Twenty-five minutes reading time, reduced to five minutes by skimming around the red and blue lines.
“CRT [Critical Race Theory – the academic underpinning of “Wokeness”] is basically new-Marxism on postmodernist steroids – a deeply uncongenial point of view weaponized for the deconstruction and dismantling of social structures.” (John MacArthur in the “Forward” to Christianity and Wokeness , 2021, page xix, by Owen Strachan)
Please notice the picture selected for this post with the baker and his piece of pie. Assume he is an Evangelical, Mainline, or Catholic Christian American.
Is capitalism about the type of pie, its ingredients, how it’s made, its taste, its size, how many are made, how all or each is distributed or sliced? Is it about what the baker’s clients want to eat for dessert? Is it about what’s healthy for pie lovers? Or does it start with the baker and what’s going on in his head? What he loves most to do on his own or if he needs to earn a living? Is cooking his special talent or even his calling? Was it the only job he could get when he needed one? What his father did? Or is it more about the baker as owner watching pie prices times volume sold exceeding his costs (of the pies and his own life), and the money he sees piling up everyday? Or is it about the baker earning success by serving the human needs of others, such as his family or friends? Or perhaps he gives all his excess to charity locally and globally, so it’s about that. He might love most paying higher taxes at accelerated rates as he opens more bakeries, so the government can spend his money for him.
To answer the question, wouldn’t we have to start by asking the baker?
Or does he not matter at all as a white person within a system of white supremacy? So, it’s not his fault, but yet it’s 100% his fault.
We’ll come back to the question briefly – what is capitalism about? – here in the end.
Today we finish a three-part series involving a theme Praxis Circle will address time and again going forward: renaming or rethinking capitalism. We do not mean necessarily changing our existing American social-political-economic structures and systems, but, instead, how we go about talking and thinking about them. How we tell our stories about them. How we see our worldview interacting with other rival worldviews that irreconcilably conflict. Global and Western history particularly since World War II has shown all of this needs rethinking.
While Praxis Circle operates from a non-denominational Christian worldview, we draw inspiration from John Paul II’s call for New Christian Thinking in the 21st Century. See Centesimus Annus. We will touch briefly on JP II again below. In any case, since ideas have consequences, we are quite certain that how we talk and think about things will eventually take us in new directions. Furthermore, when blazing new intellectual territory, we often have no idea where we’ll end up. We always must be concerned with unintended consequences, while also being prepared to be thrilled.
But the answer to where we go will depend on you and all of us.
In Renaming I, we outlined the problems with the word capitalism as it sprung from Marxism in the early 1800’s. In Renaming II, we outlined in more detail how the Christian and Marxist worldviews differ in ways that cannot be reconciled, usually when it matters most. Marxists see capitalism as a necessary but evil epoch of time where oppressors use the political-economic system they created (that inevitably will fall) to oppress the rest; the oppressed must overthrow capitalism by revolution. In contrast, most American Christians see capitalism as an economic system open to all as free enterprise; it’s seen as one of civilization’s great achievements so far, having no end point determinable by man.
These two perspectives have come to a head in the last approximately 20 to 30 years since the Fall of Soviet Communism, and they are dividing America very badly now. American Christians (& secular humanists) and Woke Neo-Marxists (& postmodernists) often seriously disagree while talking past each other. As a result, Americans, Westerners, and the rest are desperate for clarification without even realizing it.
In our opinion, to elaborate a bit, the primary divide in the West is between theistic Christianity (including sympathetic atheistic or naturalistic human secularism which survives off of Christianity’s moral shadow) and what is now called cultural Marxism (including Leftish, politically-active postmodernism which has become Marxism’s ally). The fact that Marxism’s and postmodernism’s alliance is inherently unstable, for a key reason explained below, and that its advocates represent relatively small numbers in America gives us little comfort.
Neo-Marxism is an extremely powerful force operating in elite circles where people derive large incomes from their work. Such elites constantly signal and enforce what they believe from commanding cultural heights.
We don’t want to be too cute about “defining capitalism.” We’ve resisted that so far. It can be done.
While there are serious problems with “sense and reference” in using the word, as we described in Renaming I, definitions of capitalism abound. We can point to definitions of capitalism that we think have merit in academic literature. These are definitions expert Christian and Marxist economists could agree on. In fact, we’ve asked several Praxis Circle Contributors to define capitalism, and we’ll continue to do so well into the future. It’s fun. But we just don’t have the time or space to define capitalism in this post in a fully satisfactory way.
