Christians and Laissez-Faire Economics
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Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 09:36:56 AM EST
     Bill Moyers interviewed George Soros in regard to the 2008 economic crash in the U.S. economy.  Soros expressed concern that Henry Paulson, economic advisor to President Bush at the time, acted too slowly.  He waited too long because he was such a free market person he refused to act.  According to Soros, this hesitation killed us.  He noted England acted quicker and saved more of their own economy.[1]  The new and growing wing of the Religious Right has emerged  with an economic agenda.  Some trace the roots of the movement to Civil  Rights rejection in the nation.  Many used the fear of government restrictions in the work place as a reason to reject Affirmative Action.  This theory might help explain the natural roots the Religious Right would have in laissez-faire economic beliefs.  The connection goes much further than a theory on race.  It is rooted deeply in the new concerns of the movement.  With renewed accusations that the nation is turning socialist, free market adherents find new fodder for the fires of the movement. The most popular Religious Right voter guide in Texas is a voter guide aptly named, the Free Market Voter guide.
     Southern Baptist's ethics head, Richard Land, has claimed laissez-faire is the Biblical model for an economy.  It was mine as well as many American's understanding that this system of economics led to the Great Depression.  Land and company advocate a system they never lived under since the restrictions on the economy mandated by government have been in place long before his birth.  Religious Right leaders like R. J. Rushdoony claim that it was a the Federal Reserve that caused the Great Depression.[2] Other leaders, like James Robison ,have claimed that it was government regulation, not deregulation that brought about the 2008 collapse.  Rushdoony goes so far as to denounce any form of government organization or regulations.  He does not believe in public schools, libraries or laws to protect the environment.  To these types the idea of planting rows of trees in the Oklahoma Panhandle to prevent erosion by government  mandate were just cases of government interference.    When Land claims Obama is an arsonist you can understand his concerns.[3]  Obama's programs are burning up the free enterprise system of supply and demand.   Let the market rule.

     Ron Paul and his lot promote a survival of the most fit  economic system.  Let the wealthy dominate if this is what nature desires and the idea of punishing the rich by more taxation is against the market.  It is almost a form of Spencer Darwinism's survival of the most fit.  Ronald Reagan's trickle down system was coined years earlier by JFK.  Kennedy once said that if the water rises then all the boats float to higher elevations.  

     The reason Glenn Beck insists Obama is a Marxist stems from this argument.[4]  Social programs like health care for elderly or regulation of the health care industry are just forms of socialism or at worst Communism.  The myth that retirees earned all their Social Security and Medicare still prevails.  Truth is just about all cases reveal the government has paid much more than the employees ever paid into the system.  There is no investment program that would have provided for the increase in expenses the modern American medical system demands for health. The myth that government entitlements fall only [2] on the bottom of the economic ladder still prevails in our society.  We tend to forget going to a public school or universities.  Few are aware of government grants for research that have made all our lives better for the investment.

     The Atlantic magazine claims Christians who adhere to the prosperity gospel were  responsible for the stock market crash of 2008.[5]  Even Religious Right writers have made the same claim. The deregulated loan system allowed foolish loans to be given with little leverage or security.   Prosperity Gospel preachers encouraged these loans, (some got kickbacks).   Taking the restraints off of government regulation was yet another example of letting the market run its course.  The problem was that the market did run its course and the American public had to pick up the tab.  Buyers who could not afford the homes and bankers who made these unsecured investments got off the hook by and large.  

