I recently read a thought-provoking, though ultimately misguided, article by Daniel Jose Camacho from the faith-oriented left-wing commentary website Sojourners. In it, Camacho argued against the preoccupation many American Christians have with capitalism, suggesting that,
“Capitalism is so deeply ingrained in our Christianity that it is the default. Yet, this arrangement is neither natural nor inevitable.”
Such a perspective was anything but surprising coming from a Sojourners publication. After all, the online magazine is the modern iteration of socialist Jim Wallis’s anti-capitalist magazine “The Post American.” Wallis, who himself championed communism throughout the 1970s, changed the name to Sojourners as part of a strategy to wrap socialist ideas in Christian terminology.
Camacho has joined that movement, speaking favorably in this particular article of the many “Christian socialists” of the New Deal era, while denigrating free-market Christians. He goes so far in that effort that while talking about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos owning 10 yachts, he asks and answers:
“Can someone who owns 10 yachts enter the kingdom of God? I’m not sure.”
If Camacho is truly “not sure,” than Camacho is leaning on his own understanding rather than trusting the word of God Himself. Many times throughout Scripture God uses material prosperity as a method through which He blesses people – Abraham, Solomon, even Zacchaeus come to mind. In modern parlance, Solomon owned a heck of a lot more than 10 yachts. What prevents one from entering the kingdom of God isn’t wealth, it is making that wealth their idol, or first love. That was the problem with the Rich Young Ruler that Jesus encountered. If Betsy DeVos loves her yachts more than God, that will be her problem. If she doesn’t, yachts don’t keep you out of heaven.
That glaring confusion over a fairly elementary Biblical concept should send red flags up for any discerning Christian reading Camacho’s article. As is so often the case with Sojourners commentaries, this article appears to originate in political dogma, with words of faith merely sprinkled on top for flavor.
If Camacho’s thesis had been that free market capitalism too often leads to greed and exploitation, I would find little to disagree with. All Christians should be cognizant of the moral considerations accompanying any economic policy. But that’s where Sojourners in general, and this piece specifically, goes utterly tone deaf.
Free market capitalism’s propensity towards sliding into greed and excess pales in comparison to the economic system Camacho is tempting his readers to entertain. The heart of socialism is greed. If feeling entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor is not greed, after all, what is it? Yet that (along with a side of envy) is the backbone, the foundation, of socialist economic policy.
Socialism robs an individual of their creativity, their ingenuity, their resourcefulness – in many ways it robs them of their resemblance to their Creator. Unsurprisingly this has devastating effects not only on a human’s soul, but upon the community or culture that is so ordered. Remarkably Camacho even illustrates that, albeit inadvertently. He writes,
“Factor in the increasing unaffordability of basic needs like housing and health care, and ballooning student debt, and it’s not hard to see why more and more Americans are struggling to get by. According to a study released this week, 47 percent of working Californians are now struggling with poverty.”
Has Camacho paused to consider the origins of many of the very problems he laments? Though this is admittedly an oversimplification of two complex concepts, housing and healthcare costs have gone up not as a result of free markets, but the distortion of both through third parties and government regulation.
Student loan debt is almost exclusively a government-manufactured problem. By refusing to allow a market correction (the bursting of the college loan bubble) to take place, government has perpetuated the escalating costs.
And there is no state in the union more closely aligned with far-left socialist economic policy, including heavy taxation and massive social programs, than California – the very state Camacho notes is experiencing a poverty crisis.
Christianity transcends economic policy. Jesus brought a spiritual kingdom, not a political one. But for Christians we have a responsibility, it would seem, to discourage public policy that increases human suffering. That’s why it’s confusing to see Camacho and all those at Sojourners wearing the name of Christ advocating for it.