“has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away starving“
July 17, 2019 9:04 AM   Subscribe

“Before all else, we must pursue a vision of the common good (by whatever charitable means we can) that presumes that the basis of law and justice is not the inviolable right to private property, but rather the more original truth taught by men such as Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose of Milan, and John Chrysostom: that the goods of creation belong equally to all, and that immense private wealth is theft – bread stolen from the hungry, clothing stolen from the naked, money stolen from the destitute.” What Lies Beyond Capitalism? A Christian Exploration (Plough)
posted by The Whelk (21 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I like Hart's stuff a lot and now I have another RSS feed. Thanks for posting this.
posted by jquinby at 9:28 AM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

My parents are atheists and it took me a long time to sort of piece together what Christianity is all about from bits and pieces and cultural osmosis. I remember when I was maybe 12 or 13 asking my parents why all the Christians in America seemed to be so gosh darned into the free market and capitalism and against communism (this was the 80s so this was very much a big deal) because as far as I could figure out, Jesus was basically a communist.

(I can't remember the answer and it was probably a bunch of bullhonk anyway because my parents are Objectivists. The issue still confuses the heck out of me.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Christians have made a total hash of things by removing the Kingdom of Heaven outside time and space. They need to get back to the original concept as understood by Jews, including Jesus:
Jews understood by the Kingdom of Heaven nothing else than a kingdom of God which will be realized on this earth, and which mankind will enjoy while they live. There is no doubt that this was the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven which the Jews always entertained, and which they still entertain. This being so, then when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven he meant just what the Jews meant. In other words, Jesus actually meant the Kingdom of Heaven to be realized on this earth, and to be enjoyed by mankind while they live. Since this idea of Jesus is the soul and essence of Christianity, it clearly follows that the followers of Jesus perverted and distorted the idea of Jesus, and Christianity was and is only a perversion and distortion of the idea of Jesus. Since Jesus thought only of a Kingdom of Heaven to be realized on this earth, it follows that Christianity must identify itself with the material world, and cooperate with the revolutionary forces that work for the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth for living humanity. Conrad Noel reaches the same conclusion which Professor Macmurray reached, namely, that Christianity must identify itself with Communism.--A program for the Jews and an answer to all anti-semites: A program for humanity / Harry Waton / Harry Waton
Christians like Hart also need to avoid trying to shoehorn the primitive communism of the early Christians into the discussion. We live in a complex world and we need to deal with it on its own terms. We've had enough examples of the Procrustean beds that socialists are prone to make. Ideals must guide us, but practice must be practical.
posted by No Robots at 10:35 AM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

Christians also need to do some work on their attitudes toward the biosphere. Again, they can follow the lead of Jewish thinkers like Arthur Green, who writes:
“Hear O Israel” --“Listen, my fellow-Jews!” “Being is our God; Being is one!”…. The only value of monotheism is to make you realize that all being, including every creature – and that means the rock and the blade of grass in your garden as well as your pet lizard and your human neighbor next door – are all one in origin. You come from the same place. You were created in the same great act of love. God takes delight in each form that emerges and bestows God’s own grace upon it. Therefore – and this is the “payoff” line, the only one that really counts: Treat them that way! They are all God’s creatures; they exist only because of the divine presence, the same divine presence that makes you exist. This realization calls upon you to get to know them! Get to love them! Discover the unique divine gift within each of them! Live in amazement at the divine light strewn throughout the world. That’s what it means to be a religious human being.--"A Theology of empathy"
Green Judaism is the way forward.
posted by No Robots at 10:41 AM on July 17, 2019 [8 favorites]

posted by jb at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2019

I remember when I was maybe 12 or 13 asking my parents why all the Christians in America seemed to be so gosh darned into the free market and capitalism and against communism (this was the 80s so this was very much a big deal) because as far as I could figure out, Jesus was basically a communist.

This confused me mightily as well, since I was raised by Christian socialists. But then I learned about how evangelicals and how there was a concerted propaganda effort to turn the Christians against social welfare:
Concerned that populist politics might endanger their wealth, America’s monied interests did what they do best: They bought a solution. It came in the form of James W. Fifield Jr., a Congregationalist pastor who made his fortune in Southern California by preaching to the fabulously wealthy and accepting their patronage. Fifield, Kruse notes, was especially gifted at assuring wealthy Christians that their riches were evidence of virtue rather than vice. A philosophical descendant of Max Weber, Fifield married Christian thought with a new era of economic development, and spread the gospel through his organization, Spiritual Mobilization. Its mission was simple: to stamp out Christian support for a generous welfare state—which paired naturally with New Deal concern for the poor, elderly, and vulnerable—and to advance a new theory of Christian libertarianism.
But yeah, neither the Tanakh nor the Gospels support right-wing capitalist positions, no matter how many people who profess to be Christian or Jewish vote for them. (American Jews may be majority democratic, but we have a lot of politically conservative Jews in Canada, as well as super-lefty ones).

A couple of years ago, I remember reading an opinion column in the local Jewish paper about how we should all vote for the right-wing party - and this was the day right after Yom Kippur, when every synagogue doing the traditional haftarah would have been read this from Isaiah (58: 3-7):
“Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?”
Because on your fast day
You see to your business
And oppress all your laborers!

Because you fast in strife and contention,
And you strike with a wicked fist!
Your fasting today is not such
As to make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast I desire,
A day for men to starve their bodies?
Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
A day when the LORD is favorable?

No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke.

