Conservative Christian American’s believe that God blesses these United States, an exceptional nation that stands as Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill to the rest of the world. Because free enterprise is the American Way, most right wing Christians presume that the liberty of unhindered capitalism and low taxes must be the godliest economic arrangement available to humankind. And because the Bible is God’s word, scripture has to describe private enterprise as His gift to the world. The belief that the one God is procapital has become a key weapon the right deploys to oppose that which is not in accord with the libertarianism advocated by Ayn Rand --who has become a favorite of leading right-wingers despite her being a convinced atheist. If the perfect creator of the universe is for unrestrained free markets, how dare any decent American be for anything that smacks of ungodly socialism? Conversely, only god free atheists could concoct socialist systems that demand the death of those who refuse to comply with the evil that is communalism. This is a favorite theme of many Tea Partiers as they furiously denounce the Democrats, liberals and progressives as them secular collectivists who hate the individual liberty the Lord gave us.
In order to understand the problems with the faith that the Christian God is on the side of capital, we have to look at the Bible. The Hebrew Testaments do not discuss modern capitalism, which did not exist at the time. The economics such as they are described are feudalistic, with forced labor playing such a key role in God’s system that how to treat and punish slaves is detailed at length. Wealth is sometimes praised as the result of God’s favor among the worthy, other passages warn of the dangers to piety posed by the secular enticements of prosperity. A particular passage, in Exodus, makes God sound Marxian; "This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather of it.... as much as you can eat.... And the people of Israel did so; they gathered some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat." In any case the Old Testaments apply particularly to the Jewish peoples. For the views of the Christian deity described in the Bible we must refer to the New Testaments. Capitalist Christians must try to infer that their scriptures promote capitalism because they do not do so directly. In the Gospels Christ does not detail any economic scheme, he does put emphasis on helping the poor, reinforces the difficulties that the rich face in accessing heaven, and instruct followers to pay their taxes.
It is in the post-Gospel testaments that the ideal Christian economic system is described. Immediately following the life and death of Jesus, Acts is an account of the earliest Christian community. The chapter states that "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had... There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph... sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet." The passages make it clear that the God of the Christian Testaments has not the slightest opposition to full blown socialism. This is one reason why the Catholic Church – check out Benedict’s new encyclical Caritas in Veritate -- as well liberal Christians, cast a skeptical eye upon capital. How do theoconservatives who want all to think God is dead set against collectivism cope with Acts? One method is to not mention the passages, counting on believers to be ignorant of what the Bible actually says as surveys show many are (while surveys show that atheists know it better), or that many read the Bible in a selective manner that arbitrarily dismisses uncomfortable passages. Others pretend that Biblical socialism is voluntary, so it is fine to be a Christian libertarian. Not only does this tactic fail to render socialism ungodly as many on the right want it to be, it ignores certain passages that leave no doubt that the God of the Christian Bible is head over heels for socialism. Passages so unambiguous – and so chilling – that I have yet to find an example of a Christian conservative who cites them.
Acts goes on to detail how a married couple that fails to turn over all their property to the church are instantly killed, instilling compliance through terror, "Great fear seized the whole church and those had heard about these events." Far from allowing that Christians can be anti-socialists if they so choose, the Christian Testament God considers Christians who do not fully participate in the love of socialism worthy of death, and presumably hell -- the book never has God killing followers for failing to be good entrepreneurs. This rather Leninist Biblical world view should not be surprising because collectivist action is integral to Christian salvation -- all true believers are compelled by the Great Commission to actively recruit new members in order to increase the masses who ascend to heaven. If we are to really take the Bible seriously then a Good Christian is a Socialist Christian, and those who deny this scriptural truth are heretics. Also contradictory to the opinion that the Christian part of the Bible is all for economic liberty, or for progressive policies for that matter, is how it endorses slavery. Jesus never objects to the institution but does say disobedient slaves are cut to pieces, a whole chapter (Philemon) is about Paul returning a Christian slave to his rightful master, and the New Testaments repeatedly instruct slaves to obey and fear their masters as they would God.
It is not just scripture that demands that followers of Jesus keep their distance from capital, the real world is proving that Christians who embrace the economics of Adam Smith are not doing their faith a favor. Christianity is imploding in the 1st world, with majorities in some western democracies being atheists and agnostics. Although America remains the most Christian 1st world country, survey data indicates that nontheists have tripled since the 1960s, and may make up a fifth of the population, while Christians are down to three quarters of the population, and major conservative denominations begin the shed numbers (Bible literalism has sunk from four to three in ten in a few decades while scripture skeptics have more than doubled). Sociological research I am contributing to shows that the corporate-consumer popular culture is playing an important role in secularizing America (articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/27/opinion/la-oew-paul-religion-secularism-20101027). Prior to World War I the mainstream popular culture was owned by the religious right that imposed strict social and moral codes via a combination of cultural pressure and draconian laws. Today the right has been driven into a subculture that is chronically unable to regain the highly secularized and culturally tolerant majority. Capitalism is a socially radicalizing, Darwinistic survival of the fittest affair that wrecks traditionalism -- it being the priority of profit focused capitalists and entrepreneurs to transform the culture by converting citizens from frugal, pious, church going traditionalists to free spending, materialistic, sex, sports, violence and celebrity obsessed consumers who go into interest paying debt to sustain their hedonistic lifestyles, and spend Sundays shopping rather than observing the Sabbath (thus the repeal of the Puritanical Blue Laws at the behest of the retailers). The vast irreligious entertainment complex that has found traditional religion to be ratings poison is a corporate project.
