April 21, 2011
Do Christianity & Capitalism Clash?
New survey finds white, wealthy evangelicals love the free market...most others don't.
A poll conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service was released this week that finds more Americans (44 percent) believe Christian values are at odds with capitalism than believe they are compatible (36 percent). However, a closer look at the research did find some exceptions.
White evangelicals, for example, were more likely than other Christians or the general population to think positively about free-markets. 44 percent of them said that businesses unregulated by the government would still behave ethically. (So much for the doctrine of total depravity.) White evangelicals also believe religious leaders should speak out about social issues but not necessarily economic matters.
Minority Christians, in contrast, said church leaders should be speaking about both areas. Economic issue like home foreclosures were at the top of their list; 76 percent of minority Christians considered it important, while only 46 percent of the general population.
Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, said, "Minority Christians have a deep theological tradition of connecting faith and economic justice, and we see that link in the survey. Because minorities in the U.S. generally continue to have lower incomes than whites, economic issues are also more salient in these congregations."
Other findings of the survey:
•Half of women say that capitalism and Christian values are incompatible, compared to 37 percent of men.
•53 percent of Democrats believe capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37 percent of Republicans. Tea Party members were the most likely to say capitalism is consistent with Christianity (56 percent).
•Income seemed to influence the survey. 46 percent of people with incomes of $100,000 a year or more believe that capitalism is consistent with Christianity, while only 23 percent of those with incomes of $30,000 or less said so.
• Most Americans (61 %) disagree that businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. White evangelicals (44 %) are more likely than Catholics (36 %), white mainline (33 %) or minority Christians (34 %) to say unregulated businesses would act ethically.
What do you make of these findings? Should we celebrate or lament? And what does it mean for what is being taught and advocated in your church?