     Dr. Larry Bates is a prime example of what is being promoted over the airways in the name of Christian radio.  Bates is the radio talk show host of KSSL St. Louis.  Among his gems of advice is that we must now bomb Iran.  Christian nation themes run through his program as well as special medical cures and fuel additives that promise to increase gas mileage.  Bates believes, like most Religious Right figures, that the Federal Reserve wants to rob  the American middle class.  He believes the "War of the Worlds" was staged by the government to see how to handle the public.  This conspiracy was conducted by insiders as a test.  He notes Democrats are socialist and Hilary cannot be President because she is a woman.  To Bates, Obama is a radical Muslim.  He suggest silver is the cure all for what ails you and eating silver is good for the body.  Investing in it is not a bad idea also.  He is typical of the laissez-faire radio programs that draw millions of listeners.[6] Bates, like many of his fellow pilgrims in the Religious Right, would have us abolish the Federal Reserve, which is what Jesus would have us do.

     When revelations about Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright and McCain's connection to Jon Hagee came to light, some shouted  foul.  They thought the press was picking on the religious connections the two contenders had.  Thus, someone decided to look up some of Hillary's connections and they landed on a strange group known as the Family.  Jeff Sharlet wrote a New York Times bestseller on the story.  The book is about a secretive, yet powerful group which is a Para church organization.  The theory behind the movement is to win over the  most wealthy and powerful in the culture and school them in the Christian faith and their economic system.  The founder of the movement was anti-union and a promoter of a peculiar form of the trickle down church growth theory.  Get the rich with you and the poor will fall in line.  Sharlet noted the Social Gospel was replaced with a "laissez-faire Jesus".   The group believed that international capitalism was at the heart of the Gospel.  This translated into unregulated trade which would lead to some sort of spiritual freedom.8  The cream would rise to the [3] top.   The best specimens would obtain the wealth which was the natural and Biblical way of an economy.  Social safety nets, unions and minimum wage merely got in the way of the natural process of free enterprise.  Jesus desired these safety nets be done away with.

   It was noted in one of Mitt Romney's debates he declared he was not for a totally unregulated market.  In doing so he parted company with some of the base of his followers.  Of the two choices in the 2012 election, the candidate with the views closest to liassez-faire was the one who got the backing of these types.  Social issues have appeared to have taken a back seat to the economic view in the GOP Right.

     In the late sixties and early seventies the Bill Gothard movement spread like a prairie wildfire among conservative churches.  Ministers who did not buy into Gothard's system were often punished by parishioners who deserted their congregations to one who promoted Gothard.  The connection to Southern Baptists is well known.  The largest  SBC seminary went through a regime change led by a man who was a Gothard adherent.  Gothard taught many strange things.  His teachings were not allowed to be in the public so it was years before writers had a chance to see what he was actually saying.  His impact was enormous.   Among his economic mandates was that borrowing money is a sign of God's judgment. If women stayed at home and didn't work God would bless the family with more income.   You should buy a home without borrowing any money.  Women were to be fertile homemakers.9  If they were not conceiving it might just be the rock music beats that came into their home.   Thus any form of equal wage for women was contrary to God's will who desired these women stay at home. Quotas for women in the work force were further conditions Jesus did not like according to the crowd.

     Trinity Broadcast Network promoted Larry Bates is a splendid example.  His contempt for the Federal Reserve is typical and his economic programs he promotes through his books and airways are finding receptive ears.  Baker is an adherent to the anti-Semitic international banker theories.  He believes that the economic problems in the world are caused by the Jewish Rothschild family.  The economy is being manipulated by these elitist bankers who control the economy secretly.  Since the U.S. government is in on this conspiracy, any social programs promoted by the government must have a diabolic goal.  It helps to explain how these militia/types do not want government taxation because it is being used to target their nation.  It is again another case for no regulation of the economy.  After all, why give our resources to Jewish bankers? Bates writes that "Government has no money it first did not take from someone else.  It can only be an instrument of wealth transfer, and that solves no one's problem long term."[10]

     The Religious Right has come up with a new spin on American history.  American Family Association leader Tim Wildemon claims that FDR promoted socialism.  Black leaders like J.C. Watts and Star Parker portray LBJ's Great Society as an assault on Blacks.  Thus the Great Society and the New Deal fit the profile of government interference in the economy.  The conclusion is these interventions are evil and Christians need reject such socialistic proposals.  Religious Right candidate Newt Gingrich wrote, "But any fair assessment of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid economic policies shows they are indisputably socialists."[11] Economic systems that sustained a prosperous America are now defined as suspect.[4]

