The Worship of Mammon: The Fetishism of Capital in the Theological Thoughts of Creflo Dollar and Michael Novak
Religious Studies 696 Professor Hood Dec., 2006
Stephens 2 “As a stake is driven firmly into a fissure between stones, so sin is wedged in between selling and buying.” -Sirach 27:2 1 Over the years the concept of “Prosperity Theology,” in where God shows his blessings to His people by showering them with riches, has obviously attracted many followers, and seems to be gaining more momentum by the day. The poster child of this movement, in all of his excessive and over the top glory, is the Rev. Creflo Dollar of Creflo Dollar Ministries and who is the reverend of the World Changers International World Dome church in southwest Atlanta. Dollar preaches all over the United States about how God wants to shower all of his faithful with money (of course, Dollar is quick to point out that he also means spiritual wealth) and one of his biggest selling points is the fact that he flaunts his own wealth to prove God is blessing him. He unabashedly shows his congregants, and anyone else for that matter, “his custom-tailored suits and alligator shoes, his Rolls-Royces, his private airplanes” and has no problems demanding from his congregation 10% of their income for tithes, and if they decide to give less they might as well not even bother and instead, “Go buy a Happy Meal.” 2 The concept of Prosperity Theology arose out of the capitalist system and indeed is the religious byproduct of the capitalist system. Without the unrestrained capitalist system and its forms of perversion there would more than likely be no Prosperity Theology to be preached upon. Prosperity Theology, as preached by Creflo Dollar, is the religious justification of capitalism and of capitalism’s systems. While Creflo Dollar speaks on a more simplistic level, stating that people who follow the Bible and follow God will soon become rich, or at least financially comfortable, neo-conservative Catholic Theologian Michael Novak takes a more nuanced approached to capitalism and the building of capital (wealth). Novak’s belief is that because everyone is affected by original sin and is in nature sinful and imperfect, the capitalist system is the most logical choice for human kind, in fact, he sees the capitalist system as practically
Stephens 3 ordained by God.3 For Novak, the capitalist market system is the best vehicle for making sure that the common good of humanity is meet. Novak’s fetishistic trust in the “free” market I argue is just as flawed as Dollar’s fetishistic trust in God’s love through the form of money and that both are inherently wrong in their interpretation of the Bible on their views of money and capitalism. To show how their relationship between the Bible and the free market is inherently incorrect I will be using liberation theologian Franz J. Hinkelammert’s theological critique of capitalism and his use of Marx’s theory of fetishism in order to critique the microeconomic fallacies of Dollar and the macroeconomic fallacies of Novak and how their trust and Biblical justification in the free market and the capitalist system undermines their Biblical message. In order to understand the theological perversities of Dollar’s preachings on money and the luxurious commodities people can acquire with money we must first look at Marx’s theory of the fetish which first comes to us in the form of the commodity fetish since the commodity fetish is “[t]he basis of the whole analysis of [Marx’s theory of] fetishism.” 4 Hinkelammert describes the capitalistic world as “a world that is bewitched” and that the analysis of the commodity fetish is a way to unveil this world of enchanted commodities.5 Marx states, quite rightly, that wealth in societies that have a “capitalist mode of production...appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities.’” 6 In order to begin his investigation of “political economy” Marx begins his investigation with this mass of commodities.7 Marx states that “[a] commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” 8 Its these subtleties and niceties that end up taking “‘metaphysical’ and ‘theological’ guises” because capitalist industry obscures and hides the fact that commodities are created by human labor.9 This is do to the fact of capitalist production which separates the manufacturing process through the division of labor; which happens
Stephens 4 quite naturally under capitalism and nearly all forms of trade and commerce. Because people don’t see commodities for what they are, that is, products of human labor (all though they do “sense” what they are to a point, as Marx states10), instead they ascribe to them human like traits. Commodities appear to come from nowhere and materialize themselves onto the market scene and act on their own. It is the commodity that is talked about, not the producers of the commodity, by market analysts. Hinkelammert states, “Commodities now set up social relationships among themselves. For example, artificial nitrate battles natural nitrate [on the market] and defeats it. Oil fights with coal, and wood with plastic. Coffee dances on world markets while iron and steel get married.” The producer of the commodity becomes controlled and dominated by the commodity itself, not the other way around. Depending on the fluctuations of the stock market during a day steel, silicone, and plastics will either become more valuable or less, and thus creating cheaper commodities or more expensive commodities, which in turn affects workers who will either keep their jobs or lose them depending on costs and expenditures. In essence, the workers life depends on the commodity. Today, there is much talk of oil prices and their continued rise in the marketplace, there seems to be little control over the price of oil by human beings, instead it is controlled by the supply and demand of it, which are not concrete sciences but rather philosophical and economical guesses based on either rational or irrational human behavior and the process of production.11 For Hinkelammert “[t]he decision to continue to produce commodities is always at the same time the decision to accept being determined by the sum of commodities.” He goes on to say that “[c]ommodities begin to move although no one wanted or intended them to do so, and even though any movement on their part comes from some movement of human beings. The effects are completely beyond all human intention” and control.12 This whole effect of commodities on the lives of human beings are “products of the human brain” which make commodities (commodities that Dollar tells his
