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Poll: Americans See Clash Between Christianity, Capitalism

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

A new poll released Thursday (April 21) 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 poll, 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 add a new wrinkle to national debates over the size and role of government, and raise questions about the impact of the Tea Party’s cut-the-budget pressure on the GOP 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.

Minority Christians, in contrast, believe clergy should be vocal about both areas — particularly on the economic issue of home foreclosures, which 76 percent considered important, compared to 46 percent of the general population.


“Minority Christians have a deep theological tradition of connecting faith and economic justice, and we see that link in the survey,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Because minorities in the U.S. generally continue to have lower incomes than whites, economic issues are also more salient in these congregations.”

In other findings:

  • Half of women believe that capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37 percent of men.
  • A majority (53 percent) of Democrats believe capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents. A majority (56 percent) of Tea Party members say capitalism is consistent with Christian values.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans with household incomes of $100,000 a year or more believe that capitalism is consistent with Christian values, compared to just 23 percent of those with household incomes of $30,000 a year or less.
  • Most Americans (61 percent) disagree that businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. White evangelicals (44 percent) are more likely than Catholics (36 percent), white mainline (33 percent) or minority Christians (34 percent) to say unregulated businesses would act ethically.

“The most idolatrous claim of the Christian right is that the invisible hand of the free market … is none other than the hand of God,” Walsh said, “and any attempt to regulate the free market, according to this theology, belies a lack of faith in God.”

– NICOLE NEROULIAS, Religion News Service

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Very interesting. And moderately encouraging. I’m glad to hear that a lot of Christians at least realize morality doesn’t end with abortion and homosexuality.

    Now we need more of them to realize morality includes the ability of women and families who need abortions to get them and the ability of homosexuals who need to get married to be able to.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    Christianity does not blend well with either Capitalism or Communism. If it is taken creatively it becomes its own form of economy and community. There is a delicious ambiguity within Christianity that allows a fair amount of latitude so no one develops an attitude that they know precisely what is “Right’. The problem is more people are interested in asserting their “Right-ness” than they are in righteousness. One person’s right-ness is often dependent on another person’s poverty. So here is the basic deal – all the rules for a “Christian” economy and community

    1 Hospitality comes first – care for the powerless people, whether you know from where they came or what language they speak.
    2 Love justice – be more concerned about helping people get into the community than keeping people out.
    3 Act Kindly – kindness is more powerful, more creative, and more fulfilling than all of the multitude of selfish acts exercised throughout history.
    4 Walk humbly – there is always some one better off and worse off than you. It is fine to have positive esteem and personal pride. But without humility a person becomes hollow and shallow.
    5 Do for others as you would have done to you – we learn by doing and learn better by teaching, and learn best of all by teaching through example. If you can’t handle the cost then you won’t appreciate the joy.
    6 Love your neighbor as yourself – You can only love someone as much as you love yourself. Anything else is deceptive. Learn to love yourself, and you will start to love others. If you have to ask, choose to think that the other person is your neighbor.

    These are all scriptural – yet they are also common wisdom. Most of the holy texts include these, with some variation allowed for linguistic and cultural distinctions. Anything else, like religion, is a thinly camouflaged attempt at control. That will only lead to the same cul-de-sacs that we have already been in. If you operate under these guidelines you will find your life is better, no matter what your political, economic, religious, or ethnic past.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    jest that is only part of the Gospel, and only part of what Jesus taught living holy is not being a door mat or buying anything the world has to offer.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Katie Angel

    CK – actually, turning the other cheek is EXACTLY what Christ taught, both in word and in example. He humbled Himself to wash his disciples feet, allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured, spat upon and murdered by people who were unworthy to even touch the hem of his cloak. If we truly wish to follow Christ, we should follow HIM and live by HIS example. He had no home, no possessions, He was a vagabond who relied on the kindness of others for food and shelter, He did not go around shouting his own value but rather was generally self-effacing and modest. His parables are almost entirely about using God’s gifts to us wisely, showing compassion to others and living a life of simplicity and humility.

    Especially at this time when we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, we should reflect on how well our lives reflect on Him.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    You are right in part. Jesus and Paul both preached we ought not “buy what the world is offering”. Hence, neither of these political economic models work. Not being a doormat? Well, I don’t think the Chief priest or his minions, Herod, or especially Pilate would accuse Jesus of being a doormat. He used his mind and spirit rather than his might, models we are expected to follow.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    To cknuck being nice to people is being a doormat. Is he more Christian or is jesterfyl? Or Christ (what we’re told about him)?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Findings, findings and more findings in todays news. People should stop looking for reasons to divide and (conquer), take that time instead to look for ways to unite.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    nnmns you always put your foot in your mouth and spout lies, I am nice to way more people in a day then you are in a month. Not only nice but I supply solutions to their needs. I don’t say that to brag but to expose your lying nature

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    I have only your word to go by about your life, cknuck, i.e. nothing. But we have an extensive record of reading your writings so it’s easy enough to conclude you are full of hate.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    Boys, boys – this ain’t no nice contest. Let’s take a step back, smell Spring (and pollen – Aaaa/CHEW!) in the air, and enjoy the reawakening of the earth. The rest of it is not all that important in the wider scheme of things.

    Peace, Hope, and Joy are unrestricted and open to all. Enjoy them in whatever fashion fits your temperament.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    you are right nnmns you do have nothing and I have no need to prove anything to you but your poison do amuse me occasionally and your frustration with people who believe differently then you. =:-D funny stuff.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cknuck

    oops “people who believe differently than you”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Civis

    Business provided us all with great prosperity when it was coupled with war and it provided full employment. The fight for our labor raised wages in the competion for services.
    Now they give our jobs to our potential enemies under the umbrella of world trade. This in turn provides other nations with money and resourses to be real threats to us and others.
    Matthew 6:24 suggests that no one can serve two masters – I would think that this also means that a political party that is dedicated soley to business interests cannot really represent the interests of the people at the same time as money will trump God, society and God’s creations (our planet included)
    I would suggest we (everyone everywhere on the planet) all put a sign somewhere that says –
    Business needs regulations but unfortunately they have taken over control of democracy and make their own rules – we need to change that.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    Businesses need regulation like rivers need banks (however he reverse is not true. Rivers do not need regulation). Without them they are a shallow sea with nothing but muck below them. Lets get business out of the muck and back on track. Economies, like Laws, exist for the people, and not the reverse. Anyone who finds a way to work for the people will build a better business.

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