     One connection that might be made is the idea of a Black President.  Jackie Robinson was brought before Congress to testify  dealing with rumors that if the Soviet Union attacked the United States would Black people defend the U.S.S.R.?  Robinson was sickened he even had to answer such a question.  M.L. King dealt with this and his legacy still has those critics who claimed he was a secret Communist.  Religious Right darling Jesse Helms was the sole hold out on the national King holiday. Senator Helms accused King of being too cozy with radical leftists.  Any Black Democratic President would surely have to deal with suspicions he would be connected to the far left, history repeats itself.  George W. Bush has close connections to Marvin Olasky.  Marvin was an early sixties Communist who changed his views.  Point being that white politicians with checkered associations in their youth escape the same scrutiny Black politicians face.

     Christian Reconstruction author and homeschool champion Dr. R. C. Sproul Jr. Is yet another example.  His textbook on Biblical Economics is typical of the theories taught in Christian homeschool movements.   He writes that state regulation creates a "stagnant economy."   Minimum wage laws are interference  in the free expression of the economy.  Jerry Falwell used to publish articles by black writers lamenting that minimum wage laws would harm black people.   Inflation, according to Sproul, is caused by governments consuming more than they produce. God ordained an economy where the state is absent from oversight. The writer states that our Constitution has been violated by federal debts and Jesus wants to make us free from this.  Students are asked to answer a question like, "How is welfare destructive to those who receive it?" The homeschool leader explains that God established executive rule and a judicial system, but not a legislature.  This statement is rather alarming in that it is being taught to American citizens.  Headquarters for Sproul's crowd have been vocal that democracy is for cowards.  They advocate a Theocracy as the Biblical  model.  He urges his students to take dominion.  That is, to take back the government and give it to God.[12]

     Oak Initiative leader Rick Joyner gives us more of the same.  Joyner and his organization are becoming large players in the new Religious Right and its economic desires.  Rick writes that our government is not now of the people and for the people.   Rick thinks we need to remove government policy and leadership and the economy will be stronger. He noted our greatest need was for new leadership.  The unstated goal is to end the Obama administration. Joyner believes that the most important element in our society is our economy.  He even wrote of economic wars that are waged instead of military wars.  This is an interesting point that helps explain the new agenda of the Religious Right is not below the belt ethics, but the national economy.  The Oak Initiative's explanation of the 2008 crash is that it was caused by the Federal Reserve.  Deregulation is never mentioned by this crowd.  Strangely, Rick does state that there is need for some regulation on the economy to keep it under control.  A rare view coming from this circuit. Joyner believes the former Communist countries are rushing toward capitalism.  Meanwhile, since 2008, the United States has been putting on the brakes to stop capitalism.   He writes that most government intervention in the economy has been harmful.  He states it has done more damage than good when the government intercedes in the market.[5]

     Joyner believes it was not deregulation but actually regulation that caused the crash of 2008.  A view that is often repeated in these conferences.  Joyner thinks that rich folks in America have a stacked deck against them.  He deplores the taxing of the rich above what others are taxed.  He compares it to playing a game where the more you win the more the referee comes and takes away  our winnings.  He writes that CEOs are the true American heroes who are underpaid and suggests they should be knighted for their nobility.  He notes that if we took the money we now use to regulate our economy we could easily balance our Federal budget.   He believes that our size of government could be reduced to 20% of its size and we would be better off in our society.  Just exactly who the 80% is that gets ousted is not presented in his book.  The man first noted in this article, George Soros, is called out by Joyner.  Joyner says the financier controls the Democratic Party and wants to destroy the U.S. dollar.  Welfare for the poor is just a form of slavery by his account.[13]

     James Robison, former evangelists turned activists, has published a new book about his vision for the country.  James claims he is responsible for getting Reagan elected to office.  He sought to do the same thing in 2012 with rallies gathering key leaders from the Religious Right to get them to push aside theological differences to unite to help elect a Republican President.