Stephens 5 congregation to seek and which he seeks himself) “appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations” with human beings on the market system and their everyday lives. Marx calls “this...fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and therefore inseparable from the production of commodities” the “fetishism of the world of commodities.” 13 In order to better understand and illustrate the commodity (and money and capital) fetish Marx stated that, “we must take flight into the misty realm of religion.” 14 Because of their alienation from the products they make, human beings invest into commodities their own hopes and dreams, fears and longings. They don’t see a Nike shoe as a product made of rubber, phylon, and polyurethane which is wholly overpriced compared to its production value and labor expenses, they instead see a product which they must buy in order to obtain a certain “status” amongst their peers or to make themselves feel better about who they are. In this way they “enchant...commodities with hopes of gratification and justice” 15 that these commodities obviously can’t fulfill them with. This is the fundamental flaw of Creflo Dollar’s preaching and theology. He tells his congregation that God showers blessings onto His people through the forms of money and commodities. Dollar states he is blessed by God because of his wealth in commodities. “I own two Rolls-Royces and didn’t pay a dime for them,”( they were given to him through donors), “Why? Because while I’m pursuing the Lord those cars are pursuing me.” 16 Because Dollar has yet to demystify the commodities around him he sees commodities as blessings and as signs that he is doing the right thing. One could take the opposite view of his mind set that instead of gifts from God they were the gifts of a very generous congregation (his own) and a very generous group of his own workers through their own money. This is the commodity fetishism in a nutshell. Instead of using religion as an analogy Dollar actually really does see the commodities as having suprasensual qualities and having been
Stephens 6 enchanted with divine properties. And this is what leads Dollar away from the true God17 and towards false gods, the gods of commodities. Max Weber wrote that despite being defeated by the proclamation of the Christian religion by being declared the official religion of the Roman Empire and the Christianization of the European world and of the Americas, the old polytheistic gods were resurrected in the form of capitalism and of commodities. Eugene McCarraher states, “Observing how ‘many old gods ascend from their graves’ to become the laws of nature of the market, [Weber] called upon his fellow modern intellectuals that ‘we live as did the ancients when their world was not yet disenchanted of its gods and demons’ [author’s italics] ‘only we...live in a different sense.’” 18 Yet the big selling point for Dollar isn’t the commodities per se, but the item that gets people those “luxurious” commodities: money. Dollar tells his congregants and viewers that they must “‘speak debt-canceling Scriptures’ every day, in order to help make God’s promise real” in order for them to get more money19 to buy the commodities they want and need and in order to live a comfortable(and possibly a lavish) life. Which brings us to the next stage of Marx’s theory of fetishism, and another fundamental (and idolatress) flaw, the money fetish. Hinkelammert sums up Marx’s views on money by stating, “Money is a commodity. But it is not a commodity like the rest; it is the commodity that stands out above all the rest.” 20 Money is not meant to be consumed like other commodities such as sneakers that you wear and get old or cars you drive that must be scrapped after their “life span” exceeds its limit. Instead money is the common denominator between all commodities, with this “the process of [the] commodity [fetish] intensifies.” 21 For Marx, it is at this stage of the money fetish, an intensification of the commodity fetish, that money is “endowed with the attributes of a conscious subject,” 22 as Hinkelammert puts it. With commodities there was no hierarchy with one commodity representing an equivalent for another, but with money
Stephens 7 there is now a hierarchy, money is the “king”in the polytheistic commodity world. Marx states that through the actions of capitalists and consumers, money “ has been set apart to be the universal equivalent” 23 in where one commodity is brought “into an opposing relation with some other commodity.” 24 So now the human being, which is brought under the power of commodities of their own making, having their lives ruled by commodities, are now ruled by a universal equivalent to commodities that can transcend individual commodities and represent all commodities (i.e., $10 can buy a CD, a few snow cones, a movie ticket, etc.). This causes Marx to label money as the “Mark of the Beast” by quoting the Latin text of the Book of Revelations in the New Testament25 which states: “These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast...so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.” (Rev. 17:13, 13:17, NRSV). Analyzing Marx’s use of this Christian image Hinkelammert goes on to say that “[t]he other reference to Christianity in the text links the commodity world, and specifically money, with the apocalyptic tradition of the beast, the Antichrist—that is, the antihuman.” 26 In Grundrisse (written a decade before Capital Volume I) Marx wrote that when money was first minted it was stored in the temples of antiquity, with this Marx took the analogy that money was “the god among commodities” and “the real community” of capitalist society.27 Patrick D. Miller puts it this way, “In the case of Jesus’ radical instruction...there seems to be no tension, only the assumption that property and wealth are another god, an alternative master in whom one is always at risk of putting one’s trust and finding a place of ultimate refuge.” 28 Dollar puts not only himself, but his congregants, at risk when he preaches about the gods of wealth and projects divine qualities onto money and onto commodities. We see that when he speaks of not only spiritual but “financial increase.” All one has to do is tithe to the church,29 read their Bible, and be good Christians and they will become prosperous and rich. With this thinking being indoctrinated
