Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Biblical Capitalism?

I was on my way to a used bookstore today when I drove past a church, and it had one of those signs on which you can change the words as often as you like. It is a Presbyterian Church.

The sign read, "Capitalism/Biblical/Practical." I thought at first that the sign referred to three different worldviews or epistemologies. You know, like C, B, or P: choose one! But then I realized (correctly, I think; or if not, then my realization was a delusion) that the sign was suggesting capitalism was not just practical but supported by the Bible.

Is that theologically and historically correct? --To assert that capitalism is Biblical? I don't think it is. Isn't capitalism as we know it more or less one function of industrial society? And I don't think the words "capital" or "capitalism" appear in the Bible, in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or English. We'll leave aside, for the moment, what Jesus's attitude toward wealth seems to be in the Gospels. Is there an Aramaic equivalent to "capitalism"? Hmmmm.

Anyway, at least the sign made me wonder, and I do know that the "gospel of wealth" is popular in certain Christian circles. To which I say, "Oy," or maybe "Get thee behind me."

I expended some cash but not real capital on the following books:

A first edition of Karl Shapiro's Essay On Rime, a book-length poem about prosody. (Hey, watch the prof. party down at a used bookstore.)

Oxford Blood, a mystery novel by Antonio Fraser, widow of Harold Pinter. I once interviewed her about her book on Henry VIII's wives. It was one of my favorite interviews during my three years as a part-time "books" columnists. Pinter called her during the interview--honest, I'm not lying. He did not ask her to put me on the phone. Oh, well. One with whom I live will read the mystery first. It has already disappeared into her reading-sphere.

And Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics, by Jeremy Schaap.

I didn't find any books on Biblical, practical capitalism, but I must also admit that I did not look for any.
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