     His latest book claims that economic truth is as important as moral truth.  Another footnote to the new agenda of economics trumping social issues.  The preacher's take on Old Testament Joseph is a strange proposal. Joseph saved Egypt by interpreting dreams of famine.  He encouraged Pharaoh to set aside provisions to give to the people in the coming crisis.  James says Joseph was wrong in this and should not have gotten the government involved! James dislikes government charities preferring private ones.  Contrary to what fellow Texan LBJ believed, James says it is not government's role to eliminate poverty. FDR caused the Great Depression and did not stop it according to the TV show host.  To James, people who think inequality is unjust are thinking like Marxists.  People who have problems with loving the rich are just like Bonnie and Clyde.  They are coveting.[15]

     To James, taxing the rich with higher rates is just wrong  There should be a flat tax and each citizen pay the exact same per cent age.  To James poor  people are over rated in America.  Our poverty definition is too high.  He deplores that we are told that one in seven is poor by definition in America.  To James the entire poverty thing has been over exaggerated. The author wants Christians to become more fertile.  Conservative Christians having more children is one of the answers for the country.[16]

     One time Baptist ethicist T. B. Maston wrote that Christians should be supportive of the New Deal and the Great Society.  He noted Christians are supposed be concerned for all people.[17]  Christian writers like Maston have been drowned out by the presses that put out laissez-faire proposals as the true viewpoint of Christians.  The New Testament promotes aggressive investments of capital.  It also promotes the concern that is to be given for the poor and widows.  Jesus' own brother wrote that true religion is to visit the orphans and widows.  Helping those who are less fortunate used to be a Christian virtue.  These new Right writers do desire that help be given to the needy.  They just do not want the state dong it.  They even propose that the local churches should take care of this.  This absurd math [6] makes little sense.  Most churches could not afford the cost charged by American healthcare for retired people in their own congregation.

     SMU theologian Joerg Rieger, has written a new book called, No Rising Tide.  In it he refutes  the myth that rising tide floats all the economic ships.  He makes the claim this simply is not happening in America and the wealth at the top of the ladder is often gained on the mistreatment of those on the bottom.  He notes that the relationship between empire, economics and religion is evident in our culture.  He notes that religious views often give backing to our flawed economic principles.  He notes that this top down or trickle down idea is not a Biblical view. He wrote that Jesus was a carpenter and Moses took slaves to freedom.  Rieger states the Biblical view is more of a bottom up take on economics.  Thus by the bottom being given more of a chance to share in earnings, all factions of the culture fare better.

     Rieger notes the wealthy have been paying a smaller percent of taxes while the poor have seen an increase. The professor notes that few churches seem to be questioning the relationship between faith and economics.  It is some sort of blind faith that sees determinism as the vision.  The wealthy are preordained to riches and we accept this by faith as God's will.  He notes that wealthy people are given more influence on boards and as trustees for religious institutions.  This seems to be the accepted norm.  He notes the economic bailouts were given to banks, not to homeowners to pay off the loans.    In conclusion, Dr. Rieger writes, "..."before religions can become part of the solution we need to understand how it has become part of the problem."
     Voices like Rieger's are being drowned out by the vast volumes of print and TV time given to another agenda.  It would be helpful for churches and even secular observers to have at least a little comprehension of the viewpoints being spread about the American economy in the name of the Christian faith.
Don Wilkey Jr. Nov. 10, 2012
Endnotes:
1.     Mainstreambaptistsblogspot Oct. 15, 2008.
2.    Faith for All of Life, Mar./April 2010, pg. 6.
3.    Ethicsdaily.com Nov. 7, 2008
4.    Glenn Beck on Fox Channel @008 author viewed.
5.    www.theatlantic.com 12/18/2009
6.    www.dangerousintersection.org  May 2010.
7.    Jeff Sharlet, The Family, Harper, N.Y., N>Y., 2008, pg. 110.
8.    Ibid. pg. 8
9.    Bill Gothard, Institute In Basic Youth Conflicts, Oakbrook, Ill. 1986, pgs. 88-107.
10.    Larry bates, The Ne Economic Disorder, Exel Books, Lake Mary, Fla. 2009, pgs. 1, 24,48, 73, 212.
11.    Newt Gingrich, To Save America, Regnery, Washington D. C., 2010. Pg. 41.

