Commentary

Is it greed, or is it blessing?

In Pastor Paul Harrington’s February 2011 opinion article titled “Where Christianity and capitalism collide,” he makes the argument that one particular economic system is responsible for human behavior that is contrary to Christian morality. Despite the fact that capitalism, nevertheless, is the most successful economic system in history and the most beneficial for the maximum number of people, Harrington — in absence of any other economic system mentioned — believes that capitalism alone breeds “greed.”

From Harrington’s historical perspective, the U.S.’s past “two years of deep recession was caused in part by “arrogance, shoddy oversight, and woeful lack of regulation that led to levels of greed and avarice seldom seen in our nation’s history.” Really? I thought the current financial crisis began with the housing crisis which was created by the federal government’s noble — but tragically mistaken — intention to make housing affordable for those who did not have the means to purchase. So, thanks to the “power greed” of government to coerce lending agencies to issue dangerous subprime loans, many poor people have tragically witnessed their houses foreclosed while most homeowners, in turn, have suffered the ripple effect of heartbreaking financial losses on one of their primary investments.

Tim Utter

Not one dime of a successful entrepreneur’s wealth is taken from me.

Why Harrington is appalled by America’s “unequal distribution of wealth” is truly baffling to me. “The essence of capitalism,” Winston Churchill once summarized, “is an unequal sharing of blessing.” How else do we explain how even among America’s poor, most are “blessed” with ownership, for example, of automobiles and cell phones — both items the wealthy King Solomon would have, no doubt, given half his kingdom to acquire? Apparently, Harrington would prefer a more actively-involved governmental economic system that promotes fairness and justice — say like socialism, where accumulated wealth is shared and yet everyone is “equally miserable.”

Archtypes of  greed or not

Harrington goes on to target “CEOs of the largest American companies” as the ultimate archetypes of greed. Interesting that he does not mention popular professional entertainers and athletes who make amounts of money that dwarf anything earned by those stressed-out, overworked, job-producing CEOs. It doesn’t matter. Frankly, I wish all those successful entrepreneurs well because not one dime of their wealth is taken from me — unlike the federal government that both taxes me excessively while mortgaging the future of my children and grandchildren with catastrophic debt.

Then, too, Harrington references Biblical examples that he believes have “much to say to capitalist nations.” Really? I thought the story of the Rich Man and the parable of the Good Samaritan were illustrations addressed to private individuals no matter which kind of economic system they were living under. I thought the responsibility for fiscal stewardship was the responsibility of the individual Christian, not the economic system he or she is living under.

Tim Utter is an admissions counselor at Concordia University in St. Paul.

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