As a result, we offer Mary Eberstadt’s simple definition (2:12) from the clip featured above (0:14 – 0:34). What follows is the full quote, which we paraphrase first right here with her simple words – “what people will do if left alone”:
To me, capitalism is just the absence of constraint. What happens when you don’t put outside burdens on economic transactions. It’s kind of what people will do if they’re left alone. Pretty simple definition.
She hints beforehand that she is talking about “markets.” What she seems to be describing is a certain type of freedom among willing participants applied to a certain type of activity. We should point out that she is much more learned in economics than she lets on – learned by osmosis if nothing else – due to her long marriage to Nicholas Eberstadt, a leading Senior Fellow and economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. (As an aside, we interviewed Mary again in mid-April, and Nick as well. Stay tuned for those interviews later this year!)
Before moving on, we want to add just one bracket to Mary’s definition. But first, let’s recognize that, as we’ve written in the past, “capitalism” didn’t start broadly flourishing in the West until around 1800. And since then, whatever “it” (capitalism) is is on track to eliminate poverty worldwide. This would be no less than a miracle.
Furthermore, since Christianity had existed for about 1800 years prior to 1800 A.D., capitalism must have required more than just the appearance of Christianity in history for it to work as it does today. As mentioned in Renaming II, Deirdre McCloskey’s work describes how essentially Christian values over the last 500 years created what we have today, what she calls “liberalism.”
In complete agreement, we would argue that our secret sauce remains the modern Christian person (the person Marxists refer to as “bourgeois”) guided by his or her Christian worldview and the many social-political-economic systems that these persons developed in the West up to 1800, the operative or controlling one being the monogamous family. Modern capitalism works when government supports individuals and the family; when it doesn’t, elections or revolutions are necessary to change government.
Here is where we find ourselves in America today. A war between the rights of individuals, whose primary allegiance on average is to the family, and a burgeoning federal government that appears to seek control of American lives.
So, returning to Mary’s definition of capitalism: Our one bracket to her comment is that not just anyone “if left alone” will create, construct, and preserve modern capitalism. If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it.
History clearly shows that it was Christians operating within the cultural context that had developed in the U.K., Holland, and America by, let’s say, 1759 (an arbitrary date but one offered as an educated guess), the date of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. By then the UK had capitalism well up and running or Smith wouldn’t have had anything to describe in Wealth of Nations (1776). Most of capitalism’s systemic elements and even micro-thinking actually existed in ancient times, but “it,” being capitalism, didn’t happen until it happened.
(Of course, philosophers and early social scientists like Smith in the 1600’s through 1800’s attempted to derive Western morality from reason alone. What they did, however, was produce values almost laughingly reflected by their intensely Christian societies. Secularists continue this practice today, thus living in Christianity’s shadow, even though the 20th century proved that naturalism cannot support Christian values and freedom. See the 20th Century’s murderous atheistic fascism, national socialism, and communism.)
In sum, we would argue that Mary’s definition works if we have Christians and Western secularists “left alone,” aided by the support of a government that maintains internal law & order and peace through strength relative to foreign enemies. She strongly hints at this in the clip above with the rest of her answer about consumerism. Basically, she says we need moral or virtuous producers and consumers, or we end up with consumerism (which the Left in particular hates) or pornography (that all good persons hate).
So true! And mega-congratulations to her for simplicity.
A best case society cannot be legislated. It always depends on good persons. Good people build good systems and keep improving them based on proven human experience. Bad people never build good systems except via unintended consequences, and good systems can never fully scotch bad people running them.
Today’s reality is that “capitalism” in America can take on virtually any characteristics those involved can think of. We have an extremely flexible rule of commercial law granting broad contract and property rights, rather than the arbitrary rule of men. Our laws today allow individuals to structure companies and distribute rewards virtually any way the human mind can think to organize and distribute, needing only a clear legal document, computer calculations, or algorithms.
Any corporate board, CEO, or governing committee freely organized under general corporate law, articles of incorporation, and by-laws can adopt, let’s say, communal practices, give all revenue or income to charity, or donate all rewards to the government; or even “Adam Smith’s house-cat.”
