If Capitalism (and Deficits) Were Replaced With A Bible Based Monetary System, Could That System Be Made Workable?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
Just last week, Congress passed yet another legislative patch for our country’s broken-down patchwork monetary system so the US government won’t run out of money. But it has been my observation that America’s capitalist economic system, together with the US dollar it is represented by, has a very big problem. It’s like the old ‘elephant in the room’ truism, and in this case the elephant in the room is debt – unbelievable, nearly incomprehensible, colossal debt! The global capitalist economic system rooted in Wall Street and big banking, administered in New York and presided over in Washington, is based on greed and materialism in a debt-based economy where money is created from nothing. Debt-based economies are nothing new, they have been around for at least 3,500 years (see Nehemiah chapter 5, verses1-14). The pursuit of profit reigns supreme over all other pursuits in modern America, trampling humanity underfoot in the pursuit of that power over others that provides the top 1% with the illusion of human supremacy. Designer clothes, 400+ horsepower cars and trucks, million dollar bank accounts and 30,000 square feet houses are the norm in today’s world. Capitalism would have us believe that the pursuit of more and more material wealth is what everyone wants to achieve. But is that necessarily so, and is it a healthy pursuit in life?
All we have to do is to look around us. Massive deficit spending that funds multiple wars and over 700 military bases overseas (not counting the mainland US) threatens to bankrupt our country. Bankruptcies and foreclosures remain near an all-time high, and there will be a second wave of foreclosures starting in 2016 that will include commercial and industrial real estate. The interest on the federal budget deficit will exceed 70% of US gross national product by 2025 (at the rate we are going and if something isn’t done quickly). Millions can’t find a job because all the good jobs have been exported overseas. I know this to be true from my own previous experience with long-term unemployment which ultimately ended my 20-year computer/IT career. There are more homeless people in America today than at any time since the Great Depression. On any given night in New York City it has been estimated that there are from 10,000 to as many as 30,000 homeless people. Here in Atlanta where I live, the homeless problem is no better, and that includes appalling numbers of homeless children. It appears that our entire capitalist economic system is on the verge of collapse. China will have the world’s biggest economy by the middle of 2016, and that will dethrone the US as the world’s leading economic power permanently when it does occur – and rest assured it will! That will mean the US dollar will no longer be the world’s reserve currency, resulting in a crash of undetermined magnitude for the dollar, the equivalent of a financial earthquake. Communism in Soviet Russia fell in 1989, and it may well be that the American economic system is going to be the next to go. What will we all do when this finally does occur?
To find the answers, we need to go to the book of Acts in the New Testament. I am going to use two separate quotes from the Book of Acts, starting with Acts chapter 2, verses 44 to 47. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone that had need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The closest thing the US has had to this ancient tradition was the hippie movement of the 1960’s, where communal living was widely experimented with. How many people today would, after becoming Christian, immediately sell nearly everything they had just so they could share it with others? How many would give up owning property and join together with others of like intent and noble purpose for the sole expressed purpose of combining their resources so that all could have more? Very few, I would guess. Everybody today is trying to get a better job, house, car, investment portfolio and whatever else it takes to get over. Nearly everyone is out only for themselves at the exclusion of everyone else. They are afraid to share because they are convinced that if they do, there will not be enough for themselves. I’m going to say this as gently as I can, but people like this need to learn to let go of their fear and apprehension and stop thinking about all that could go wrong. Instead, try replacing that with new solutions concerning managing things, people and situations so that they come out in your favor. The early Church had a good handle on what it takes to have this kind of genuine success in this life. I have another quote about this two chapters later in the book of Acts:
“All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed any of his possessions as his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to everyone as they had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet. (Acts 4, verses 32-37, NIV) How many people today are doing this? Who would sell their house, land, car, truck, boat and whatever else they have and then turn around and give all the proceeds away? I would be very surprised if anyone sent me a check for such an amount since I rely on small donations almost exclusively. Many other churches and charities do the same. If anybody sold their house today and then gave the money away, people would assume they were crazy. And yet this is exactly how the early church operated. Maybe what we need to do now that we know this is to relearn what has been lost. Could it be that, due to a greatly reduced standard of living due to the dollar’s inevitable devaluation, people with no money, home or job will have to pool their resources to survive? What if that turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
We have lost our way, entangled in a web of material goods and services, opulence and luxury, and all at the expense of everything and everybody else. We have forgotten the most important things, like how to take care of each other, how to show love and be merciful towards one another. Some of us have simply forgotten how to make friends, or even recoil at the thought of doing so. Solving this social problem can only be accomplished by a change in priorities. Maybe we should all be giving some of our excess wealth away to those less fortunate. What have I done for somebody else lately? How do I treat people, really? What matters most in life to me, and to those around me? What can I do to make a positive contribution to those whose lives I touch? What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind when I am dead and gone? Let us begin to ask ourselves some other basic questions. Such as, why do I need 400 horsepower under my hood? Come to think of it, why buy a new car when I can get a used one much cheaper? Do I really need a bigger house, or more new clothes? What’s wrong with the house or the clothes I have now? The truth of the matter is that it’s time to get back to the basics of life – God, family, friendship, a home and a livelihood.
Let us make sure and remember the lesson learned from the two Bible quotes listed above. There are certain advantages to living our lives as the early Christians did. “No one claimed anything as his own, but they shared everything they had”. I admit that this seems to be a bit idealistic at the moment, but a life such as this is the logical outcome in the event of the collapse of capitalism. Our country’s debt, which is growing exponentially as everybody knows, is clearly unsustainable. This huge debt load will be on the backs of our children, grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and that is a social injustice that must be protested and demonstrated against until something is done about it! Even if it means shutting down entire cities, it is up to us, the American people, to put a stop to this once and for all. I think it’s high time we “occupied” social and economic injustice.
If this money was spent on taking care of the American people instead of waging war, what a difference it would make in the lives of every one of us! What if we outgrew our need to own things and to accumulate frivolous material goods? If we set our priorities this way, it would line up with the priorities and values of the early Christians. I am prophesying to you all that the death of capitalism – or at least as we have known it – will happen within the next year or two, and maybe even sooner. But when it occurs, something wonderful will happen. We will all become equals and peers in a land where service to others rather than ownership of property and consumer merchandise will not only become the law of the land, but the new standard for personal success. What a wonderful world we could create if only we set our minds to doing this very thing! We will have become an egalitarian society, and I see a lot more that’s right about that than what’s wrong. We can accomplish this by living as the Bible commands us to do in the book of Acts. By doing so together we can get our priorities straight once and for all. And in the process we can create a new economic system completely from scratch to effectively replace the old one. It would be a brave new world, that’s for sure. I exhort and encourage each one who reads this to make a real effort at beginning to live your life this way. God has given each of us this ability. It is up to us to learn to plug into this new power source so we can use it for the good of others. And we do this knowing that the more good we perform for others, the more it will ultimately benefit ourselves.