Michael Moore Asks the Question: What Would Jesus Do...About Capitalism?

Roman Catholic Priests are the surprising voices of clarity and conviction in Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story. The Priests in this documentary, one of whom married Mr. Moore and his wife, aren’t ambivalent - they characterize capitalism as evil. This must be jarring for most moviegoers who have not had the pleasure of interacting with radical priests who, unfortunately, seem to be something of a dying breed these days. Most of us are used to the recent steady stream of religious voices praising our free market system as part of God’s plan for prosperity. In Moore’s opinion we have been hypnotized to believe that capitalism and Christianity must go hand in hand.

In one of the funnier segments of the film, Moore adapts one of the early Jesus movies by dubbing over foundational teachings of Jesus such as “You cannot worship God and wealth” (Luke 16:13); “Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich”(Luke 6); Let the oppressed go free (Luke 4), and changing them to pithy endorsements of such stock capitalist principles such as the profit motive. One immediate classic is the scene of Jesus refusing to heal the sick man because of what this new improved capitalist Jesus describes as his “pre-existing condition.”

While the views of the priests in this film may seem strange to some, Christians have been questioning Capitalism’s ethical compatibility with Jesus since the effects on the poor of capitalism and industrialization became tragically clear in the 1850’s. Many of us who are above thirty-five will remember the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) movement among Evangelical churches in the 1980’s and 90’s. Seen from the outside, WWJD seemed a laughable effort to improve individualistic Christian morality. However the history of WWJD dates back a century before when Charles Sheldon wrote the Christian novel “In His Steps,” which asked the question What Would Jesus Do to an American society rife with social inequalities and ills due in part to the rise of industrialization and the capitalist exploitation of the poor by the wealthy. While the book has undeniably patronizing tones, it compellingly tells the story of a prosperous church whose members respond to the challenge of living their life by the question: What Would Jesus Do? The characters in the book include a business man who decides to make his factory a cooperative, a tenement owner who repents of his policy of neglect towards his tenants, and a heiress who gives up her fortune to give housing and religious instruction to the poor women of the slums…

blog.beliefnet.com/progressiverevival/2009/10/michael-moore-asks-the-questio.html

and

Fox News video here, Interview with Catholic Priest about this film:

examiner.com/x-23360-Tucson-Celebrity-Examiner~y2009m10d5-Michael-Moore-causing-Catholic-Revolt

Michael Moore is about controversy. I don’t pay attention to him.

Here is what the Church teaches about capitalism:

Catechism of the Catholic Church
2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

This is the document which the Catechism references. I did a search for the word “capitalism” and came up with these paragraphs:

Centesimus Annus

Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called “unbridled capitalism” was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity. Unfortunately, even today one finds instances of contracts between employers and employees which lack reference to the most elementary justice regarding the employment of children or women, working hours, the hygienic condition of the work-place and fair pay; and this is the case despite the International Declarations and Conventions on the subject26 and the internal laws of States. The Pope attributed to the “public authority” the “strict duty” of providing properly for the welfare of the workers, because a failure to do so violates justice; indeed, he did not hesitate to speak of “distributive justice”.

Many other people, while not completely marginalized, live in situations in which the struggle for a bare minimum is uppermost. These are situations in which the rules of the earliest period of capitalism still flourish in conditions of “ruthlessness” in no way inferior to the darkest moments of the first phase of industrialization. In other cases the land is still the central element in the economic process, but those who cultivate it are excluded from ownership and are reduced to a state of quasi-servitude.71 In these cases, it is still possible today, as in the days of Rerum novarum, to speak of inhuman exploitation. In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.

In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work.73 In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.

We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called “Real Socialism” leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization. It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development. This goal calls for programmed and responsible efforts on the part of the entire international community. Stronger nations must offer weaker ones opportunities for taking their place in international life, and the latter must learn how to use these opportunities by making the necessary efforts and sacrifices and by ensuring political and economic stability, the certainty of better prospects for the future, the improvement of workers’ skills, and the training of competent business leaders who are conscious of their responsibilities.

  1. It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.
  1. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.

Thank you, Eucharisted. What people fail to read properly in the catechism is bolded below:

Catechism of the Catholic Church
2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

In other words, the Church is opposed to laissez faire capitalism. This is where individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace is practiced. Even communism and socialism are not completely rejected - only the totalitarianism and atheism. It just so happens that capitalism is more complementary to Church teaching on subsidiarity. However, the Church teaches that we must regulate accordingly in line with human dignity.

Moore is just flat out wrong in his characterization…and hypocritical, since he has profited very well from capitalism and uses marketing to promote his film. He should give all of his proceeds to charity and/or let us all in for free. :slight_smile:

Whatever Jesus would do it there would be no hypocrisy between his “talk” and his “walk” as is the case w/ M. Moore.

Serious scholars have opined that the Apostles lived in a socialist commune. There’s an argument for that to be made but I think it is stretching the point.

Not “socialist” in the government sense, but it does sound like a commune. Apparently, it didn’t work out as the Church grew. :wink: The reason it “stretches the point” is because people try to apply such a living method on too large a scale. That’s where the tyranny creeps in.

btw…the monastic system is similar, which I believe was the intent of St. Benedict.

Foreclosed Homeowners Like Rape Victims

Filmmaker tells Sean Hannity blaming irresponsible borrowers ‘like asking a woman how short was your skirt after she’s been raped.’

What a foolish comment!

I’ve made a thread about that, Thank you!

Forgive my ignorance of the matter, but wouldn’t Jesus have been apolitical in terms of which economics system we employ, what with the whole “Render unto Caesar what is his” deal?

I could be going from a very poor self interpretation on that considering how long ago it was since I read from the New Testament (which I’ll get around to reading after I finish the Old Testament first).

By asking the question, does this mean Mr. Moore thinks he’s doing what Jesus would do? If so, I have a hard time imagining the Christ making deceptive documentaries.

– Mark L. Chance.

I saw the Hannity interview with Michael Moore. It was pretty entertaining. Especially the part where they both realized the other is Catholic and started discussing if they had been to Mass the previous Sunday and what the gospel reading and sermon was. :smiley:

Perhaps apolitical over the legal method, but he’d also call out the immorality of many business practices, which too many people remain silent on.

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