Originally written for Everything2
Sat Oct 13 2001 at 0:46:42

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C. states the Second Commandment as:

Thou shalt not make any graven image, or bow down before any creation in heaven or on earth.
It is generally agreed (even among the unreligious) that humans are fallible. The chances that any person will make the correct decision in every situation are remote. However, history is filled with people who are able to make a very large number of astute judgments. These people become leaders when others notice this. The more wise decisions they make, the more they become admired, adored, even worshipped. The more praise that is heaped upon such people, the more likely their words will be taken uncritically, even when clearly wrong.
There is an old scam that goes something like this:
1. Send out 512 letters telling people that your investment firm believes stock X will rise. Send out another 512 letters telling different people stock X will fall.
2. A week later, forget the 512 you guessed wrong for. To the remaining, send out 256 saying stock X will rise and another 256 saying it will fall.
3. Repeat this strategy until you have a core group of people who will be willing to sell everything they own to give to your investment firm.

The warning against idolatry is one mechanism that enables societies to avoid such mistakes. Matthew 6:24 warns against the worship of money.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
While collecting wealth is clearly useful for many aspects of survival, wealth is like a wise but fallible leader. Those who allow it to dominate every choice and aspect of their lives become a menace to their neighbors. In July of 1971, the Christian Filipino Democratic Movement issued a statement that read:
"Capitalism has set up once more the idols execrated of old by the people of God - mammon, Baal, and Astharte. Filipino Christians have the obligation to smash these idols enshrined in the capitalist structure, both in its foreign neocolonial aspect and in its domestic semi-feudal manifestations. We must collaborate in building a new world order wherein men will strive not for selfish gain but for service to the common good of the human race."*

*the radical bible, adapted by John Eagleson and Philip Scharper from bibel provokativ, edited by Hellmut Haug and Jurgen Rump, translated by Erika J. Papp, 1972, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.
Comments from
by mudgeon
on Nov. 13, 2007 at 09:14pm
1 Vote

"...collaborate in building a new world order wherein men will strive not for selfish gain but for service to the common good of the human race."

Is this guy, like, nine years old? What a tool!

by summer_spirit
on Nov. 13, 2007 at 09:36pm
2 Votes

Thank-you for sharing. It's always nice to see a different point of view.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 12:44am
2 Votes

mudgeon, I suppose you think Christians should strive for a society of selfish gain, instead of the common good?

by mudgeon
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 01:23am
1 Vote

No, I think Christians are people, 'spite of all, and people are this:
One job, two applicants; each wants the job.
One hottie, two prospective guys; each wants the hottie.
Help my own kid OR a stranger's kid - help my own.
Money/advantage for me & mine vs. the same for strangers? Help my own.
And on and on it goes. These magnificent socialist beasts are not immune, turns out, to the blandishments of sex, status and power. Turns out they're the same active, uncomprehending, self-seeking good ol' boys everybody else always was, everywhere, and damn well ought to be.
And that's good, and right, and makes sense. Anybody surprised?

"Common good"? What the PUPPY are you talking about?

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 01:31am
2 Votes

Depends on which Christian society you're talking about I guess. The United States may be the selfish "paradise" of which you speak, but I just finished watching Sicko and learned a few things about other Western nations. It's not just that all the other Western nations have universal health care, but there's at least one Christian nation in which there's free day care, free university, and free nanny service for new parents. Doesn't sound nearly as selfish as the "paradise" known as the United States.

by mudgeon
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 12:01pm
1 Vote

You watched propaganda. Sicko is a disgrace.
But seeya, you're a bright guy. The truth is always in what people DO, not so much what they say; so tell me, my young friend, which way are the refugees going?
(Hint: it isn't toward Cuba)

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 12:32pm
2 Votes

Maybe Cuba has free day care, free university education, and free nanny service, but it wasn't mentioned in the movie. The country I was talking about is in Western Europe.