Stephens 8 into oneself regularly one could not be held at fault for thinking that those whom are poor are not blessed by God while those who are rich are blessed by God. Quickly one begins to mix up the polytheistic world of commodities and the Anti-Christ of money with the realities of the true God. Money are blessings which give one precious commodities. Precious commodities are received because one is blessed by God. Money is now one’s god, the false god. In fact, Dollar and his ministry are seemingly mixing up the world of the fetish with God everyday. Kelefa Sanneh stated in a piece in the New Yorker that during his stay at the World Changers campus things started: to get mixed up: the shareholders are the customers are the employees, and the corporate commitment to excellence comes to seem indistinguishable from the religious commitment to righteousness. It is a vision in which everyone will go on becoming more righteous and more excellent and more prosperous, forever and ever.30 The First Commandment states, “I am Yhwh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt...you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself an idol...You shall not bow down to them or worship them...” (Ex. 20:2-5, NRSV). For the world of the people of Yis’rael (Israel), to worship other gods did not just mean to worship a bunch of divine beings up in the sky or on a mountain, but to put ones trust in certain gods because they gave people certain things, or commodities. If one put trust in other gods they did so to receive money, property, commodities, etc. One of those gods, in the ancient Near East, was Ba’al, a Canaanite god who’s name in Aramaic was Mammon (which has also been translated as “Wealth”). The word Mammon has been seen by some etymologists as coming from the word ’~mana which means “that in which one trusts.” 31 This etymological root can help us better understand Jesus’ parable on serving two masters better, and put into context Dollar’s (such an apt name if I do say so myself) heresy. “‘No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Wealth.” Jesus then goes on to condemn the religious
Stephens 9 establishment “who were lovers of money” by saying, “‘You are those who justify yourself in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts, for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.’” (Luke 16:13-15, NRSV) This quote from Jesus, the man Dollar states he serves and speaks to on a regular basis, gets to the heart of the matter. Dollar misguidedly preaches a heretical message to his people based on his fetishistic view of commodities and money. Because his vision is so simplistic and narrow minded, instead of preaching about the true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which Christians state is their true god, he preaches a fetishistic gospel based on the perversities of the capitalist system. One no longer puts her or his trust in God but now one puts her or his trust in money, from which one has access to multiple gods, the gods of the commodities (money in the Hindu sense can almost be seen like a perversion of the god Ganesh, whom gives many Hindus access to the gods they want to pray too). Norman O. Brown’s 1959 book Life Against Death “is perhaps the most searching psychoanalytical critique of capitalism ever written,” states McCarraher.32 With capitalism, Brown writes, the “power over this world has passed from God to God’s ape, the Devil.” With money Brown sees “the essence of the secular,33 and therefore of the demonic.” Writing on Brown McCarraher states, “The ‘money complex,’” which Dollar falls under and what Marx “considered the animating spirit of commodity fetishism—is, in Brown’s words, ‘the heir to and substitute for the religious complex, an attempt to find God in things.’ Capitalism, we might add, was a new form of enchantment.” 34 As I have stated above for commodities, Dollar appears to be putting divine characteristics of enchainment into money, he’s trying to find God in commodities and money instead of trying to find God in the presence of human beings, which is a subject that Gustavo Gutiérrez talks at length about.35 He’s putting money above all else, even commodities. This is Dollar’s downfall and his largest weakness. While he may be preaching a theology that many want
Stephens 10 to hear (especially the rich) he is preaching a false theology that only can exist under the pretenses of the commodity and money fetish. Yet these fetishes wouldn’t be as intense unless it had to do with the capitalistic market economy. Pablo Richard and Raul Vidales write that: With the advance of the capitalist system money is transformed into capital...In the transformation of money into capital it becomes obvious that commodity relationships in their very operation have the power of decision not only over the proportions of material goods to be produced but even over the life or death of the producer.36 With this we now enter the capital fetish and into the thoughts of the neo-conservative Catholic theologian, and neo-classical proponent of capitalism, Michael Novak, whom also uses religion and the Bible to justify capitalism and the building of capital (wealth). Like Dollar, Novak subscribes to a Prosperity Theology, yet a different branch of Prosperity Theology. Instead of focusing too much on the accumulation of commodities through money and being a cheerleader, Novak uses his theology as a jumping off point for the justification of the system of capitalism and to justify laissez-fair free market capitalistic policies. In Capital, Vol. III Marx states, “We have already shown in connection with the most simple categories of the capitalist mode of production and commodity production in general” the mystifying character of money and commodities and the fetishes that arise out of them. “In the capitalist mode of production, however, where capital is the dominant category and forms specific relation of production, this bewitched and distorted world develops much further.” 