Public Sees Christianity, Capitalism at Odds

Article excerpt

Are Christianity and capitalism a marriage made in heaven, as some conservatives believe, or more of a strained relationship in need of some serious counseling?

A recent poll found that more Americans (44 percent) see the free market system at odds with Christian values than those who don't (36 percent), whether they are white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics or minority Christians.

But in other demographic breakdowns, several categories lean the other way: Republicans and Tea Party members, college graduates and members of high-income households view the systems as more compatible than not.

The telephone poll of 1,010 adults, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, found that although conservative Christians and evangelicals tend to want their clergy to speak out on issues like abortion and homosexuality, they also tend to hold left-of-center views on some economic issues.

"Throughout the Bible, we see numerous passages about being our brother's keeper, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and healing the sick," said Andrew Walsh, author of Religion, Economics and Public Policy and a religion professor at Culver-Stockton College.

"The idea that we are autonomous individuals competing for limited resources without concern for the welfare of others is a philosophy that is totally alien to the Bible, and in my view, antithetical to genuine Christianity."

The findings, released April 21, add a new wrinkle to national debates over the size and role of government. They also raise questions about the impact of the Tea Party's cut-the-budget pressure on the COP and its traditional base of religious conservatives.

The poll found stronger religious distinctions over the question of businesses acting ethically without government regulation, and whether faith leaders should speak out about economic concerns such as the budget deficit and the minimum wage.

White evangelicals (44 percent) are more likely than other Christians or the general population to believe that unregulated businesses would still behave ethically, and they place a higher priority on religious leaders speaking out about social issues over economic concerns. …