It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.
In conclusion, being right-wing and religious is just self-contradictory. All religions support generous social welfare, if not out-right communism.
posted by jb at 11:03 AM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm a Christian anarchocommunist and I think the two philosophies fit together nicely and I don't know enough leftist Christians so this is nice, thank you.
posted by an octopus IRL at 11:21 AM on July 17, 2019 [7 favorites]

The corporation is thus morally bound to amorality. And this whole system, obviously, not only allows for, but positively depends upon, immense concentrations of private capital and dispositive discretion over its use as unencumbered by regulations as possible.
One can also concede that, now and then, the immense returns reaped by the few can redound to the benefit of the many; but there is no fixed rule to that effect, and generally quite the opposite is the case.
Hmm, what does that remind me of? Ah, right: if Christians fail to act on the bible's teachings about charity, service, and love, then they've pretty much either misunderstood them or chosen to ignore them.
James 2:14-26 New King James Version (NKJV)

Faith Without Works Is Dead
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Love your neighbor, kill corporations.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:18 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

and I don't know enough leftist Christians so this is nice

An org called The Christian Left has a website and Facebook page which I follow from time to time, as a recovering Christian. They're sometimes not quite enough leftist for me, but it's a damn good start.
posted by xedrik at 12:37 PM on July 17, 2019

Probably the best-known voice of the Christian left is Sojourners Magazine.
posted by praemunire at 12:40 PM on July 17, 2019

This is fucking really good stuff. Thanks for posting it.

Therein lies the gravest danger, because the full koinonia of the Body of Christ is not an option to be set alongside other equally plausible alternatives. It is not a private ethos or an elective affinity. It is a call not to withdrawal, but to revolution...Christians are those, then, who are no longer at liberty to imagine or desire any social or political or economic order other than the koinonia of the early church, no other communal morality than the anarchy of Christian love.

Yes. Yes I do want a revolution.

I'm very happy to hear that labels like Christian anarchocommunist of The Christian Left are things and I very much want to be a part of radical Christian re-framing of our political and economic orders. I look at us electing the wealthy elite to lead our society and for my whole life it's just GRATED me because it's the opposite of Christian - their elite exclusion of the masses for their own gain is a perversion of Christ's entire being and message.

It's so FREEING to have language put to this and to know that what I believe isn't (entirely) fucking crazy. I realize the majority of Metafilter will still take issue with the basic spiritual beliefs of Christianity, but at the same time I am SO FUCKING THANKFUL for a place like this that challenged me out of the right wing nut job upbringing I got. #moreofthis #cantkilltherevolution
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

Christianity at it's core seems to be so diametrical opposed to capitalism, it's baffling how uncommon it is among Christians. This was a great read, even for non-Christians. Between the biblical-evil republican party and the marriage of church and mammon, I think they have really failed their own messiah and God.

I wish I knew some good christian communities to spread this article to, I wonder even if my own family would receive it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

See also: Subsidiarity.
posted by jquinby at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2019

I taught Ruth last week at Sunday school and was surprised to find how interesting Boaz was - one of the 10 city rulers, a wealthy man and he follows generously the welfare traditions of the harvest and helps a refugee woman. He doesn't look for wealth in marriage - Naomi's land comes with the loss of the first born child's name, a begger foreign wife and old mother in law, but goodness. And he ends up great-grandfather to King David. It's rare to see a wealthy person rewarded in the Bible, but Boaz uses his wealth to help and care, not for his own gain.

Odd his name isn't more popular.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:38 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Christianity at it's core seems to be so diametrical opposed to capitalism, it's baffling how uncommon it is among Christians.

Previously on Metafilter: Christians in the Hand of an Angry God is a theory about this written by someone who seems like a bit of a crackpot, but nonetheless seems to have some measure of truth.

It's overly wong and to save you the trouble of reading it I'll summarize what I can recall of it - to my mind it's similar to how the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the US today was founded primarily because they condoned slavery - religion is vulnerable to being subverted for political goals.

Basically, 20th century politics in the US has been characterized as the clash between the Democrat Left (contemporary liberalism, social justice, equality) and the Republican Right (conservatism, free market economics, individualism).

Mid 20th century during the cold war communism was the greatest threat to, well, Christians - see what happened to Christians in Russia, China and North Korea. Republicans were also afraid of communism. However their right wing values were seen as incompatible with Christianity. The Republicans couldn't win on their own - the Democrats were the party of the middle class and the poor, the party that ended the Great Depression, and also won both World Wars, and they had a long string of victories at the ballot box behind them. The Republicans were seen as the wealthy persons party and the party that brought about the Great Depression... So this "theory" goes that Christians and Republicans were forced into a kind of alliance to prevent the rise of the Left in the US... they wanted to install a Republican government who would actively counter the rise of communism nor just in the US but also other countries around the world...

You'd have to believe it's possible for the major theological schools in the US to have participated in this "scam" where they conspired to change how Christianity is preached to make it compatible with Republican politics, and that they had enough power and influence to override any backlash from preachers who disagreed with them. Better to have Christian capitalists than North Korea or communist Russia, right?

I don't think that's much different from the compromise solution that the Southern Baptists found - subvert some teachings of Christianity to say that slave owning is not only okay, but the morally right thing to do - it's preferable for slaves to have a Christian master that treats them well, rather than leave the this whole slave business to non-Christians, who knows how much worse it would be for them. Their popularity exploded in the South and they remain the largest Protestant denomination in the US. I'm from a Southern Baptist convention church myself.
posted by xdvesper at 3:49 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Chesterton boiled it down nicely, too: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."
posted by bricoleur at 7:57 PM on July 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

You folks were looking for me?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:19 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

If all Christians believed in this wholeheartedly*, I might've kept going to church longer. As it is, now I have more verbose arguments to keep in my pocket for Christmas than repeating "what would Jesus do?" until it sticks.

Excellent read; thank you for sharing.

*among other things
posted by lesser weasel at 10:32 PM on July 17, 2019

Liquid Flannel: Religion And leftist practice
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 PM on July 29, 2019

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