Thursday, 07 April 2011
By Nick Don at Theopolitical
I have said before that a genuinely Christian voice is very often missing from political debate. Christians may support this or that voice in public discussion, but most often these voices are subtly but fundamentally incompatible with Christian theology.
In a different way, many Christians allow their public voices to be defined by the positions they oppose. Christians enter into the pro-life/pro-choice as though the issue is “when life begins,” assuming an alien notion of agonism that requires such definitions. Christians enter into economic debate assuming they must either capitulate to Adam Smith or Karl Marx.
But as William T. Cavanaugh prefaced his own short volume on Christian economics, “It is pointless to be for or against the ‘free market’ as such.” What Cavanaugh sought to do was provide Christian alternatives to participation in a global market that is often incompatible with Christian practice. But he was by no means the first do so. In his Secret Faith in the Public Square, Jonathan Malesic prefaces his discussion of Kierkegaard’s critique of capitalism thus:
Although I argue that Kierkegaard’s Christian ethic of neighbor love aimrs at resisting a capitalist paradigm’s encroachment on Christian life, Kierkegaard’s critique is not aimed at capitalism per se in the way that Marx’s contemporary critique was. Rather, as Merold Westphal points out, Kierkegaard aims his critique of capitalism primarily at the deification of society, and thus only accidentally at capitalism as an economic form with heavy influence on society.
In other words, if Malesic is right, Kierkegaard made his critique in a Christian voice. Malesic goes on to say (and in order to be a Christian voice must say) that “Kierkegaard’s critique and mine are in a sense politically and economically neutral – if some other economic form dominated my society and threatened the integrity of Christian religious life, I would still criticize it.”
What do you think? Must the Christian voice find a way to be “politically and economically neutral” in order to be a Christian voice? What would that look like in concrete terms?