Yes, corporations and individuals have taxes and fundamental criminal and civil laws that constrain outlying activity, but most of our legal system concerning generating and distributing rewards exist today only to step in when no contractual designation exists. In other words, see Mary’s definition. So, there’s no white “systemic” conspiracy out there. None whatsoever.
The importance of this insight is that “capitalism” does not favor any one person, race, sex, class (Marx’s original premise: the aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and working class are at war with each other), ethnicity, or religion over others. Instead, business organizers set up the company they want, and the laws then support those who freely choose to work with or for the companies themselves, however conceived.
Granted, as suggested already, capitalism does work best under the conditions of peace over an extended period of time which is what law enforcement and the military provide. And granted, there is often unequal bargaining power between those offering jobs and those they employ, but this bargaining power changes extensively over time. Furthermore, society seems to support the idea that those who lead, invest the most time and energy, and take the most risk deserve more reward. Finally, our labor and employment laws do a decent job today of supporting the so-called “little guy.”
Such is the definition of justice, meritocracy, and equality. Certainly, nature doesn’t seem to favor or display much total sameness or equality, even among kinds. Not only is equality of result quite unjust, requiring totalitarianism to enforce, it’s very boring. And one could argue human beings dislike boredom much more than mundane, collective, and often murderous equality.
In sum, so far, we would argue that Ben Franklin had the definition of capitalism in mind when he told the woman as he left the Constitutional Convention that what the Founders had done is create “A republic, if you can keep it.” What he was hoping for was a country perpetually full of virtuous citizens with a Christian morality. Similarly, when Mary Eberstadt in the clip above says “people” left alone, again, she means not just “anyone.”
She means those who sympathize with Classical Judeo-Christian (CJC) values and their foundational ideas of freedom.
Why So Many Like the Word Capitalism
Before trying to summarize again the main issue with the word capitalism (it’s a terrible differentiator among worldviews irreconcilably at war), already presented and developed somewhat in Renaming I and II, we should mention why many people of all stripes in the West do like the word capitalism.
No surprise, many like it because it’s clear about the financial objectives of creating, increasing, accumulating, or maximizing capital, whether that is, say, cash, money, or assets (perhaps net of liabilities). They like clear financial objectives just like doctors like to see a good heart rate or blood pressure. If you think capitalism’s about profits or maximizing shareholder value, you probably like the definition. Certainly, like people with fast heart rates and high blood pressure, businesses without those attributes (consistent break-even or profits) tend to die out quickly.
Start-up business success rates are very low due to the talent required and circumstance needed to last.
Moreover, if you think capitalism is about a free-market/private-sector economic system in a broader sense, somehow supported by a libertarian or, to use an old school term, laissez-faire value system, you probably also like the word. It’s rather dispassionate.
Most people recognize that life is tough, and some like the word, therefore, because it sounds tough like life. Without question, businesspersons often need to make tough decisions that are binary, reflecting hiring/firing, starting/discontinuing, or investing/harvesting. Again, such harsh realities are often seen in the laws of nature as “survival of the fittest.” Severity or harshness can be necessary for businesses to survive, continue, and prosper. There are times when a few must suffer for the good of the whole. Few doubted these facts of life prior to our currently rather decadent, wealthy times.
Again, any successful business person knows “life is tough,” “business can be tough,” and the like are simply true statements, no matter how well-intended and able are those participating.
Indeed, this is what seems to separate the so-called “real world” of business competition in the private sector from the so-called public sector, involving government, academic, or non-profit groups. While the public sectors involve markets, too, and can succeed or fail, and certainly add much value to society, they commonly have rather different pressures and incentive systems.
Summary of the Problem with the Word
No matter how much you feel the word capitalism is descriptive, you subject yourself to easy criticism by the opponents of free markets, as illustrated in the cartoon below. No matter what your intentions, you will be easily tagged with loving power, money, and status too much in a stupidly focused way. Such is today’s culture.
Please note that treating people as capital formally began going out of style around 1785 with Immanuel Kant’s invention of “categorical imperatives.” These imperatives prohibit treating human beings as means to an end.
Somehow since the late 1700’s, however, the so-called “bourgeoisie” or middle class allowed itself to be labeled greedy and gluttonous, running companies that foster worker oppression, exploitation, and alienation. How? Because given today’s standards, such was reality. Christian churches were slowish to respond, and Karl Marx drove a truck through that issue in evolving early-stage industrial society.
