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Joanne Donovan

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God and capitalism; why is there a love affair between christianity and greed?

Many people believe that the bible endorses free market capitalism. Ever since Marx considered that 'a spectre hung over Europe' the relationship between christianity and egalitarian politics has been rocky at best. I would like to discuss why the two ideas are so often mutually exclusive, expecially when the saying 'the meek shall inherit the earth' and "Blessed are you the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." are two quotes from the bible.

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    Nov 11 2011: It is almost uncanny that a majority of christians are right-wing Rebublicans and have a median income well above average. Could be a coincidence, however, since the times of the Inquisitons, christian leaders felt it their godly duty to devy punishment for the sinners of the land and collect monies for the church.Lots of monies. I do believe the Vatican City is one of the single largest holders of wealth on the whole planet. Most is buried under the Vatican which makes it hard to dig up and share with the poor and suffering in the world. I summize, the addiction to acquiring wealth is found deep in the christians DNA.
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      Nov 11 2011: I do not think it is a coincidence Brian, but a carefully planned campaign to win the hearts and minds of Americans to a right wing they were not naturally inclined to.
    • Nov 12 2011: To understand this trend of addiction from a historical perspective, Google the following:

      See: Andrew Carnegie's "The Gospel of Wealth"

      See: "The Protestant Work Ethic"

      In order to assess the accuracy of your statement on a philosophic level:

      Define: What constitutes Christian canon given that the bible was written a couple hundred years after the fact, and that the oldest Christian church (Catholicism) has many of it's beliefs ground in tradition, not necessarily the bible.

      Make a distinction between: Christians in name and Christians in doctrine, as per the elusive definition of Christian canon
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        Nov 13 2011: Hi Riley, thanks for your comment and your query. I am interested in what has been described as 'dominionism' and its relationship to large scale capitalist interests.

        From Wiki; Dominionism is a term used to describe the tendency among some politically active conservative Christians to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action, especially in the United States, with the goal of either a nation governed by Christians, or a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law

        This highly politicized concept of dominionism is based on the Bible's text in Genesis 1:26: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (King James Version). "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'" (New International Version).

        "Born-again Christians should not be underestimated: they represent half of Republican voters, two-fifths of registered Democrats, and one-third of independent voters," David Kinnaman, director of the study, said in the report. " From a study done in 2008 by the Barna Group

        What is your take on this?
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          Jah Sun

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          Nov 16 2011: Christians who ignore the New Testament and the entire teaching of Jesus to focus on a few lines from Genesis can not be considered Christian. Genesis is mostly just Cliff Notes on Sumerian Creation Stories anyway. (Abraham was a Sumerian son of a High Priest/ Idol Maker)

          Jesus is pretty clear about his love your neighbor even if they slap you or piss you off message.

          Either Christ is your Lord... and you do what he says... or not.

          If you prefer the wrathful and sometimes judgmental G*d of the Old Testament, perhaps you should consider becoming Jewish. However, even then you are still stuck with plenty of anti-Capitalist rhetoric and admonishments... the Mitzvah of Tzedakah (Charity) is central to Judaism.. www.jewfaq.org/tzedakah.htm
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        Jah Sun

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        Nov 16 2011: While those books you mention are worthy reads, I must mention that the Catholic Church is nowhere close to the oldest Christian Church. Not by a long shot.

        All of the Orthodox Churches are older... Syrian, Greek, Eastern, Coptic, Ethiopian etc. etc.

        In fact, a huge number of Churches pre-dated Constantine's wife's overnight conversion. All of the so-called heretical sects as well. (Gnostics, Manicheans and so forth)

        Most of their Bibles also contain books that were never put into the Vulgate as well.

        The Ethiopian Bible, for instance, has all of the Apocrypha including books like the book of Jubilees and 2 books of Enoch. (fascinating reads). Thus, the Amharic & Geez Bibles have 81 books.