Moore didn't visit the Scandinavian countries. It would have been interesting to see what their social services were like.

by mudgeon
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 04:20pm
1 Vote

You were misinformed: there are no Christian nations left in Western Europe.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 04:53pm
2 Votes

I suppose you think more selfish nations like the United States are more Christian? If so, you really need to study your Christianity.

If you mean no nations in the world are Christian - it's true no political systems are left that base everything on Christianity. There is, after all, freedom of religion in all Western nations these days. But still, most of these nations have a majority of their population that identify themselves as Christian. I don't know if the trend is up or down in that regard though.

by mudgeon
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:15pm
1 Vote

The trend is down, they don't go to church, and they don't believe in God, let alone Christ. Neither did their parents.

I should have said, "There are almost no Christians left in Western Europe.

And, yeah, the USA - which is not more selfish, but actually far more generous than any European (or other) nation - is more Christian than they are. By a lot.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:33pm
2 Votes

American Christians are much more focused on homosexuals and abortion than they are on helping the poor. I would say much of American Christianity has been corrupted by capitalism, and is no longer the Christianity that Jesus would have recognized. If American Christians cared so much about one another, then why is there a much larger gap between rich and poor in America (see )?

by highlyheld
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:38pm
2 Votes

Hey is this religion and philosophy or politics?

mudgeon is right. There is no free lunch. Free anything, healthcare, daycare, whatever has to be paid for by somebody. And most folks need to take care of themselves and family first. How that all should work is not religion. The idea that service to others is the basis of a decent theology, that's religion and philosophy.

Mandated service by proxy through prying open someone's wallet and extracting (lawfully or otherwise) cash to pay for said service is not Christian. Check the "thou shall not steal" clause.

Creating opportunities to be of service and actually serving, that's cool. No harm, no foul. Volunteering, thatís the way to do it. After that, giving money to a charity of choice also works well.

Maybe we need universal healthcare and daycare, but letís not confuse social programs with religion.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:40pm
2 Votes

How would Christian capitalists interpret this passage?

The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great respect was paid to them all; nor was there anyone needy among them, for all who owned property or houses sold them and lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need. (Acts 4:32-35; see also 2:42-47)

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:43pm
2 Votes

highlyheld: Let's say you have a guy who is born to a poor family. He doesn't have any money to start his own company, so he is forced to work for someone who does have enough money to start a company. His pay is determined by his boss, so of course it's much less than he would've paid himself if it were his own company.

The difference between what he would've paid himself, and what he is actually paid, is what leftists would call exploitation. To leftists, this exploited money is stolen money, and should be redistributed back to the employees.

"thou shall not steal" indeed.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 05:44pm
2 Votes

Paul VI quoted St. Ambrose when he issued the Populorum Progressio encyclical: "You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich."

by mudgeon
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 09:20pm
1 Vote

"The earth belongs to everyone..." ? Maybe. But a dog's bone belongs to the dog, and guess what happens if you try to take it!

American Christians are among the most generous people on the planet, in terms of volunteering service and giving to charity.

And your precious "leftists" are among the least. They don't volunteer, they protest. They don't give, they suggest taking from someone else, by force - just as h-h said.

And if a guy who was born poor had ham, like a rich guy, he could have ham & eggs, like a rich guy, if he also had eggs. Huh?

by highlyheld
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 10:19pm
2 Votes

mudgeon, your sense of humor is getting the best of you. "...if he also had eggs."

I work for someone else. The reason I get paid more than others is that I make myself more valuable to my employer. I've know several folks that started their own company. They worked their tails off. A lot harder than many "underpaid" employees I've met.

You seem to have a confused view of who owns things. If I earned it, I own it. If someone shows up to blackmail me, I still own it. Using another person's misfortune as a club to beat my money out of me is still robbery. Don't waste time trying to guilt trip me. I give away my money as I see fit.

You want to start a commune and run a socialist experiement, go ahead. It's a free country.