Of course, Marx raised real issues that over time resulted in real changes to business practice and laws. Such is praxis in the real world. Today’s Western economies have fixed most of those earlier abuses, with the possible exception of excessive upper management pay. Of course, this is highly debatable but well within a variance that freedom must allow.
One thing remains certain, however: We human agents of God’s creation remain quite flawed and often selfish.
In sum, the problem with the word capitalism is that elitists too easily and commonly turn the word against the vast majority of regular, ordinary Americans who are producing wealth in the form of goods and services. The Left finds the word endlessly suitable to their rhetorical, ideological, and political objectives.
In contrast, the rest of us remain continuously vulnerable because the word capitalism doesn’t reflect our highest aspirations, the heart of what Western civilization is about. Christian worldview experts like Nancy Pearcey warn against focusing our highest aspirations (creating idols) in things of this world. It doesn’t reflect why we work. It doesn’t properly reflect why what we do outside the family (for the family) Monday through Friday is so important. The word capitalism makes Christians vulnerable to criticism based on their own values. We didn’t invent the word and stupidly accepted it.
Such an important word needs to be 100% clear on mission and goals.
Since the 1960’s, Westerners have tried to soften the word capitalism or “shareholder capitalism” with phrases like “democratic capitalism” or “stakeholder capitalism.” Literally dozens of qualifiers have been served up to make the word better. Christians have even tried to include good/talented human beings in the definition of capital. While this has helped, it hasn’t gotten the job done. Instead, we have been led down even more destructive pathways like Woke Capitalism.
In fact, with China as a leading example, “state capitalism” exists today with the same legitimacy as the old “shareholder capitalism,” and this is precisely where all have fallen completely off their rocker.
We’ve been noticing increasing confusion over the word capitalism on the academic front for 20 to 30 years. A most recent example might be Branko Milanovic’s 2019 book (reviewed here) Capitalism Alone: The Future of the System that Rules the World. Milanovic is a professor at the City University of New York, a former Lead Economist at the World Bank and a Thomas Piketty disciple.
On the one hand, the book is full of insights; on the other, it’s utterly confused. One doesn’t need to read it to get our main point. Mr. Milanovic says “we are all capitalists now,” essentially arguing there’s little difference between the social-political-economic system of the United States and that of China – differences being more one of degree than fundamental substance. Typically, the only binary is no binaries.
He represents the point of view of Davos sympathizers, and he believes we can all get along while China eyes Taiwan, destroys Hong Kong, steals from us and subverts our global interests, monopolizes key economic activity in a mercantilistic way, actively creates Communist political and economic spheres of influence across the world, investments in militaristic weapons, satellite, and Internet raiding technology, implements its social credit system, persecutes internal dissidents ruthlessly, and supports Russia.
If historic events up to Milanovic’s writing hadn’t shown how different America is from China, then the recent invasion of Ukraine most certainly has. A new Cold War doesn’t all of a sudden exist; it never went away. Not for a second. We are simply waking up in America now from a long sleep in La La Land. (Undeniably, La La Land isn’t so bad; America is among the best places in the world or our Southern border wouldn’t be under constant invasion.)
In any case, Capitalism Alone cannot hide that the American and Chinese systems are completely incompatible with utterly different objectives. The differences are truly binary – and the fact the the Chinese state allows some freedom in tactical business practice within its large economy makes no difference. Rome became master of the known world by doing the same with a Mediterranean economy that was slave-based. Similarly, China is modern-day slave-based.
What Milanovic does is make a claim in the beginning of Capitalism Alone that “America and China are capitalism,” then develops insights that serve his book-buying Davos public well – the forces of the DEI-oriented, global, corrupt, large, publicly-held giants – and then concludes in the end: “I’m OK America and you’re OK China; we’ll see where it goes.”
Many readers can see quickly that claims A and B side-by-side are incoherent, violating the law of non-contradiction. Those readers who endure to the end find themselves transformed into our favorite despot of postmodern times, Jacobim Mugatu: “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
While Milanovic and China might believe they invented the piano key necktie, Zoolander and America’s blue steel, Ferrari, and la Tigre personas are not one look. No, indeed. In the future, it will be up to America’s haloed Zoolanders to save the Ambassador to Thailand and other vassal states, as the mist of terminology war clears.