37 With an ever deepening capitalist system commodity and money relationships widen their scope to include means of production as well the working classes of society. “As money becomes capital,” Hinkelammert says, “it becomes obvious how commodity relationships in their very workings are in a position to decide not merely how much of what material goods shall be produced but even whether producers will live or not.” 38 Now everyone is affected by commodities and money through the accumulation
Stephens 11 of capital (surplus value). Those who work for corporations and manufacturers no longer control their own lives. Their livelihood is now based on the conditions of where they work and are determined by the way commodities interact with each other in the free market. Depending how commodities such as oil and high grade steel battle with each other, etc., this will affect the worker at her or his job. If one is an employee for American Airlines and the prices of oil skyrocket one will loose her or his job due to increased costs at American Airlines (for fueling the airliners) and if another is working at an Exxon-Mobil oil rig than that one will be able to keep her or his job, and maybe even make a little more money. Both of those workers jobs depend on how capital is built up and how commodities battle and interact with each other. “Unfitted by nature to make anything independently, the manufacturing worker develops his productive activity only as an appendage” of the corporation. “As the chosen people bore in their features the sign that they were the property of Jehovah,” says Marx, “so the division of labour brands the manufacturing worker the property of capital.” 39 Now, due to circumstances beyond a workers control, he or she must give their allegiances to the corporation and must submit to the interaction of commodities and capital. Miller states that the First Commandment not only applies to “other gods” but also “to multiple claims on your obedience.” 40 But this wouldn’t be the fault of the worker, the worker must work in order to live, if the worker chooses not to submit to commodities he or she will die. The fault doesn’t lie at the feet of the worker and the exploited but rather at the feet of the capitalist and those who justify capitalist oppression, such as Michael Novak. The prophet Jeremiah states that: Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the right of the needy. (Italics mine, Jer. 5:25-29, NRSV) For Novak the corporation is “the best secular analogue to the church.” 41 “Viewed in the
Stephens 12 long run of history, the business corporation is a fascinating institution. It is a social institution” and “[i]ts legal existence is transgenerational.” and it “is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for the success of democracy” because the Founding Fathers “saw quite clearly that democracy would be safer if built upon the commercial and industrial classes.” Novak also writes that “[i]ts members come to it voluntarily. They do not give it all the commitment and all the energies of life.” 42 Finally, “the business corporation is, in its essence, a moral institution of a distinctive type” which imposes its “moral obligations that are inherent in its own ends, structure, and modes of operation.” 43 Hinkelammert argues that in order for capital and corporations “to live, the worker must be kept alive. Capital gets its life from the worker and therefore has to keep the worker alive in order to stay alive itself.” 44 Yet it seems that corporations (guided by capital), that is, capital, only care about the bare necessities in order for their worker to live. “In manufacture,” Marx says, “the social productive power of the collective worker, hence of capital, is enriched through the impoverishment of the worker in individual productive power.” 45 Corporations are vehicles meant to build up capital and it needs workers to consume to build up that capital. They are not seemingly guided by the welfare of human beings or of its workers but instead guided by one single force, to accumulate capital, to build wealth. This capital fetish, the wanting (needing) to build up capital is something that the prophet Amos criticizes when he chides the leaders and the rich of Yis’srael by stating: Hear this, you that trample the needy and bring ruin to the poor of the land saying: “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great...buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” Yhwh has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. (Italics mine, Amos 8:4-7, NRSV) Novak’s capital fetish blinds him to the fact of this reality. In fact, it blinds him so much