The larger problem with the American Exceptionalism that the likes of Palin, Beck, O’Reilly and Coulter adore is that it is too often exceptional in the wrong way (www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf). No other advanced democracy has homicide or incarceration rates anywhere close to ours, or cities so riven with crime. The US now has the highest adult and juvenile mortality rates in the 1st world, partly because lifespans are actually decreasing in parts of the Bible belt -- a frightening development similar to that seen in Russia. Nor are Americans the tallest anymore. A new study in Health Affairs finds that the superior health of other first worlders cannot be attributed to lower levels of obesity, smoking, homicide and accidents, but is largely due to their universal care systems that cost far less per person that does ours. Levels of abortion, teen pregnancy and some STD infections are exceptionally high, sometimes spectacularly so. Few other westerners divorce more rapidly than Americans, or use illicit drugs as often. Levels of mental health are poor. The least religious part of America, the northeast, has the least social ills. In the online Evolutionary Psychology I published statistical analyses that show America’s poor social performance cannot be attributed to unusual levels of ethnic diversity or immigration -- something is wrong at a more fundamental level. Nor is America financially healthy, this low tax nation has higher personal and public debt loads than some progressive regions, such as Germany and Scandinavia, and it is no longer the upper mobility job generator it used to be. Even the World Economic Forum no longer ranks the U.S. as the most competitive (www.weforum.org/documents/GCR10/Full%20rankings.pdf); one of the socialistic countries that ranks higher is, well, Sweden, which like some other Euronations still has a vibrant industrial base.
What this nation needs to do is stop making empty right wing boasts about our superiority, realize we have grievous problems, and understand what has gone wrong and why. A large and growing body of socioeconomic research explains the why. Basically, America is too socioeconomically Darwinistic compared to other 1st world democracies. One of the most extraordinary – yet little noted – contradictions of modern times is how the religious right that vehemently opposes the evolutionary science initiated by Darwin has embraced the extreme and Darwinian financial theories advocated by Ayn Rand (whose adoring protégé was Alan Greenspan). Hello all you ant-Socialist anti-Darwin theoconservatives, Darwinian economics is anti-socialist! When capital is let loose to do whatever those with capital want, the system quickly devolves into an enormous complex of legal but unsustainable pyramid schemes designed to transfer wealth from the lower and especially middles classes up to the elites. The resulting concentration of wealth in the small upper class, the large portion of the population with inadequate financial resources, and the lack of low cost, universal health care are undermining the social and physical health of Americans, while severely damaging the economy and industrial base. Theoconservative social policies are also backfiring. The abstinence only sex education they favor suppresses the use of protection with adverse results.
The Christian right is in a terrible theopolitical bind. They are blasphemously anti-Biblical when they claim that the God of the New Testaments hates socialism and adores capital, and the alliance between theoconservatives and corporate interests has proven to be a deal with a corporate devil that is helping secularize societies as it pours lucre into the accounts of the wealthy elite that worships at the alter of the gods of money. But what are conservative Christians to do? If they adopt the socialism of the Christian Bible then they will reject the American Way they so love and admire -- the last thing modern Christians conservatives want to do is live communal, property free lives like the early Christians in full accord with the socialist friendly Christian God. And if the religious right breaks its collaboration with capital then the theocon minority will lose what political power they have. So they cannot and will not admit the error of their ways. What Americans who are not libertarian Christians -- from more liberal followers of Jesus to atheists -- need to do is to denounce their claim that the God of the Bible wants us all to be libertarian capitalists is a heretical ploy intended to control the debate by invoking the authority of a God that is not found even in the Bible.
As for who to blame for the crimes of communism, let us realize that the first description of socialism enforced by death is found in the Bible, the basic scheme is an invention of Judeo-Christianity. May well be that’s where Marx go the idea in the first place. So knock blaming secularists for that turkey idea. And when a ConservoChristian does blame secularism throw the Bible right back at them.
Now, here’s what I don’t get. Why are progressives not every day and in every way making a big deal of how your average theoconservative procapitalist antisocialist, antievolution Christian is rejecting the very socialism his or her Bible demands she or he follow, while he or she demands all accept Darwinian economics? It is the super contradiction of the right to beat all contradictions of the right. It should be standard fare on Olbermann and Maddow on so forth. Lawrence O’Donnell, for instance, is trying to relegitimize the term by pointing out that America is already socialist in the way is runs its military, police force, fire departments, Social Security/Medicare (www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/if-socialized-medicine-is-such-a-bad-thing-then-why-not-privatize-th e-police-and-fire-departments). So Rachel, Keith, Lawrence, get to it and regularly debunk conservative opposition to socialism by pointing out that it is the Biblical, Christian way.