody whack him with Rerum Novarum.

  • S. Newark

    What does Moore think of those wealthy “christain” and Catholic families like say the Kennedy’s?

  • David

    I have a gift for incoherence.

    Anyway, do the reporters ask what Moore wants to replace capitalism with?

    And why does the Catholic Church think capitalism is immoral? I know we have an obligation to help the least of these, but can they not distinguish between people and governments?

  • Julia

    The Catholic Church doesn’t think capitalism is immoral.

    Moore probably is describing the priests and nuns he knew in his youth – the 70s? That was the high water mark for
    Kumbayaness, to coin a word. My kids were told a lot of goofy things back then, too. Their high school religion teacher was a priest who rode a motorcycle and brought his girlfriend to their parties.

  • Davis

    Capitalism may not be immoral, but it isn’t a stretch to suggest it is counter to Christian teaching in many ways. Moore is using his usual approach to ask questions about capitalism and its compatibility with Christianity, especially that segment of U.S. Christianity on the political right.

    Isn’t that the core of the health care debate for the religious left and some Catholics: Capitalism has failed American when it comes to the social justice and health care. The market has failed.

  • Peter

    The mistake in thinking something besides capitalism could be more ethical is the belief that the group as a whole can be more ethical than the individual members. Social justice can only be attained one person at a time. The church should be encouraging business people in a free economy to be ethical and generous in their daily dealings. Socialism is an attempted short cut to this end that simply removes peoples freedom. It also takes away the benefit of a thankful heart for people receiving “benefits” removed by force from others. The people being taxed excessively have their joy in giving removed, and those receiving start to feel entitled to their freebies. Bad news all around.

  • http://goodintentionsblog.com Bob Smietana

    Davis:

    Capitalism depends on constrained self interest–individual initiative/ambition (sometimes labeled as greed) and moral constraints to keep that ambition from getting out of hand. It’s a lot like fire – a great tool when in the right boundaries, and a destructive force when unleashed without constraint. The flaw on Bush-era capitalism is believing in a free market without moral or legal constraints).

  • Chris Bolinger

    Anyone for a discussion of how the press covers religion?

  • Dale

    The Fortune article quotes Michael Moore, saying:

    I think religion should be a private matter.

    I’d ask how that conviction arose from his instruction by Roman Catholic nuns and priests. As far as I know, the Church has never taught that religion is a “private matter”. That’s a doctrine of liberalism (via Thomas Hobbes) that consigns religion to a non-rational, socially and politically irrelevant sphere. Some Protestants have accepted that model for religious faith, but the Roman Catholic Church has rejected it in both word and action.

    Why is Mr. Moore’s Catholicism relevant when it comes to “dividing up the pie”, and not relevant to other social and cultural issues explicitly addressed by Church doctrine? Do issues of distributive justice outweigh salvation in Catholic teaching? Not according to what I’ve read.

    I’d hope journalists that provide Mr. Moore with a public forum to hype his movie would push him on this issue, just as much as they would anyone who pronounced that Jesus endorsed capitalism. Unfortunately, most news about the entertainment industry is lightweight, with the journalist acting as a star-struck fan rather than a critical investigator of claims.

  • Stephen A.

    As I said in the other discussion, Moore conflates a political system with a religion when he said (on Larry King) “I’m not a Socialist, I’m a Christian.” Does he think they’re identical, or just compatible? Or identical? That’s the question reporters should be pursuing.

    He has actually claimed that he likes a *certain* kind of capitalism, but not all of it, and not OUR brand.

    So does he think Capitalism in America is evil – something that in the past few generations has created enormous wealth that created a huge middle class and made even being “poor” a relative classification (meaning: the poor have access to utilities, a color TV, piles of junk food, two cars and the Internet and Wii) or does he prefer the Capitalism in China, where all aspects of life are controlled, including religion, but people are allowed to pursue wealth relatively freely?

    Or (as American conservatives believe) is he a pure Socialist, preferring to think that those who attain wealth have a responsibility to support and care for the rest in society, ala the proverbial European “Nanny State”?


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