Is Capitalism A Sin?

This just went out over Michael Moore’s mailing list. If you consider yourself a Christian, read it:

For Those of You on Your Way to Church This Morning …a note from Michael Moore

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Friends,

I’d like to have a word with those of you who call yourselves Christians (Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Bill Maherists, etc. can read along, too, as much of what I have to say, I’m sure, can be applied to your own spiritual/ethical values).

In my new film I speak for the first time in one of my movies about my own spiritual beliefs. I have always believed that one’s religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private. After all, we’ve heard enough yammerin’ in the past three decades about how one should “behave,” and I have to say I’m pretty burned out on pieties and platitudes considering we are a violent nation who invades other countries and punishes our own for having the audacity to fall on hard times.

I’m also against any proselytizing; I certainly don’t want you to join anything I belong to. Also, as a Catholic, I have much to say about the Church as an institution, but I’ll leave that for another day (or movie).

Amidst all the Wall Street bad guys and corrupt members of Congress exposed in “Capitalism: A Love Story,” I pose a simple question in the movie: “Is capitalism a sin?” I go on to ask, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” Would he belong to a hedge fund? Would he sell short? Would he approve of a system that has allowed the richest 1% to have more financial wealth than the 95% under them combined?

I have come to believe that there is no getting around the fact that capitalism is opposite everything that Jesus (and Moses and Mohammed and Buddha) taught. All the great religions are clear about one thing: It is evil to take the majority of the pie and leave what’s left for everyone to fight over. Jesus said that the rich man would have a very hard time getting into heaven. He told us that we had to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers and that the riches that did exist were to be divided fairly. He said that if you failed to house the homeless and feed the hungry, you’d have a hard time finding the pin code to the pearly gates.

I guess that’s bad news for us Americans. Here’s how we define “Blessed Are the Poor”: We now have the highest unemployment rate since 1983. There’s a foreclosure filing once every 7.5 seconds. 14,000 people every day lose their health insurance.

At the same time, Wall Street bankers (“Blessed Are the Wealthy”?) are amassing more and more loot — and they do their best to pay little or no income tax (last year Goldman Sachs’ tax rate was a mere 1%!). Would Jesus approve of this? If not, why do we let such an evil system continue? It doesn’t seem you can call yourself a Capitalist AND a Christian — because you cannot love your money AND love your neighbor when you are denying your neighbor the ability to see a doctor just so you can have a better bottom line.  That’s called “immoral” — and you are committing a sin when you benefit at the expense of others.

When you are in church this morning, please think about this. I am asking you to allow your “better angels” to come forward. And if you are among the millions of Americans who are struggling to make it from week to week, please know that I promise to do what I can to stop this evil — and I hope you’ll join me in not giving up until everyone has a seat at the table.

Thanks for listening. I’m off to Mass in a few hours. I’ll be sure to ask the priest if he thinks J.C. deals in derivatives or credit default swaps. I mean, after all, he must’ve been good at math. How else did he divide up two loaves of bread and five pieces of fish equally amongst 5,000 people? Either he was the first socialist or his disciples were really bad at packing lunch. Or both.

Yours,
Michael Moore

That’s basically it, you know? Capitalism and (real) Christianity are not compatible. If you’re a Christian and keep supporting this system, you are directly contradicting the teachings of your messiah. So think about that, and think about what your religion requires of you.

And then go see Capitalism: A Love Story. Learn something about the system you live in and how it works, while also laughing your ass off. Send the people in power a message in a language they understand: ticket sales.

Leave a comment

9 Comments

  1. I’m all for a socialist system, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the First Amendment to the Constitution. Honestly, I think that’s one of only two or three things my government has done right since its creation. Civil rights for women and black folks as well. Don’t get me started on my right to privacy and security, though; in recent days, we saw how well THAT Amendment has stood up to the government.

    Even if I were a rich man, I’d be living in quiet, simple solitude rather than flaunting my wealth. Decent-sized house in the country with a big front yard. Might spend some money on a skylight for the bedroom, though. Other than that, food, bills, offering plate at church.

    I’ll have to disagree with Mr. Moore about keeping my beliefs private, since Christ commands us to go out into the world and make disciples of the nations. But that’s about it. Go socialism.

  2. I don’t think there’s necessarily a contradiction between keeping your beliefs private and “making disciples of the nations.” Especially in light of the parable of the Good Samaritan and so on.

    There’s also Matthew 6:1-6 to consider:

    Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

    Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

    And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    Anyway, socialism doesn’t mean throwing out the First Amendment and privacy rights: quite the opposite. Socialism isn’t about making the government all-powerful, it’s about giving it the correct powers, and about instituting more direct democratic control. That includes making sure the rights of the individual are protected.

  3. Jonas, you thoroughly surprised me with your knowledge of the Bible today.

    Also, I have to see Moore’s newest; I skipped out on “Sicko” and the 1.5 thingy after it, but this one is a must.

  4. Jonas, you thoroughly surprised me with your knowledge of the Bible today.

    It’s not as extensive as it should be, but I know more than most Christians. Which isn’t saying a lot.

    Also, I have to see Moore’s newest; I skipped out on “Sicko” and the 1.5 thingy after it, but this one is a must.

    Didn’t manage to see Sicko, either. I’m definitely going to see Capitalism in the cinema the moment in comes out. Hell, I’d buy extra tickets and hand them out to people, if I could afford it.

  5. I suppose you’re right. There IS a difference between informing and bragging. The real problem is that the mass media is blinding people to it. That’s another problem in America: 90% of us are sheep, but not in the Christian sense.

    When it comes to witnessing, I take what I call the “Morpheus approach”: I can only show you the door; you are the one who has to walk through it. Thing is, even if you make it clear that this is your intent, some people will still think you’re trying to push them through it.

  6. It really does depend on your idea of what is Good; remember that Christ didn’t found any churches. And then there’s the parable of the Good Samaritan, which to me clearly shows that being righteous in the eyes of God and following Christ are not always the same, and that one is possible without the other. I’m pretty certain that Jesus would be fine with people simply motivating others to do good; he would count that as people following in his footsteps. It’s not the name that matters, it’s the deeds.

  7. Jesus also fashioned a whip and chased money changers and tax collectors out of a synagogue, regularly embarrassed the religious teachers with their own hypocrisy, and said he and the Father were one. He also went on to claim that there was no other way to the Father except through him and generally made a lot of uppity people very unhappy.

    Most people would call that crazy. I’m not, but you get the idea. Deeds aren’t everything. I believe it comes down to the message of Christianity, which is that we all need help and can’t do it by ourselves (the exact opposite of every other religion in the world).

    Wait, how did we get on the subject of religion? Shouldn’t we be talking about how socialism would be a good thing in America if Obama could just do it right?

  8. Jesus also fashioned a whip and chased money changers and tax collectors out of a synagogue, regularly embarrassed the religious teachers with their own hypocrisy, and said he and the Father were one. […] and generally made a lot of uppity people very unhappy.

    Those are deeds!

    He also went on to claim that there was no other way to the Father except through him

    Which, if combined with the Good Samaritan story, can easily be taken to mean that there is no way except through the teachings of Christ (i.e. a certain enlightened behaviour) rather than simply the worship of Christ (which is just words). There are other passages that support this interpretation.

    (the exact opposite of every other religion in the world)

    Every other? Far from it. Not that I entirely agree that that is the central message of Christianity. But there are deep similarities in the teachings of many religions, including many that came aeons before Christ.

  9. Shouldn’t we be talking about how socialism would be a good thing in America if Obama could just do it right?

    Obama is about as far from supporting socialism as George Bush was from believing in Christ.