A Brat Stomps Cantor: Is "Christian Economics" an Oxymoron?
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:14:12 PM EST
It depends on whose political ox is being gored and which uninformed pundit is the moron. With the defeat of Eric Cantor and election of David Brat the issue of "Christian Economics" is gobbling bandwidth. Much of the discussion is long on rhetoric and short on facts. Here is a very brief overview. More resources will be posted at Talk to Action over the next few days.

Executive Summary: Brat's election involves legitimate voter anger; right-wing populism as a social movement, the revival of economic and religious Calvinism, the rise of dominionism among Christian conservatives; and the drive to roll back President Roosevelt's government funded social safety net.

Understanding the concept of "Christian Economics" helps explain how these all got connected and took political power with the election of Ronald Reagan.

There are numerous discussions about economics, money, wealth, and poverty in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. There are egalitarian and progressive versions that have emerged in forms of Catholicism and Protestantism, with clear examples in the Social Gospel, Catholic Worker, and Liberation Theology movements.

The version of "Christian Economics" championed by sectors of the Christian Right in the United States, however, is rooted in Laissez-Faire capitalism as shaped by the Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich August von Hayek; and later modified by Chicago School economic icon Milton Freidman. These ideas were the basis of President Ronald Reagan's "Trickle Down" theory which flowed down the legs of numerous elite right-wing analysts.

A more radical right libertarian version of Laissez-Faire "Christian Economics" drips down from the body of work by R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North. Ron and Rand Paul embrace much of this version of Biblical economics which is the basis for Christian Reconstructionism, a militant Protestant movement which is like Calvinism on crack.

Both Rushdoony and North wrote for The Freeman, the political magazine of the Laissez-Faire Foundation for Economic Education. They were eventually purged when the old guard libertarians thought they had drifted too far into a theocratic interpretation of the relationship between religious theology and political economy.

Christian Reconstructionists engaged in an ideological/theological debate with Christian Conservatives in the US, resulting in a fractious alliance against modern social welfare liberalism.

Frederick Clarkson and I have dubbed this "Dominionism"--a political tendency that allows for electoral cooperation among Christian Reconstructionism (and other forms of doctinaire "Dominion Theology") with the much larger variety of theologies found in the contemporary US Christian Right. Note that not all conservative theologies are tied to right-wing political views.

The election of David Brat is an example of the depth of anger toward elites created by a crisis of legitimacy indicting the current political and economic systems. This widespread and legitimate sense of anxiety and anger is politically-shaped by massive cash drops into electoral and legislative campaigns by a handful of wealthy elites that result (intentionally or not) in the spread of demonizing and scapegoating conspiracy theories about elite betrayal within mass movements mobilized by right-wing populist rhetoric.

That some of the people elected to public office in this process have creepy political and religious views--or are simply ignorant--is apparently dismissed as a small price to pay to smash the remaining re-distributive aspects of Democratic Party policies and what is left of a government-financed social welfare safety net so that the free hand of market forces can slap us into shape as docile consumers and good subjects.




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For decades if not centuries, Christian economics was based on the Sabbath economy of just price, forgiveness of debt, following the moral guidance of Deuteronomy and the communal, cooperative sharing of wealth set forth in Acts. These heretical assertions made by Dominionists derive nothing from Scripture or thoughtful reflection on justice and everything from self-justifying secular philosophy that they have tortured into some phony assertion about the rich being 'The Elect'. The best description of this soulless revisionism lies in Jeff Sharlet's excellent work, "The Family" that spells out the slavering desire of RW extremists to justify greed, acquisitiveness, and riches beyond belief via a twisted and disgusting interpretation of scripture. They fail at every turn to make their case, but man! They are very popular with the moneyed set. It is a bastardization of faith and religion, and it's losing credibility every single day.

by Churchlady on Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 11:12:13 PM EST
There are other excellent studies that examine this issue along with Sharlet's work.

Kintz, Linda. 1997. Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions that Matter in Right-Wing America. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Burlein, Ann. 2002. Lift High the Cross: Where White Supremacy and the Christian Right Converge. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

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Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:04:51 AM EST
Parent
I had not seen these books.

by NancyP on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:54:54 AM EST
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See Larry Bates, James Robison,and  RickJoyner, who have all written books on this subject.  One godfather was Bill Gothard who turned out to be a dirty ole man.  Gingrich and Jeff Sharlett both promoted the myth. AFA's Tim Wildomon claims on radio that FDR was a socialist.  Rick Land is more of the same.
     Some dominionists even wrote that all tax payers should pay the exact amount of tax regardless of income.

by wilkyjr on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:36:09 AM EST

... massive cash drops into electoral and legislative campaigns by a handful of wealthy elites that result (intentionally or not) in the spread of demonizing and scapegoating conspiracy theories ...

Intentionally or not?!? The elites in question have seen the results of their cash bombs, and they continue to drop them onto the political landscape in the exact same way. If they intended otherwise, they would change strategies accordingly.

by Pierce R Butler on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 07:02:31 PM EST


In fact it was the Liberals of that time warning it would lead to financial ruin and called it that as an epithet. And in 1929 the did bottom fall out. What will happen now. Some are predicting that 2016 is the year the bottom will fall out again and they may not be able to stop it.

I do see it as a conscious conspiracy by a few of the 1% and their many followers to wipe out our present govt and hand it over to the psychopathic corporations and their owners. Why? Because those who loved the Fascists in the 1920's - 1930's wanted the USA to be part of the Axis then, and the leader of a new Axis now. They failed in 1934, but were not punished. So their offspring and others who do not like our govt the way it had a long term plan to put us right where we are today. Our govt riddled and ultimately reliant on corporations, parallel organizations while blocking funding for things we need to help people.

by Nightgaunt on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:53:06 PM EST



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