Stephens 13 that he actually equates the corporation for the Body of Christ, the church, by stating it is “the best secular analogue to the church.” Instead of pledging his allegiance to God he is pledging his allegiance to an entity who’s sole purpose is to build up capital (money), which leads to a further intensification of idolatry by further delving into the commodity and money fetish and by putting one’s faith in money and by imbuing money and commodities with divine like qualities; this then leads to the ultimate heresy in claiming that a corporation is in essence a church, the Body of Christ. Which for those accepting those principles, makes sense, since they project divine characteristics onto commodities and money. Novak also states that a corporations members come to it voluntarily. Yet Novak does not expound who its members are. Are the members the boardroom members, the janitors, cubicle workers, shareholders, sweatshop workers? Also, the idea of choice within a capitalists system,46 as we have seen above, depends on one’s position in that system. But even if one is an owner of capital in the system he or she does not direct how capital should be used since it is commodities, made by human beings, that seem to direct the flow of capital (as we have seen above). Marx states that for the owner of capital one only hears: Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!...If, in the eyes of classical economics, the proletarian is merely a machine for the production of surplus-value [the building of capital], the capitalist too is merely a machine for the transformation of this surplus value into surplus capital.47 We can also see how instead of being a beacon for freedom, as Novak states the corporation is, we now see that many Americans (and Europeans) are working longer hours for lesser pay (since inflation is rising faster than wages).48 Novak’s main theological flaw is putting his trust in an institution of capitalism which its only goal is the consumption of human life in order to accumulate capital, the Anti-Christ, as Marx states. This then puts Novak on the opposite side of the theological
Stephens 14 divide between those whom fight for God and His people and on the side of those whom fight against God and for capital (all be it both sides claim to fight for God). This trust in the corporation for Novak is only possible because of his trust in the capitalist free market which he views as the best vehicle for the common good of humanity. “I believe in sin,” stated Novak in a Washington Post column in March of 1976, “I am for capitalism, modified and made intelligent...It allows human beings to do pretty much what they will...Capitalism is a system built on belief in human selfishness; given checks and balances, it is near always a smashing, scandalous success.” 49 What Novak is doing here is framing his argument for capitalism in a theological way which will “protect” him from the criticism of fellow Christians (mainly liberation theologians) by relying on old Mediaeval beliefs on the concept of sin. Yet through out much of the Tanakh (the Hebrew bible, known as the Old Testament to most) and the New Testament we see many of the prophets, evangelists, and Jesus, framing the concept of sin in economical terms of those exploiting the masses (Ex. 3:7-10; Neh. 5:1-5; Ps. 10:1-3; Is. 10:1-3b; Sir. 34:18-22; Matt. 6:19-21; Lk. 1:46-55; Jam. 5:1-6, etc.). To uplift the masses Novak sees the capitalist system, the free market, as the perfect means to do this. Speaking of the time period of Adam Smith Novak states, “If you face a world of 800 million people, most of them poor...and you can produce new wealth, then you must produce new wealth. If you can do it, you must, give the widespread poverty in the world.” 50 One shouldn’t focus on the poor whom are poor due to the free market’s constant obsession with amassing more capital since that is the “[w]rong question. I mean, supposing somebody figured out the causes of poverty. So now that you know how to make poverty who wants it? I mean it is absolutely the wrong question. It is just an insane question.” 51 Novak seems to be blinded by his fetish for capital to see the contradictory terms in his statement in a world where the pursuit for capital inevitably leaves many people in poverty due to the aftereffects of pursuing
Stephens 15 capital in the free market. This is where we can clearly see Novak’s apostasy in relation to his belief in God. To question the free market is to question the divine will of God (even though Novak has admitted that the free market is “capitalistic hell” 52). Novak sees the commodities and money (capital) built up in the capitalist system as divine objects of God, which is the same mistake that Dollar makes, and because of this, Novak sees the free market as being set up by God for common good purposes despite the fact that Novak states it is an imperfect system.53 Using terms from Hinkelammert, Novak, instead of having a faith in the Christian God of the Bible, has: faith in money, which is the Holy Spirit immanent in the commodity world...faith in the preestablished order of the relationships of production—faith that they will continue eternally...[and] faith that the agents of production are, and will continue to be personifications of capital.54 With this Novak has fallen into sin, which is what the author of 1 st Tim. talks about when he states that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10, NRSV). Not only is Novak wrong in the theological realm but his thinking in the secular realm is also off. Here, we see a circular justification for the oppression and grinding poverty of millions of people around the world due to free market and neoliberal policies. Since there are poor people in this world society must “produce more wealth” and because of the building up of capital this will adversely affect the poor, thus causing them to slip further into poverty,55 which in turn, according to Novak, will require us to make more capital. Novak always goes back to Adam Smith in his analysis of free market capitalism. He always states that free markets are the best system because they lead to democracy and free societies.56 Yet his outlook either ignores (on purpose) or fails to realize that while “economies become more and more modernized, the direct association between production and use gets