12.     Dr. R. C. Sproul Jr., Biblical Economics, Vision Forum, San  Antonio, Tx. 2010, pgs. 27,29, 35,39, 43, 52, 55, 71, 83, 77.  

13.    Rick Joynor, I See A New America, Quest Ventures, Fort Mill, S. C., 2011, pgs. 12, 15, 17, 21, 26, 32, 39, 50, 54, 61.

14.    Ibid. pgs. 69, 80, 82, 84, 99, 164, 168, 235.

15.    James Robison, Jay Richards, Indivisible, Faithwords, N.Y., Y.Y., 2012, pgs. 4, 74, 158, 175, 178, 248, 249, 252.

16.    Ibid. pgs. 253, 257, 133.

17.    T. B. Maston, Both And, T.B. Maston Foundation, 2011, pg. 189

Joerg Rieger, No Rising Tide, Fortress, Minneapolis, Minn., 2009. Pgs. Xiii, 1, 6, 33, 61,




Display:
As a disciple of Reaganomics, casting Obama as socialist is laughable. Likewise the convicted felon hedge fund trader Soros. As neoliberals, they and Hillary are Free Market evangelists uber alles. Their support for social programs to maintain control of those dispossessed by US Treasury looting and offshore tax evasion should not be confused with socialism. As the anti-union Obama and the anti-democracy Soros join Hillary in neoliberal coups d' etat worldwide, the Free Trade neocolonialism initiated by President Clinton threatens to crush outbreaks of democratic socialism wherever they occur. As Obama pursues privatization of Social Security, the fact he isn't also a religious fanatic provides little comfort.

by Jay Taber on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 11:52:30 AM EST

Wanted to mention that the Southern Baptist Convention went on record in the thirties wanting to end laissez-faire economics in support for some sort of government regulation. (Thanks for coments Jay with information worth noting.)

by wilkyjr on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 02:11:06 PM EST

First, I have family members who have embraced some of the more radical Christian beliefs -- including the belief that our government is way too controlling.  This makes it difficult to have rational conversations with them.

I find it extremely annoying that religious "leaders" have intruded into areas in which they have little or no expertise or understanding -- including science and now, economics.  With the exception of politicians and certain Hollywood actors, I can think of no other occupational group that, nowadays, at least, feel empowered to make pronouncements about anything and everything -- and are viewed by their followers and often, the media, as automatic experts.

I believe that this comes from, among other, less flattering personality traits (e.g., megalomania, narcissism) the desire to "rule" as authoritarians, albeit as instruments of "God."   And their followers, of course, also seek easy-to-parse answers and directions, and are all too willing to fall for this shtick.

On the surface, the concept of the "free marked" is easy to embrace by know-nothings who score high on the authoritarian scale -- and who lack a sense of history.  The economy isn't static.  Workers, for example, are competing as suppliers of services for their piece of the pie from employers.  When workers have little power (e.g., when there are no unions, when supply of workers is high so that employers have the ability to pit them against each other to keep wages low), then more money will flow to employers -- or to other businesses that control certain vital commodities (think the railroads in the late 1800s and their ability to put the screws to farmers who needed their crops shipped, or Standard Oil and the monopoly it once held).

