Religion and Money


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Religion and money—a volatile combination. Here's a sociological and cultural view of the relationship between them, drawing on H. Richard Niebuhr's typology of religion and culture—with ideas from Max Weber and cameo appearances from Larry Ellison and D. H. Lawrence.

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  • Each of these phrases adds to the meaning: religion as a human construct points to the provisional nature of religious institutions as human inventions; it is a social construct, built together and drawing people together—it only has meaning as it is played out together. It is directed toward God by humans as a response to God’s grace and blessings. It is ultimately for the benefit of those who gather under it.
  • With money, we exchange symbols that stand for value, a value that we agree upon.
  • This is what Jesus said . . .
  • Mammon is an Aramaic word, carried into the Greek, and often untranslated in the NT. It usualy means riches, ill-gotten gains, greed, or simply money. In the Middle Ages many considered it to be the name of a deity, although there is nothing in Aramaic or Syriac usage that would indicate that. Here Mammon is depicted as an enormous creature with donkey’s ears, bulky and cruel, trampling and crushing two young people. The artist Watts, hated money so much he wanted to put a statue of Mammon in Hyde Park to remind people of its falseness.
  • In this painting the focus is on the worshipper. She supplicates the god Mammon while he mockingly holds out a bag of money to her.
  • How can Christians understand the depth to which global capitalism defines our lives? And how do we participate in it without worshipping false gods?
  • Important emphasis from Craig Gay’s book, Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today’s Society (2003), Eerdman’s.
  • A genuine ethical dilemma: Capitalism is the product of a Christian civilization but promotes a subtle nihilism and flattens meaning in the world down to the monetary unit. Everything has its price. And worth is based on price.
  • Simmel - use of money reduces all qualities to mere quantities. Absolute means becomes the absolute purpose for most people. Changes human relationships to ‘contracts’ based on another’s utility to us. Schumpeter’s ‘Creative Destruction’ of capitalism: the new drives out the old. Drives society forward by changing the present and destroying the past.
  • The Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism: thrift and hard work, drive for moral perfection, results in wealth. Modern capitalism doesn’t need religion; hard work and a grasping of opportunity results in wealth.
  • By the way, doesn’t Max Weber look like D. H. Lawrence?
  • And doesn’t Larry Ellison of Oracle look like D. H. Lawrence?
  • H. Richard Niebuhr, German-American theologian.
  • And his brother, Reinhold Niebuhr.
  • H. Richard wrote a book, Christ and Culture, in which he gives us five historical types of the relation of Christianity to Culture. I’m going to use those to look at religion and money.
  • The first emphasizes the opposition between religion and money. Withdraw, oppose capitalism and other systems of monetary organization. Opt out and oppose the system.
  • Religion of money represents fundamental agreement between the two. Money fuels the good work of religion and is seen as the best of God’s blessings for the accomplishing of mission in the world.
  • Synthetic type: money is a partner with religion but religion cannot be contained by money. Something arises above it, makes it discontinuous with money. Causes tension between religious leaders and secular donors.
  • Dualism: the duality and the opposition between the two is acknowledged. Tries to keep the creative tension between them. Loyalty to God and follow the market imperatives.
  • Last is the conversionist approach. Money and its temptations are recognized but does not lead to separation from the world nor capitulation to the demands of the market. Hope that we can persuade other humans to recognize God’s grace and turn from exalting Mammon.
  • This approach tries to give allegiance to God while recognizing that Mammon rules the world. Because this approach cannot leave the world nor accomplish anything without dealing with Mammon, the hope is that through example and witness, all will eventually recognize God.
  • God will triumph over Mammon.
  • These are some of the things that money can do for us. Can you think of any more?
  • Religion and Money

    1. 1. Religion is aconstruct of humanassociation,directed toward God,for the benefit ofhumans.
    2. 2. MONEY- an exchangeof symbolic valuebetween people.
    3. 3. No one can serve two masters, for eitherhe will hate the one and love the other; orelse he will be devoted to one and despise theother.You cannot serve both God and Mammon.Matthew 6:24
    4. 4. Mammon1884-1885George Frederick Watts
    5. 5. The Worship of Mammon1909Evelyn de Morgan
    6. 6. How do we think theologically aboutglobal capitalist development?
    7. 7. Objectification of value‘Worth’ understood as cash value
    9. 9. Capitalism theproduct ofChristiancivilizationPromotes a subtlenihilism thatflattens meaning
    10. 10. Georg Simmel1858 - 1918Joseph Schumpeter1883 - 1950
    11. 11. Max Weber1864 - 1920The highest good:to make more &more money. . . .and not enjoy it.
    12. 12. Max Weber D. H. Lawrence
    13. 13. D. H. Lawrence Larry Ellison
    14. 14. H. Richard Niebuhr1894 - 1962
    15. 15. H. Richard NiebuhrReinhold Niebuhr1892 - 1971
    16. 16. Religion Against MoneyReligion vs.Money
    17. 17. Religion of MoneyMoney Religion
    18. 18. Religion above MoneyReligionMoney
    19. 19. Religion and MoneyReligionMoneyin Paradox
    20. 20. RELIGIONMAMMON(Humans)(Humans)
    21. 21. Religion MoneyGODMAMMON(Humans)(Humans)
    22. 22. ReligionGODMAMMON(Humans)(Humans)Money
    23. 23. Money CansSecurity - we can get what we needFreedom - we can get what we wantPower - we can change or maintain our positionCreativity - we can give to others for good
    24. 24. Entelechy Productions (2011)