THE RICH, EYES OF CAMELS, AND ANTI-CAPITALISM

This is my first post in a while. I kind of burnt myself out trying to publish stuff everyday, plus having a newborn leaves time for little else. Nevertheless, I am going to attempt to publish articles once a week, although I’m not making any promises. I’m hoping though that with a more spread out schedule, I can publish posts that are more well thought out, better argued, and more researched as necessary.

First though, a brief thought on free markets and the anti-capitalist straw man. This is particularly a fallacy you see in progressive Christianity, but you see it elsewhere as well. Conservative fundamentalists are just as guilty when they pull out Bible verses to support their own position as well. I came across a post recently where the writer made the argument that Jesus was anti-capitalist because of the passage that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. According to the writer, fundamentalists hate this passage because it undermines their support of the rich and capitalism, and their criticism of the poor as morally corrupt.

I don’t wish to touch how fundamentalists see the passage because many of them may see the poor as morally culpable for being poor. Such a view would be mistaken. But equally mistaken is the understanding put forward in the argument above. The argument is that capitalism is all about being pro-rich, and at the least indifferent to the plight of the poor. Assuming that capitalism can be used synonymously with free market for the purposes of the article. The free market however is completely indifferent to being rich and completely indifferent to being poor. If you want to really get to the crux of what the free market it, it is simply two or more people voluntarily exchanging goods for their mutual benefit. This assumes of course that no one would be making the exchange if they did not benefit somehow from the trade. This is almost an axiom in economics, if not a primary principle. Notice, though, that there is nothing about being rich or poor within this definition. Indeed, in the free market there is nothing inherently righteous or unrighteous about being rich or poor. Logically, these concepts are unconnected.

The context of this verse tells us how difficult it is to fully trust God when you cling so tightly to your possessions. This tells us nothing though about whether or not people should be allowed to voluntarily exchange their goods. However, what it does tell us about is the sloppy thinking of the author.

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