And, as far as who the earth belongs to. It belongs to God. It's just on loan to us. So if I've worked hard to gather some of what's on loan to myself, it doesn't automatically make it ok for everyone else that would like a piece of what I have to show up with their hand out. Telling me that I automatically owe something to others is telling me that I am their slave. I must, without any choice of my own, work for them. I must be indentured to every needy person that comes to me. Wake up. I am a free man.

by seeya
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 11:03pm
2 Votes

Freedom to choose which boss has ultimate power over you isn't real freedom. Real freedom is democracy in the workplace.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe in protecting everyone's right to simply assume democratic control over their places of work. This has been carried out to some limited degree by the MST (Landless Workers' Movement) where the poor simply occupy land that is being held for speculation, and use it to grow food without the owner's permission.

This has also been carried out to some degree by those who lost their jobs when companies closed in Argentina - they simply showed up for work anyway, and took over the factories and ran them democratically ( ).

As Emma Goldman said, "Necessity knows no law, and the starving man has a natural right to a share of his neighbor's bread... Ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread."

by highlyheld
on Nov. 14, 2007 at 11:56pm
1 Vote

When the man next to you has only enough for his needs and you have nothing it's going to be real interesting.

by seeya
on Nov. 15, 2007 at 02:02am
2 Votes

Except that's not true, is it? What actually happens under capitalism is the man next to you has so much, that he barely knows what to do with his wealth. He owns so much land, he doesn't even use it. He just lets it lie fallow, looking forward to the day when he can sell it for a huge profit.

In the meantime, the poor do not have land of their own to farm, and have to rely on charity to survive.

The MST says no. That is not a situation they will stand for. They will take the land and use it to grow, not to speculate. They're tired of hand-outs.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe those who are hungry have a greater right to decide what to do with that land, than someone who already has more than enough.

Of course, I didn't come to learn about the MST through my study of anarcho-syndicalism. I first heard about the MST through a website run by liberation theologians.

by mudgeon
on Nov. 15, 2007 at 10:56am
1 Vote

Is this why the tides of refugees from the selfish, capitalist nations of North America and Western Europe are streaming toward Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Zimbabwe, and all those other enlightened egalitarian places? Cuz humanity suddenly decided, en masse, that we'd all be better off as squatters?
Again, I ask you: what 9-year-old thought this stuff up?

The "democracy" you describe in the workplace is that of the biggest fist, or the strongest group, on hand that day deciding who does what and who gets what.

Nothing much gets "protected," except the right to get your ass kicked if you're not in the right gang; and everybody has to take their showers with their money in their hand, so some asshole won't come along and, you know, "democratize" it.
Sound like fun to you?

by seeya
on Nov. 15, 2007 at 03:29pm
3 Votes

I wouldn't call much of Latin America egalitarian. They've been suffering from capitalism for some time and the only reason the poor are rebelling is because of it. There have been times when they democratically elected an anti-capitalist, and what the U.S. did was to sponsor a coup to overthrow the government and replace it with a military dictator ( =500978 ) - this also happened in Iran ( =887209 ).

It would seem those in power in the U.S. are more concerned with protecting capitalism than protecting democracy.

As far as anarchist conceptions of property, you can keep your private property. Anarchists only want democracy when it comes to the means of production. You must have done quite a lot of mental gymnastics to support democracy in politics, but think dictatorship in a company is the best way to go. Whatever arguments you have against democracy in a company, why don't those same arguments apply against democracy in politics?

by seeya
on Nov. 15, 2007 at 03:40pm
2 Votes

It comes down to "rights", right? Can your government deprive you of life, liberty, or property? All of that is possible under traditional democracy. There are executions, there are jails, and there are fines.

For many anarchists, the solution to all the Christians voting all the Jews into gas chambers is this: "decentralized democracy". This means, those most affected by a decision should have the most say in the decision. The person being killed is more affected by the decision than anyone else, so anarchists would protect his right to make that decision.

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