Today’s Political Situation
Elon Musk’s rapidly circulating meme below illustrates what’s happened in America over the last 15 to 20 years. He reflects how the majority of Americans feel, certainly those over 50. (Substituting the word “racist” for “bigot” might be more accurate, but we suspect bigot was used to cover all of the sacred classes of race, gender, class, ethnicity, or religion, indicating the existence of oppressors and oppressed. According to the Far Left, that would be everywhere we turn in American life.):
Again, what was simply tension within the American public in the 1960’s about the size and functionality of the Welfare State and full recognition of Civil Rights has become an all out fight between heritage Christians and their allies versus Marxists and supporting postmodernists. What was recognized in the 1960’s as an external Cold War against Soviet and Chinese Communism has become an internal Cold War, where almost everyone today can see there will be a winner and a loser. Immense consequences hang on the outcome. A competition between American worldviews and narratives makes values, life-styles, and even facts no longer compatible.
To use related analogies from the American past, the early Texas lifestyle and culture of settlers was completely incompatible with the Comanche lifestyle and culture, neither being without serious fault from our current perspective; similarly, fenced-in prairie farmer or homesteader lifestyle and culture became totally incompatible with the rancher/cattle-drive lifestyle. With all free to change but no change happening: Eventually something has to give. The Comanches needed a reservation, the homesteaders needed fences, and the ranchers needed the railroad.
We need similar solutions today to move on in peace.
If you follow the people and money, we see what all of this boils down to today: Christianity versus Marxism. The evidence is voluminous and incontrovertible going back 20 to 30 years. We could offer a bibliography listing hundreds and might do so one day.
Instead, for now, please see a few fairly recent books: Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Indentity Politics, BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution, The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics is Dividing the Land of the Free, American Marxism, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order makes Everyone Less Safe, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody, Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam, and Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It.
In doing so, you will quickly see why and how what Eastern Europe experienced under Nazism and Soviet Communism is directly relevant to the American situation today, as explained in books like Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. Regular, ordinary Americans are being oppressed by their government like in days of old. Here again, a list of books with the same theme would be long.
The issues we face today are not a matter of right versus left or conservative versus liberal. Like the word capitalism itself, those words today have little meaning. In fact, Christianity’s “conservatism” is the most revolutionary force the world has ever seen and will ever know, based on human reality, pragmatism, and common sense.
The Radical Left tells us everywhere they surface worldwide what they are going to do to and for us. Such elements have gained powerful positions inside America’s federal, state, and local governments, where they actively work against the people spending money they don’t have, subverting the Constitution, growing bureaucracy, weakening defenses, and implementing unnatural educational and social programs; in other words, treating us like chumps.
In contrast, Christians seek personal relationships with God first, primarily in family, and try to live good lives with respectful deference to others; they also hear God’s call to do what he or she can in service to others and as stewards of civilization, a constant, hopeful, and peaceful work-in-progress, and of nature.
No, what we are talking about is truth versus lies, right versus wrong, freedom versus slavery, a chance at love and mercy versus perpetual categorical hate. It’s a no-brainer, so to speak.
The comedy of a man winning the medal for competing in a woman’s swim meet is hilarious, if you think about it. Just not to the the young adult woman who comes in second who has trained her entire life to compete fairly at the highest level.
This is just the most recent tip of the iceberg of a growing cancer that’s crept into society involving rank power and money-oriented name calling, lies, language destruction, manipulation, corruption, intimidation, lawlessness, self-dealing, self-promotion, greed, gluttony, lust – pick a vice and the bell will ring.
Without pointing any fingers, most can agree that America was not like this prior to the Great Recession. Something has gone awry. There are termites in our centuries-old foundations.
Clearly, both the Christian and Marxist worldviews use truth as a foundation. One begins with the micro that all human beings are Imago Dei and children of God, the other begins with the macro that human society consists of systems the oppressors establish to abuse the oppressed. We used to be able to ignore or dodge these conflicts, but they’ve entered our media and homes down to the toothpaste and razors we use everyday. At some point, one must conclude such “culture-warring” will not subside or go away.
Though we strongly resist this idea, it feels to many now like a fight to the end.
You, the Praxis Circle reader, are likely going to have to choose at some key point in your life one way or the other that will have permanent influence. Maybe you will not realize what you’ve done until it’s too late.
In this post, we are only trying to help you recognize the issues and choices earlier on to improve your thinking and chances. We believe in democracy and ordinary, regular Americans will choose well as they have in the past.