Stephens 16 increasingly obscured for exchange.” 57 In early 19 th and late 18 th century America’s economies were more local and means of production more spread out which lead to a more “democratic” market since there was yet any national and transnational corporations and large businesses. If you were in a town you got your meat from a butcher who knew you, clothes from a tailor who knew you, and grain from a merchant who more than likely knew you. Yet when the distance between service and profit increased, and commodity and monetary relations became less personalized and more impersonal, the market became more and more “obsessed” with the accumulation of capital and less for the benefits of human beings.58 We can see with the advancement of capitalism through neoliberal globalization the effects it has on those of the lower classes; such as an increase of suicides in India by local farmers59 due to an increase in large scale industry farming. “For thousands of years, land in” areas such as India and Guatemala were “used for subsistence farming. As capitalism expands into the third world, however, land is seen as too commercially viable to remain outside the cycle of exchange.” 60 Capital has now reached a point where it is now consuming land in order to continue its massive growth, and with that growth it is consuming those who used to farm the land. Now these farmers have become “dependent on the money economy” instead of themselves for subsistence.61 Novak, instead of condemning this action based on his faith actually applauds these policies and he justifies them religiously. The prophet Isaiah states, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? Says the Lord God of hosts” (Is. 3:14b-15, NRSV). And yet Novak seems to be ignoring this piece of scripture, and others, for the benefit of the capitalist. If Marx says that “[j]ust as man is governed, in religion, by the products of his own brain, so, in capitalist production, he is governed by the products of his own hand” 62 than we can also state the reverse for Novak: Just as in capitalist production human beings are enslaved by
Stephens 17 products of their own hands, they project this slavery onto a religious world, in which they are dominated by products emanating from their own brains. This gets to the heart of the matter of Novak’s true heresy and mistake. Novak’s religious thought is controlled by his capital fetish, in order to justify the accumulation of capital he twists the texts of the Bible to satisfy his own fetish instead of looking critically at the world around him and himself, to see if he is staying true to his professed Christian God. Also, criticizing Novak’s belief that the free market creates a common good, Thomas R. Rourke points out that how is the common good being meet when “Nike corporation...paid an average female worker in Indonesia approximately $.82 per day in 1991" and charged consumers more than 100 times that much for the shoe produced and “paid Michael Jordan $20,000,000.” Which was a figure higher than all of the workers who produced shoes in Indonesia combined.63 This oversight by Novak can only be explained by his being guided by the capital fetish instead of being guided by the Holy Spirit (a being he believes in and professes to be guided by). Ultimately people such as Novak, who justify free market systems by using the Bible, and Dollar, who justify wealth building by using the Bible and who states God shows his blessings through money, are blinded by their fetishes for capital, money, and commodities. It’s these fetishes which guide their theological perspectives, instead of the Bible guiding their theological perspectives. Because of this, no matter how much they justify their views, they will always be lead down the wrong path by their fetishes, and that path will lead them to idolatry by worshiping commodities, money, and the capitalist system. Instead of God being their concrete reality (which they proclaim God is), their concrete “reality” will be what they see (yet they will see it in a perverted sense), and what they see is commodities and money, which is one thing the Bible is very clear on and one thread of the Bible that connects the New Testament and the Tanakh. That thread is the condemnation of money and commodities which distract people from God, and since they are
Stephens 18 distracted from God they are ultimately distracted from each other and the common good of their fellow human beings.
“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” -Isaiah 65:21-22
Stephens 19 Notes 1. All quotes from the Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant Bible are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation. The Bible in use is Michael D. Coogan ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible Third Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). 2. Kelefa Sanneh, “Pray and Grow Rich.” New Yorker 80, no. 30 (Oct. 11, 2004): 48-57, http://0-web.ebscohost.com.opac.sfsu.edu/ehost/detail?vid=5&hid=6&sid=ccbc98f3-5524-4684-9d 58-475fec862823%40SRCSM2 (accessed Oct. 5, 2006). 3. Michael Novak, Three in One: Essays on Democratic Capitalism, 1976-2000 (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001), 4. 4. Franz J. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death: A Theological Critique of Capitalism, trans. by Phillip Berryman (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1986), 5. 5. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 5. 6. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I, trans. by Ben Fowkes (London: Pelican Books, 1976. Reprint, New York: Penguin Classics, 1990), 125. 7. Mike Wayne, “Fetishism and Ideology: A Reply to Dimoulis and Milios,” Historical Materialism 13, no. 3 (2005): 201. 8. Marx, Capital,163. 9. Eugene McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon: Notes Toward a Theological History of Capitalism,” Modern Theology 21, no. 3 (July 2005): 437. 10. The commodity, for Marx, “is a sensuous [thing] which...at the same time [is] suprasensible or social...the impression made by a thing on the optic nerve is perceived not as a subjective excitation of that nerve but as the objective form of a thing outside the eye. In the act of seeing...is a physical relation between physical things...As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within nature of the commodity and the material [dinglich] relations arising out of this.” (Marx, Capital, 163) 11. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 6. 12. Ibid., 7. 13. Marx, Capital, 165. 14. Ibid. 15. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 438.
