Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Word of the Day: Plutolatry- The Worship of Wealth

Did you know that there is a movement among some right-wing conservative Christians to re-translate the Bible to make its language more in line with their ideology? I learned this today via the blog Below the Beltway.

Some of the suggestions seem like fairly reasonable updates to make the text more easily understood by a modern reader such as using "register" rather than "enroll" in the census or "gamble" instead of "cast lots."

(I, personally prefer the poetry and the cultural tradition of the King James version, even if scholars are in agreement that it is probably one of the worst translations out there.)

Other changes are more contentious such as eliminating gender neutral language, getting rid of "liberal" words like "comrade" and replacing them with words like "volunteer" and pumping up references to the devil and Hell.

For our
Broke is Beautiful purposes, the most interesting suggestion is number 7: "Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning."

The political right has for some time mixed conservative Christian faith with an almost equal religious faith in free markets. The concept of Free Market Fundamentalism as a religion has been recognized by economists and theologians alike.

Economics professor Richard Wolf put it this way: "an unregulated economy, with free markets and private enterprise is a magic road to prosperity and growth. Particularly in the last 30 years, that has become a mantra. It’s the Morning Prayer with which every economics department begins."

Harvey Cox, professor of divinity at Harvard University penned an article for the Atlantic Monthly in 1999 titled The Market as God. Cox argued that “there lies embedded in the business pages and entire theology, which is comparable in scope if not in profundity to that of Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth.”

He came to this belief after observing the reverence that The Market inspired in business people. “Such is the grip of the current orthodoxy that to question the omniscience of The Market is to question the inscrutable wisdom of Providence,” he wrote. “I am beginning to think that for all the religions of the world, however they may differ from one another, the religion of The Market has become the most formidable rival, the more so because it is rarely recognized as a religion.”

Faith in Free Markets as a God is one thing, but using Christianity to support it always seemed contradictory given what I read in The Bible. Now I see my confusion may just have been the result of a faulty translation.

For example 2 Corinthians 8:9:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor" is really just a celebration of Free Markets when you read it right.

(For more see the Top Verses That Televangelists Won't Preach on the blog Tithe Stewardship and Church Tithing and my own entry on the irony of the prosperity gospel church selling its private jet.)

*Please excuse my font issues. I can't figure out how to make the text consistent.