According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
He followed up with, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew:19:24)
A new Public Religion Research Institute survey reveals some interesting things about American's ability to reconcile their love of Jesus with their love of money.
Overall more Americans believe that Christian values are at odds with capitalism and the free market than believe they are compatible. This pattern also holds among Christians. Among Christians in the U.S., only 38% believe capitalism and the free market are consistent with Christian values while 46% believe the two are at odds. Religiously unaffiliated Americans look similar to the general population and to Christian Americans, with a plurality (40%) saying capitalism is at odds with Christian values, compared to 32% who say they are compatible; 14% say they do not know. There are significant differences by gender, party and income.Some interesting findings:
- Half (50%) of women believe that capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37% of men.
- A majority (53%) of Democrats believe that capitalism and Christian values are at odds, compared to 37% of Republicans.
- Nearly half (46%) of Americans with household incomes of $100,000 a year or more believe that capitalism is consistent with Christian values, compared to only 23% of those with household incomes of $30,000 a year or less.
A few other findings worth noting:
- Overall most (61%) Americans disagree that most businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government. Less than 4-in-10 (37%) believe that they would. This holds true across political and religious lines, with the lone exception of those who identify with the Tea Party movement (53% agree).
- Nearly 6-in-10 Americans (58%) believe that the federal budget is a moral document that reflects national priorities while 41% disagrees.
- Overall most (61%) Americans disagree that most businesses would act ethically on their own without regulation from the government.
While we can certainly look to founding documents and sacred texts for guidance, there comes a point where the text is limited by its place in time, and we start making our own rules to validate our own actions and desires. Often a shoehorn is involved.
The PRRI media release can be found here (PDF).