        Of the books that made it into Catholicism by surviving the Council of Nicea, a number of them were tossed out in the Reformation. Therefore, the commonly known Protestant Bibles (like the KJV) have even fewer books in them. (I never understood why Protestants didn't go back to the roots and check out the earlier forms of Christianity, but rather made up their own Catholicism Lite.)

        Anyone interested in Christianity, would be well advised to check out some of the truly early forms of it. Read the Gnostic Gospels (like the Gospel of Mary). All the Nag Hammadi books are interesting reads. Essene stuff from around the time of JC is also quite interesting. Check out the Dead Sea Scrolls... and really look into the older Orthodox churches.

        This book from the Ethiopian Cannon, for example, http://reluctant-messenger.com/book_of_enoch.htm is a good taste.
        • Nov 16 2011: Jah Sun
          The only problem I have with this contribution is the claim that the Gnostics strains of Christianity actually reflect any sort of orthodox position taken by the pre-Nicean church. They did not.

          On this conversation however what is interesting is th elevel of social concern shown by early christians, even in the midst of persecution. The social context of these early churches was terribly important. They did, as is obvious from texts like the Didache (The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles, an early 2nd century document) have what we would term a "social consciousness."
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        Nov 17 2011: Greetings Michael,

        I never said that the Gnostics had anything to do with the Orthodox churches.

        I very clearly said that they and the Manicheans were considered heretics. However, it was not until Catholicism that the persecution and genocide of the Gnostics became a major thrust. The Orthodoxy mostly left the Gnostics alone.

        A lot of people like to talk about the Gnostics and what they believed, but have never bothered to read the Gnostic Gospels. If you have not, you owe it to yourself to find a good translation of the Nag Hammadi scrolls, and avail yourself of these early Christian documents. The mix of Essene Judaism and Hellenism that is found in them is a good snapshot of what many of the earliest Christians believed and practiced.

        The fact of the matter is that the Gnostics at Nag Hammadi lived in peace with the Coptic Orthodox there in Egypt.

        Sure, many Christians find (and found) the concepts of the demiurge, archons, aeon, monad and whatnot to be well outside their beliefs, and the influence of greco-roman mystery schools, Zoroastrianism and the like are clear... but the Gnostics were Christian before most existing branches of the religion.

        I am intrigued that they did not have priests, as per JC's teachings. Rather, they drew straws for the giving of sermons and leading in song... even letting children take up these positions if the straws deemed it so. Thus, they were probably the most egalitarian group of religious people we know of. It is no wonder the Catholics hated them so much.

        Anyway, again.... I didn't say what you are claiming I said. And even still, I don't really see what the issue is. Unless the Gnostic teachings are offensive to you, and uttering their name in the same comment as the Orthodox Churches bothers you somehow... I'm not really sure what you are on about.

        Peace & Blessings
        • Nov 17 2011: Jah Sun
          Forgive me if I misunderstood you. It did seem to me upon reading your post that you were saying they reflected true early church theology, which I simply do not believe. I have studied the texts carefully that you mention. Frankly I believe most proto-gnostics were creating a synthesis of Christian, Judaism, Zoroastrian and some mystery religions thrown in. It is hard for me to discount the power of that synthesis and the resulting syncretistic religion.

          But on the point of this conversation I think you would agree with me that the early church, pre-calcedonian, was very involved in the social issues of the moment. For example, we know of the "burial groups" Christians formed to provide burial for other Christians. It was a terribly important social act.

          I believe that Christianity has had this deep social justice heart even in some of the worst moments.
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        Jah Sun

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        Nov 17 2011: I do agree.

        And in keeping with the focus of this talk, I do find that ALL branches of Christianity (including the most modern offshoots) are clearly and unequivocally lucid about their focus on charity, compassion, forgiveness, and anti-materialism.

        Those that are able to use the message of such a teaching to justify greed and selfishness mystify me utterly.

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