Stephens 20 16. Quoted in Sanneh, “Pray and Grow Rich.” 17. By “true” God I don’t mean to state that the Christian God is the only true God and all other gods are false gods and that all other religions are demonic, false, and evil, etc. By “true God” I mean the true God in the sense that Dollar sees, or thinks he sees, it. The god of the Christian religion, which Dollar holds to be his god. I will argue that Dollar no longer worships the god he sees as true but now worships a plethora of false gods in the forms of commodities and the ultimate false god, the anti-Christ, in the form of money, which is the unifier of commodities on the free market. 18. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 435. 19. Sanneh, “Pray and Grow Rich.” 20. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 16. 21. Pablo Richard and Raul Vidales, “Introduction,” ibid., xvii. 22. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 19. 23. Marx, Capital, 181. 24. Ibid., 180. 25. The text he quotes is: “Illi unum consilium habent et virutem et potestatem suam bestiae tradunt...Et ne quis possit emere aut vendere, nisi qui habet charactereum aut nomen bestiae, aut numerum nominis eius.” (Marx, Capital, 181). 26. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 19. 27. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 437. 28. Patrick D. Miller, The God You Have: Politics, Religion, and the First Commandment (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), 31. 29. Members must tithe 10% of what they make and in order to become a member they have to meet numerous requirements, among which is to give the church their social security number (Sanneh, “Pray and Grow Rich). 30. Sanneh, “Pray and Grow Rich.” 31. Miller, The God You Have, 25. 32. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 442. 33. By stating “the essence of the secular, and therefore of the demonic,” he does not mean that the secular is demonic in the classical evangelical sense, in fact, far from it. Brown, in writing his book
Stephens 21 connects “the standard psychoanalysis of money to an exploration of religious concerns.” Brown concludes that after surveying historical and anthropological literature, “money actually derived its power from ‘the magical, mystical, religious...the domain of the sacred.’” and that the secular “‘is only a metamorphosis of the sacred’—an observation made in the course of criticizing the ‘illusion that modern money is secular.’” (McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 442-443). 34. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 443. 35. See Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: 15 th Anniversary Edition, trans. by Caridad Inda and John Eagleson (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1988), 106-120, specifically 106107. 36. Pablo Richard and Raul Vidales, “Introduction,” The Ideological Weapons of Death, xviii. 37. Quoted in Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 27. 38. Ibid., 28. 39. Marx, Capital, 482. 40. Miller, The God You Have, 21. 41. McCarraher, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” 460, n. 42. 42. Michael Novak, Three in One, 233. 43. Ibid., 241. 44. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 30. 45. Marx, Capital, 483. 46. For more on choice and the setting up of the capitalist system and how people merely are only making choices based on what the free market dictates to them see Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View (London: Verso, 2002). 47. Marx, Capital, 742. 48. On wages and working hours see Jeffrey E. Hill, et. al., “Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance,” Family Relations 50, no. 1 (Jan. 2001): 49-54; Lynne Lamberg, “Impact of Long Working Hours Explored,” Journal of the American Medical Association 292, no. 1 (July 2004): 25-26; Jeremy Reynolds, “When Too Much Is Not Enough: Actual and Preferred Work Hours in the United States and Abroad,” Sociological Forum 19, no. 1 (March 2004): 89-120; Amy S. Wharton and Mary Blair-Loy, “Long Work Hours and Family Life: A Cross-National Study of Employees’ Concerns,” Journal of Family Issues 27, no. 3 (March 2006) 415-436.
Stephens 22 49. Novak, Three in One, 4. 50. Ibid., 57. 51. Ibid. 52. Ibid., 4. 53. Ibid., 56. 54. Hinkelammert, The Ideological Weapons of Death, 44. 55. For more on the adverse effects of neoliberal policies on the lower classes around the world see Edmund Amann and Werner Baer, “Neoliberalism and its Consequences in Brazil,” Journal of Latin American Studies 34, no. 4 (Nov. 2002): 945-959; Werner Baer and William Maloney, “Neoliberalism and Income Distribution in Latin America,” World Development 25, no. 3 (March 1997): 311-327; Rubiana Chamarbagwala, “Economic Liberalization and Wage Inequality in India,” World Development 34, no. 12 (Dec. 2006): 1997-2015; and Warwick E. Murray, “Neoliberal Globalisation, ‘Exotic’ Agro-exports, and Local Chance in the Pacific Islands: A Study of the Fijian Kava Sector,” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 21, no. 3 (Nov. 2000): 355373. 56. On the fallacy of capitalism leading to democracy in the 21 st century see Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and George Downs, “Development and Democracy,” Foreign Affairs 84, no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2005): 77-86. 57. Thomas R. Rourke, “Michael Novak and Yves R. Simon on the Common Good and Capitalism,” Review of Politics, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 249. 58. Rourke, “Michael Novak and Yves R. Simon,” 249. 59. Somini Sengupta, “On India’s Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicide,” New York Times, 19 Sept., 2006, A1. 60. Rourke, “Michael Novak and Yves R. Simon,” 249. 61. Ibid., 250. 62. Marx, Capital, 772. 63. Rourke, “Michael Novak and Yves R. Simon,” 250.
