Both left and right address essentially the same American evangelical audience. Both insist that a correct understanding of the present situation requires a certain amount of abstraction. They differ only concerning which elements of our experience it is safe to ignore - about whether what we are really seeing is the invisible hand of market coordination of that of capitalist oppression. Both left and right tend to understand the present situation as one of crisis, but they disagree as to whether capitalism or stateism precipitatetd the crisis. Both fear the concentration of power in modern society, but they differ as to whether this concentration is most acute among the business elite or the bureaucratic political elite. Both left and right insist that the true social relevance of the Christian faith is only now being rediscovered after having been lost, but the differ on whether its relevance is anticapitalist or not. Both feel that american evangelicalism is moving in the wrong direction at present, but they disagree on the matter of which is actually the wrong direction. Both argue that their opponents are either ideologically blind or evil or both. At their extremes, both left and right insist that salvation is essentially economic, but they differ on whether the kingdom will be populated by social workers or entrepreneurs. Both fear that the faithful exercise of Christianity's social relevance will elicit persecution from a powerful anti-Christian cultural elite, but they disagree about who constitutes this elite. Finally, both left and right fail to appreciate fully the character of modern capitalism. The left fails to appreciate the remarkable ability of capitalism to create wealth and hence to alleviate material poverty, and the right fails to appreciate the ability of capitalism to dissolve the traditional culture and hence to exacerbate spiritual poverty.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Parallels between the right and the left
At the recommendation of multiple colleagues, I have been reading Craig Gay's (1991) With Liberty and Justice for Whom? The recent evangelical debate over capitalism. This book has been an excellent read. I will highlight a paragraph here that I found particularly entertaining, in which he is drawing parallels between conservative defenders of capitalism and those on the left who view capitalism as oppression (pp. 114-115):