I was surprised to see this article in the Evening Standard: Religion can trump capitalism among the world’s downtrodden. It’s not strongly polemical, but calmly well-reasoned. The writer (Terry Eagleton) correctly observes the difficulty secularism has in creating a unified identity. Listen to many a politician talk about shared ‘values’ and you suspect they have been handed a list of terms by an advisor. The words are likely deemed to offend as few as possible, and especially those who might be in key marginals at the next election.
Forgive my cynicism. I am grateful for the good-hearted among the political class who work hard to keep this thing we call a country together. I’m of the opinion we do not pray enough for them as Christians or churches. Paul urges Timothy, “…that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2 NIV11)
Let’s not blame politicians for everything. Instead, let’s see what we can do to bring people together. If religion isn’t ‘allowed’ to do that in our post-God world, what might be? Eagleton argues that, “…the most successful substitute for religion is sport. It is sport that is the opium of the people — it lays on the weekly liturgies, supplies the canon of legendary heroes and provides the sense of solidarity one might previously have found in a chapel or cathedral.” I’d add that sport also substitutes for war. As violent as spectators can be (mostly in soccer), the damage and deaths are far short of armed conflict.
However, Eagleton has another target in his sights – capitalism. Early capitalism carried convictions. We will make the world better with the morals of hard work and upright ethics. Modern capitalism has done away with any secure belief system, since that would demand faith – and faith, along with God, has died. Capitalism shorn of its beliefs leaves an empty stage – one onto which any fundamentalist system may walk unopposed. How can we argue with fundamentalist Islam, or any other ‘ism’ if we have no coherent alternative belief system?
I’d suggest that the Gospel is the solution because, when applied, it re-creates all people as equal. In the kingdom we show “equal concern for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25 NIV11), and receive equal value from God, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV11) We’re bonded together by love (not easy, takes hard work, but worth it, Eph 4.3), and love one another because “we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16 NIV11) Love is the strongest unifying force known to man, and it has been revealed in it’s full glory by Jesus.
If we want people to be unified, if we want conflicts to cease, if we want to see human progress without human casualties we will need more than capitalism or any ‘ism’ has to offer. We will need love – super-human love. Only Jesus can give us that. Love trumps all.