At least since the Industrial Revolution, as opposed to Feudal Europe, markets are continually churning as industries rise and then may be replaced (buggy whips, anyone???).   Workers have also been "churned" in the U.S., with men replaced by women (who were cheaper to hire) in various factory settings, and then the women replaced by children and/or immigrants, who were even cheaper sources of labor.  Then the unions arose.  It wasn't pretty; I have talked to some of the "old timers" who were there, sometimes as the kids of workers, when private security forces were brought in to break up early union organizing efforts and strikes at places like the steel mills in Northwest Indiana and Pullman Car on the south side of Chicago.

Thanks to the New Deal and the fact that, after World War II our competitors' countries were mostly bombed-out messes, plus, I don't know -- the GI Bill, high taxes to pay for World War II, and many, many technological breakthroughs to fuel incredible economic growth (by mostly men -- they guys who went to school on the GI Bill and got cheap financing to encourage business growth), the U.S. experienced the "American Century," a chicken in every pot, etc.

However, changes in the tax code, wrought initially by the Reagan Administration, which did other things, too, like encouraging 401K defined contribution plans rather than the old, defined benefits pensions, and lots of looting of the 401Ks at various points by Wall Street Banksters, the rise of the private equity firms that basically simply stripped the value out of companies, and the trend, post-manufacturing, of paying workers so little for full-time work -- or denying them full-time work and keeping them at part-time -- that many of them qualify for food stamps and medicaid in order to keep their kids from starving to death, has once again shifted the balance so that an indecent amount of money flows to the "haves," both from workers who are struggling to get by and from the government, which is paying (or, actually, using tax payer money to pay) to prop up the inadequate wages of service sector/retail workers.   This is truly obscene -- especially since many of the "haves" then turn around and complain about government spending, since they are the ones who externalized substantial costs for them employees.

But following this story line, which is full of back and forth and, often, a lot of yelling and screaming as various interests seek to end up on top, is more than most "authoritarian" brains can comprehend.  Rather than seeing that the economy evolves as well as grows -- and that there will always be efforts on the part of the "haves" to externalize as many costs as possible (e.g., not treating their wastewater and if contamination of local drinking water ensues, expecting the residents to buy bottled water or the government to clean up the contamination or provide treatment to make the water potable) -- these folks would rather rely on some out-of-his-depth Preacher to give them a pat description -- such as "God loves the Free Market."

Frankly, I think God wants us to treat each other well -- not reap record profits on the backs of people who require food stamps in order to feed their kids.

by coralsea on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 06:37:21 PM EST

I meant to write "free market" in the fourth paragraph.

Also, I do not mean to assert that all Christians -- or that all Christian leaders -- hold these ideas.   The fact that many of the ones who do are often politically active is worrisome.  I also find it appalling that this sort of rot (the Bible is anti-regulation and pro-free market) is taught in home-schooling curricula.  Certain family members have home-schooled their children to keep them away from "bad influences," and whenever I hear about some of the stuff they believe, my blood pressure soars.

by coralsea on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 10:59:46 PM EST
Parent



Thanks for the really good article. My father in law was a banker in Mississippi and until the end of his life viewed Reagan as responsible for the financial mess the U.S. eventually became. He stayed a Democrat, when all of his well off colleagues abandoned the Democrats for the Republicans in response to the 'Southern Strategy'. He also told me how the 'top tier' of politicians in Mississippi were crooks and liars... I won't list them but most would recognize their names. At his funeral, the worst that could be said about him was that 'he stayed a Democrat'.
Being a man of principles, he could do no less.

by COinMS on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:38:24 AM EST


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Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)
Jerry Falwell's Fundamentalist Liberty University Still Getting Hundreds of Millions in Federal Aid
In 2010, Liberty University got more federal funding than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In a 2011 Talk To Action story, contributor Bill Berkowitz covered the new trend in which right-wing evangelical colleges and......
Bruce Wilson (2 comments)

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