Let’s Get on with Renaming
We will end here with a pitch for the centrality of the words “creative” or “creativity” to replace the word “capital” in capitalism. We deliberately avoided words like truth, grace, love, hope, faith, mercy, or justice because they are just too sacred, mystical, or political for now. Indeed, this simple pitch for the essence of divine-to-human creativity deserves a book in and of itself.
Of course, just for discussion purposes, we’ve already tried to rename capitalism “creastruction” (see the link at top), short for creation, construction, preservation, and, when necessary, destruction. Our use of space in each moment as human beings is always a providentially assisted judgement call.
We also need to highlight that creastruction ends in -ion, not -ism. Creastruction is more a behavior, practice, or process (-ion) than a principle, doctrine, ideology, or condition (-ism). Truth burns away ideology, and the truth of the West’s experience that, absent war, the end does not justify the means.
Good laws and means are the only assurance against tyrannical, evil men and women.
We would suggest that the use of any new word should refer to our Christian epoch of time and space and our political economy, just like the word capitalism does for Marxists. We have a Creator, who created and is creating creation, filled with human creatures, who are God’s representatives in time and space, and who have been redeemed. Forgiveness, mercy, and salvation are possible.
If you are a Christian or Jew, you are one 24 hours a day, seven days a week, twelve months per year. Not only on Sunday or Saturday. We Christians and Jews still vastly outnumber the rest in America, and we need to get much more active in the public square.
In his ministry, John Paul II articulated the philosophy and theology of the West’s underlying foundational metaphysical structures perhaps better than anyone in the 20th century. Whether one is talking about one’s family, friendships, business, schools, charities, or governments, one is always trying to build something that will last. Bringing the City of God as much as possible into the City of Man. A kingdom on earth as in heaven.
In a sense, John Paul II updated greats like Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther/Calvin for today concerning how to think about “building to last.” No surprise, it’s much the same vision that so influenced our Founding Fathers in 1776, though we all recognize they didn’t get it all right then, based on how we see the world today. Nowhere near all right, but we have kept at it in the U.S. since 1776. It’s likely that most if not all of the Founders (being majority Protestant) would have fallen in line with JP II’s rendering.
So, before ending on what you would be trying to accomplish in coming up with new words to explain your worldview to the public, offered below are three quotes from George Weigel’s book City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow (2015) about JP II’s political-economic approach. It describes the miracle of one man’s life and places it in the essential context of time and place:
As a close student off the Bible, and especially of John’s Gospel, Karl Wojtyla (John Paul II) reflected for decades on the meaning of the Prologue to that most theologically dense of the four canonical gospels: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1: 1 – 4). Read in parallel with the opening lines of the Old Testament – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) – the Prologue to John’s Gospel was a biblical affirmation that, in creating the world through the Word, the Logos, God had encoded divine rationality into the creation. Creation was neither random nor irrational. The God of the Bible has created an intelligible world, a world replete with meaning, full of truths that the human mind could grasp. And in the beginning, by giving human beings dominion over creation . . . the world was a vast subject for human beings to explore, to ponder, to understand. (pages 70 to 72)
Work, he taught in Laborem Exercens, was an essential component of a fully human life, for, viewed through a biblical optic on the world, human work was our participation in God’s ongoing creation of the world . . . human work has a profound spiritual dimension. And because our work is a participation in God’s “work,” human work is capable of amplifying the dignity of the human person . . . as a privileged participation in the divine creativity, is to be more: to be more fully in the image of God that is our deepest and truest identity. (pages 96 – 97)
Wojtyla the philosopher understood the Church’s context with communism [atheist Marxism] at it deepest level: as a battle between radically different ideas of the human person, human community, human origins, and human destiny. In addition, the contest with communism was a battle for the very meaning of history . . . Karl Wojtyla, for his part, thought that the most dynamic force in history was culture, and at the center of culture was the human person – the full truth of whose incomparable worth and inalienable dignity had been revealed in Jesus Christ . . . to contend for religious freedom . . . was a matter of truth about the human person in full. (page 213)
We offered a short summary of George Weigel’s presentation of JP II’s political-economic approach near the end of this post. Of course, many Protestants have reached almost exactly the same Biblical conclusions over the centuries. As a recent example, please note our board member Hugh Whelchel’s statement here, and the book the institute he founded (IFWE) conceived and edited, Counting the Costs: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.
