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The Evangelical-Capitalist Resonance Machine
In a key document for public theology, the author examines the 'resonance' of existential resentment among cowboy capitalism, electronic news media, the Republican Party and evangelicalism.
By William E. Connolly
A few days ago I heard on my car radio a fellow shout breathlessly on a conservative talk show that taxes are a form of theft: "Don't those liberals know that government taxes are stealing from some to give to others, it's a breaking of a commandment?" The man was speaking out of a religious sensibility he had been taught in his church of the religious right. This theme has become a big emphasis these days, and if you are wealthy you sure do like the fact that pastors are teaching their people such views. There is clear correspondence between this form of Christianity and the interests of those who benefit most from unregulated capitalism.
In a paper now available here the political scientist William E. Connolly discusses the relation between evangelical Christianity and what he calls cowboy capitalism, which along with the echo chamber of the electronic media has come to have such dominating significance in today's politics. I believe Connolly's theory is very helpful to understanding this relation especially with his concept of "resonance."
He speaks of the core identities of those within both the evangelical movement and contemporary business, that both identities share an element of revenge and resentment. "The element of identity most significant to this movement, I suggest, is the insistence by its members that they are being persecuted unless they are thoroughly in power, and the compensatory sense of special entitlement that accompanies the rise to power of a constituency that so construes itself." He says capitalism needs religious support to maintain itself in a democracy. This need of capitalism has led it to give aid and support to a particular form of religion in this country. And, I would add that this influence of capitalism on Christianity has created an actually false form of Christianity in this country.
Connolly speaks approvingly of a theological movement called "Open Theism" which affirms a God who changes.
I have read Connolly's book, Capitalism and Christianity, American Style and believe it can be very helpful in the formation of a public theology for our times and in the strategic consciousness of Protestant pastors. The paper available here forms one chapter of the book.
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