The Pledge of Allegiance is fairly common in America. It is recited in public school classrooms and public events. One phrase of the pledge is actually fairly new: “under God.” Louis A. Bowman added this to the pledge in 1954, when “under-God consciousness swept the nation.” In the 2012 Republican race, Mitt Romney has used the phrase in a different sort of way.
“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus the 1 percent . . . you have opened a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God,” The New York Times quoted Romney as saying. His explanation comes from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where in the parable of the talents, the first signs of capitalism and investing emerge.
Capitalism is the idea of private ownership and laissez-faire, the concept of free markets. Using the phrase “under God” with capitalistic ideas has sparked a heated debate. Did God create capitalism? Is He okay with capitalism? After all, the Bible does say in 1 Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” If money is evil, then why does capitalism flourish in the way that it does, with free markets?
A good example of Christianity and capitalism is in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Two of the three men multiply their gifts by investing their talents. They emerge as servants and are given a “well done.” Could this be interpreted as the Lord Himself saying that moneymaking is okay if you do it with a well-meaning heart?
Capitalism and Christianity are similar, but not the same. God may have granted us to live in a capitalistic country, but in no way does Christianity endorse capitalism. Timothy may indeed say that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” but the parable of the talents says otherwise. Should we listen to Jesus, who spoke through parable, or to Timothy, who might have had firsthand experience with people who loved money?
The match has been ignited and the debate has been sparked. A poll from USA Today indicates Americans aren’t so sure about whether capitalism and Christianity work together. Forty-four percent of Americans say that Christian values don’t line up with capitalism anymore. What does that say for those who believe that the values still do? A heated debate indeed.