In my previous post I argued that the biblical evidence suggest that God’s attitude toward the rich is ambiguous at best. God as the Latin American liberation theologians argued a couple of decades ago favors the poor and in general condemns the rich. This of course goes against the comfortable assumptions of North American Christianity. Therefore why make these argument.
I am not writing this in order to make those who have some comfort in life feel guilty about some of the wealth that they have earned as a result of the work that they have done. Neither did I write this because I believe that the poor are morally better than are the rich. I do not believe that they are. Neither do I believe in the radical views of some of the Latin American liberation theologians that God is found uniquely in the faces of the poor. I have worked as a welfare worker my whole life and I do not see the face of God in people who apply for food stamps any more than in any other people. What I do believe though is that God is the advocate and liberator of the poor because great injustice has been done to them. God is the righter of injustice.
Some explanation is needed. The Bible was written within a agrarian society in which the most important form of property was land. The Bible was not written by economists who could describe mathematically why the vast majority of people in most societies become poor and very small elites become very rich. They knew that it had something to do with
interest rates, the adding of field to field, unjust laws and bad law courts. But in general they do not go into concrete details of the process.
Now in the modern world particularly within the wealthiest societies on earth a lot more is known about the historical process of the historical accumulation and creation of wealth. Thus we also know more about the development of both riches and poverty both in its absolute and relative forms. And the fact is that all historical societies have been run in such a way that wealth is always accumulated by a few and not by the majority of
people who do the work of society. For example, what should be crystal clear, is that any large transnational corporation or other wealth generating enterprise does not exist solely because one man did all of the work and thus created this wealth himself. No billionaire makes his millions because his work is so much more valuable than the work of the tens or hundreds of thousands of his worker / employees. He in fact is rich because the accumulation of profit that ultimately creates the great corporations of society are always said by law to be owned by him, his immediate predecessors and other folk like them.
The great mass of working people who do the vast majority of the work never receive the lion’s share of the profits produced by their labor. The basic fact is that societies are organized as they are because governments are ultimately controlled by and support the control of the rich over the productive work and wealth of society. I think that this is the fact that the biblical prophets kept running up against. This is the reason I believe that ultimately the bible has a strong bias against wealth and the rich.
Now from a practical point of view, I no longer believe that it is likely that any type of political movement can be built that would actually challenge the capitalist basis of modern society. The old socialist and communist movements have failed miserably in their dream of a just society. The basic fact is that a state owned economy is ultimately no more just than is a purely capitalist one. The socialist vision failed and is now completely discredited in the minds of the majority of people in the West and in fact probably in most of the third world as well.
However What I do think is that the biblical critique of wealth and poverty and its concepts of justice and oppression are very relevant in how we do politics in this society. For example the politics of Christain political conservatives
that states that government should not help the poor with public assistance, Medicaid, universal health care or with policies that “God forbid” would give a few more percentages of the national income to the poor are simply anti-biblical. The idea that only Christians through their churches should support the poor through charity is completely insane and denies spirit of what the Bible teaches. Well, I will end here. As I announced when I formed this site this is a place to discuss religion and politics. For some what I have said will be totally unacceptable. Well I can only write what I believe. If that makes my views too out side the margin of political and theological correctness, so be it.