Bibliography Amann, Edmund and Werner Baer. “Neoliberalism and its Consequences in Brazil.” Journal of Latin American Studies 34, no. 4 (Nov. 2002): 945-959. Baer, Werner and William Maloney. “Neoliberalism and Income Distribution in Latin America.” World Development 25, no. 3 (March 1997): 311-327. Bayer, Richard C. “Review of The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Michael Novak.” Theological Studies 54, no. 3 (Sept. 1993): 592-593. Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce and George Downs. “Development and Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 84, no. 5 (Sept/Oct 2005): 77-86. Chamarbagwala, Rubiana. “Economic Liberalization and Wage Inequality in India.” World Development 34, no. 12 (Dec. 2006): 1997-2015. Christiano, Kevin J. “Review of The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Michael Novak.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33, no. 1 (March 1994): 83-84. Coogan, Michael D. editor. The New Oxford Annotated Bible Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Dollar, Creflo. Creflo Dollar Ministries. http://www.creflodollarministries.org (accessed Nov. 2, 2006). —World Changers Church International http://www.worldchangers.org (accessed Nov. 2, 2006). Gutiérrez, Gustavo. A Theology Of Liberation: 15 th Anniversary Edition. Translation by Caridad Inda and John Eagleson. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1988. Hill, Jeffrey E., et. al. “Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance.” Family Relations 50, no. 1 (Jan. 2001): 4954. Hinkelammert, Franz. The Ideological Weapons of Death: A Theological Critique of Capitalism. Translated by Phillip Berryman. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1986.
Stephens 24 Lamberg, Lynne. “Impact of Long Working Hours Explored.” Journal of the American Medical Association 292, no. 1 (July 2004): 25-26. Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume I. Translated by Ben Fowkes. London: Pelican Books, 1976. Reprint, New York: Penguin Classics, 1990.
McCarraher, Eugene. “The Enchantments of Mammon: Notes Toward a Theological History of Capitalism.” Modern Theology 21, no. 3 (July 2005): 429-461. Milios, John and Dimitri Dimoulis. “Commodity Fetishism vs. Capital Fetishism: Marxist Interpretations vis-á-vis Marx’s Analyses in Capital.” Historical Materialism 12, no. 3 (2004): 3-42. Miller, Patrick D. The God You Have: Politics, Religion, and the First Commandment. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004. Murray, Warwick E. “Neoliberal Globalisation, ‘Exotic’ Agro-exports, and Local Chance in the Pacific Islands: A Study of the Fijian Kava Sector.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 21, no. 3 (Nov. 2000): 355-373. Novak, Michael. Three in One: Essays on Democratic Capitalism, 1976-2000. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001. —“A ‘Catholic Whig’ Replies.” Review of Politics 58, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 259-264. —The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Free Press, 1993.
Reynolds, Jeremy. “When Too Much Is Not Enough: Actual and Preferred Work Hours in the United States and Abroad,” Sociological Forum 19, no. 1 (March 2004): 89-120. Rouelofs, H. Mark. “Review of The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Michael Novak.” Journal of Politics 56, no. 2 (May 1994): 548-549. Rourke, Thomas R. “Michael Novak and Yves R. Simon on the Common Good and Capitalism.” Review of Politics 58, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 229-258. —“Response to a ‘Catholic Whig.’” ibid.: 265-267. Sanneh, Kelefa. “Pray and Grow Rich.” New Yorker 80, no. 30 (Oct. 11, 2004): 48-57, http://0-web.ebscohost.com.opac.sfsu.edu/ehost/detail?vid=5&hid=6&sid=ccbc98f3-5524-4 684-9d58-475fec862823%40SRCSM2 (accessed Oct. 5, 2006). Wayne, Mike. “Fetishism and Ideology: A Reply to Dimoulis and Milios.” Historical Materialism 13, no. 3 (2005): 193-218. Wharton, Amy S. and Mary Blair-Loy. “Long Work Hours and Family Life: A Cross-National
Stephens 25 Study of Employees’ Concerns.” Journal of Family Issues 27, no. 3 (March 2006) 415436. Wilkerson, Isabel and Cora M. Daniels. “A Dollar & A Dream.” Essence 36, no. 8 (Dec. 2005): 166-170.