Returning to Pope John Paul II: He spent the first 58 years of his life (1920 – 1978, when he became pope) in Poland behind what became the Iron Curtain, less than 40 miles from Auschwitz, risking his life everyday under Nazi rule, beginning in 1939, and then under Stalinist rule and his successors after World War II. To the Polish going back hundreds of years, Christianity is the revolutionary force, not secularism or Marxism. Christianity is revolutionary and liberating in the fullest sense.
JP II was one of the greatest men of the 20th century, perhaps the indispensable person along with Winston Churchill, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are to American history. He articulated orthodox Christianity for the masses in an ecumenical way for modern times as few before him had done. His outpouring was in direct response to what we face today in a Marxist/postmodernist world as the political curve seems to continue to shift, as Mr. Musk outlines above.
Many feel an Iron Curtain with Ministries of Truth have descended on America now. We are told what to believe and what is “disinformation.” Christianity and theism are under full attack.
In response to 20th Century Marxism, JP II described Christian humanism, nationalism, and universalism for the ages, explaining how they proceed from the Bible and the Gospel without contradiction. It’s ok as a Christian to be a fan of your local, national, and universal tribe (the latter being humanity) all at once, and we should stand bravely for our rights here, in humility.
Christian Democratic parties arose in Europe when Christians felt seriously threatened. While this has not happened yet in America because Christians have occupied both dominant parties, natural political selection continues. Only the future will reveal what happens next.
In any case, our language should fully reflect wonderful revelation today, and it doesn’t. The key trait that connects humanity to the Creator is our creativity through love. It’s the foundational trait and process all-in-one. Creastruction is good human beings serving good human needs. It’s just that simple.
What Renaming Means
In deleting the word capitalism from your vocabulary when referring to what the West has created and given to the world and using other words like creastruction in its place, you as a Christian or Christian sympathizer would be signaling that you believe (or understand the wisdom in believing):
- God created and sustains a good world through the Word or Logos with human beings as His primary agent,
- Human beings operating in positive freedom under Classical Judeo-Christianity (CJC) have created and are sustaining the good and prosperous world, specifically the society, culture, and political-economy we have in the West,
- We as Americans have been striving to do the above throughout our Western and American history; more specifically, you are not apologizing to anyone today for how we got here over the last two to three thousand years, while taking personal responsibility for now. You recognize most of our failures in hindsight were serious failures resulting from a very flawed human nature (note Christian orthodoxy here), not due primarily to the environment, culture, or systems of the times; no one is exempt from personal responsibility or judgement in their personal actions today . . . or ever,
- Still, even with the best of intentions, given human nature, it takes time to define “the better” and get to “the good” (praxis) in a democratic-republic, and how we get there is just as important as where we end up (process matters as much as result; such sustains love, virtue, and freedom among persons),
- If we lose our CJC culture and social-political-economy, we will have something quite different, which can only be much, much worse (for which we have little to no human experience of “whatever” working nearly so well),
- Our social-political-economy, as modeled in the American Experiment, is the one that sustains the freedoms for all rival worldviews, an attribute central to your own, and you are not retreating from the American public square anymore where you will stand for what is true, good, and beautiful.
Again, this has nothing to do with left/right/liberal/conservative, but with truth.
In conclusion, we would argue capitalism should be named creastruction because CJC time and space starts with the Creator not visible at all in this post’s picture of the baker and his pie, except through His creation and creatures.
Nonetheless, the Creator’s form of being is more real than any other – some call it ultimate reality – and the Spirit is ever present. And we as God’s creatures are here to give ourselves in service to others and to serve as stewards for creation in the best ways we know how.
That’s what creastruction and maybe even the baker are all about. With our most important words, we should reflect our highest aspirations.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in that good old American Pie.
PS – We would like to thank Praxis Circle Contributors (in order presented) Rodney Stark, James Hall, Michael Novak, Deirdre McCloskey, Charles Mathewes, and Mary Eberstadt for lending us their images via their video clips in the Renaming Capitalism I – III Series.
We should also highlight that any opinions expressed in the Series are ours and ours alone. No doubt, however, they all understand the issues we address. It’s not easy to achieve full agreement concerning the most important theological, philosophical, and political issues rolled up into personal worldview.
PPS – Special bonus feature:
“Christianity and wokeness are not compatible. Christianity is the truth of God found in the Word of God. Wokeness, as we are at pains to say, is a different religion altogether.” (page 56, Christianity and Wokeness by Owen Strachan, also cited at top)