Are capitalism and Christianity incompatible? A debate

A debate on just that very question graced the pages of the New York Times in their “Room for Debate” feature last week, opening with the statement:

Jesus drove money changers out of the Temple, calling them “a den of thieves.” Of the profit-centric world view, Pope Francis warned, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market” to provide economic justice. Others call Christianity and capitalism inextricable.

Is contemporary capitalism compatible with Christian values?

The debate features five voices:

  1. Michael Novak arguing that capitalism is the “most moral of a bad lot of economic systems”
  2. Gary Dorrien saying that capitalism “thrives on selfish impulses that Christian teaching condemns”
  3. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. claiming that “too many follow the gospel of greed”
  4. James K. A. Smith (whose musings on the Incarnation we linked to a few weeks ago) distinguishing between Christianity’s compatibility with free markets and its incompatibility with “modern capitalism and its growing inequality”
  5. and Colleen Carroll Campbell maintaining that “there is no need to uncritically embrace the excesses of capitalism or to scapegoat it for all of our sins.

Well worth reading and pondering. Check it out, and be sure to notice alongside each article the links to other related debates on issues like the minimum wage and selling restaurant reservations (really!)

Image: “God and Mammon” by Phil Rogers, used under a Creative Commons license.

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