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How Christianity and capitalism can heal

A person cannot worship both the Almighty and the Almighty Dollar, the prophets teach. It is easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle’s eye, says Jesus, than for a rich man to get to heaven. Obsession with money? Nothing less than the root of all evil.

It’s not just Christianity and Judaism that warn people to be careful about their relationship with money. Islam rejects usury; Buddhism condemns greed as one of the three great poisons. Considering all this, it would be understandable if one concluded we should be afraid, very afraid, of money and what it can do to the soul — or, far more likely, engage in some serious compartmentalizing when it comes to our financial lives and our faith lives.

This is why it’s fascinating to see a rising current of people of faith and spirituality not taking poverty vows, not separating finance and faith, but embracing capital as a potent vehicle for the expression of their belief.

You’ve heard of values voters; these are your values investors. Microfinance providers, venture capitalists who fund only people and projects enhancing the common good, everyday church people who make sure their investments promote the same values as their donations — they are all part of an increasingly visible contagion trying to transform how we deploy our dollars.

“You can transform the world,” says Olivia Teter, a vice president at the spirituality-based RSF Social Finance, “if you can change the way people work with their money.”

There is much in this to be cheered, especially when you consider the villain role played by money or its absence in the big crimes (Madoff), political conflicts (government debt and spending), and family struggles (how to pay the mortgage?) so prominent in recent chapters of the national saga. What better area than our financial lives — collective and individual — for faith and spirituality to bring healthy change?

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Part of the genius of religion in America has been our ability to accommodate two colossal cultural forces — Christianity and capitalism — that often appear to pull in opposite directions. If a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute is any indication, many Americans struggle to reconcile the two. The survey, released in April, finds that more of us (44%) see a conflict between the free-market system and Christian values than those who do not (36%).

Economic distress can intensify the same tug of war in many individuals. We do what we have to do to pay the mortgage, fill the tank, get medical care for the kids. Investments? We try, for the most part, to maximize our returns. All the while, the teachings of our faith and spiritual traditions press us to do more for the less fortunate, and do it now. The conflict takes its toll. But what if we found a way to lead our money lives more closely in sync with our spiritual lives?

I don’t doubt that integrating the spirit and finance can help “heal the planet,” as the San Francisco-based RSF Social Finance says in its literature. It might go a long way toward creating something closer to wholeness in each one of us, too.

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Please click HERE to read the rest of the article.

And HERE is a wonderful talk by Jesus, counseling the rich man...

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