Part 6 of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change deals with prosperity. I begin with a personal reflection:
When I was in seminary I read Ronald Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and that book reshaped our life. I can’t say that I have lived up to my ideals in things “Siderian,” but I can say that I believe at the minimum Christians need (1) to recognize the potency, however unconscious for most of us, of materialism and (2) to live differently — at the least at a lower level of expenditure. Sider’s book shakes from every bush in the Bible passages about poverty and generosity and the dangers of wealth/materialism. Great examples, besides Jesus, stem from the Torah and the early Christians and Paul’s example — and then on into folks like St Francis and many others, including Anabaptists like Ron Sider.
Brian steps into this deep reminder in Christian history and chp 23, “Capitalism as God,” runs the risk of suggesting capitalism — an innocent enough economic theory and practice — is inherently evil but McLaren’s concern here is “this spiritual ideology of theocapitalism that drives many corporations” [not to mention the individuals who drive the corporations]. What is theocapitalism, a term he gets from Tom Beaudoin?
In this chp McLaren pours parabolic acid over the greed behind some corporations and capitalism by showing how the system can become idolatrous (and here I stand with Brian in saying that materialism/capitalism can become idolatrous). Theocapitalism is economic idolatry.
It shapes identity; provides community; petitions our trust; helps us experience ecstasy; communicates transcendence; promises conversion; and promises rest. The four spiritual laws — and here his parabolic discourse is done for effects — of “theocapitalism” are:
1. The law of progress through rapid growth — the one god of progress.
2. The law of serenity through possession and consumption — happiness through owning.
3. The law of salvation through competition alone — saved through competition.
4. The law of freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations — etc.
Corporations mired in theocapitalism, or economic idolatry, have a callous unconcern for others, are incapable of maintaining relationships, show reckless disregard for the safety of others, manifest habitual deceitfulness, fail to conform to societal norms for lawful behaviors, and don’t demonstrate a capacity to experience guilt for what they have done an created.
“The problem isn’t corporations themselves: the problem is this spiritual ideology of theocapitalism” (205).
How about it? How has theocapitalism, economic idolatry, invaded each of us?