#141 Christianity is Good for You
An “investment” in Christianity pays twice: Here on Earth, AND in Heaven.
As the Christian Economist, I operate in two camps: Christians are concerned about the means, and economists are concerned about the ends. It just happens that being a Christian is good for both. The ends are good because we “end up” in heaven, and the means, here on Earth, are a bonus. The apostle Paul said “To live is Christ. To die is gain.” We win either way.
Christianity is a “Two-For”
CS Lewis quipped, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at Earth, and you will get neither.” Ginger and I sometimes call this a “twofer.” You get twice what you expect. Some call Christianity “fire insurance,” because it keeps you out of hell. But, it’s a very different kind of insurance, because, instead of paying premiums, you receive premiums. Let me explain.
As Dennis Prager asked me in an interview this summer, “If people are not getting their ideas from the Bible, where ARE they getting them?” Well, the answer is: Their answers DO come from the Bible, and more specifically from the Christian view of the Bible. They just don’t know it. So much of the cultural water that we swim in, comes from Christianity.
In the book titled Martin Luther, Eric Metaxes makes it clear that there would have been NO American revolution, without the Protestant Reformation. He’s right. So the outcome of America itself is a testimony to the power of Christianity.
William Wilberforce said, “God has set before me two great objects: The suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” By manners, he meant morality. I like the book titled Amazing Grace, but there are other Wilberforce books that are good also. You may have noticed I cited two Eric Metaxes books in a row. He has a gift, and his writing IS a gift to current-day Christians. A member of the royal family was keeping track of how many women he slept with. The number was in the thousands. The point is: That was acceptable until the very committed Christian named Wilberforce changed culture’s view of “manners” as he called them. While caring for the poor has a long history in Christendom, Wilberforce also renewed that call.
Oh, and about slavery: William Wilberforce was a devout Christian who ended slavery in the UK 30 years before we did in the US. His crusade was clearly an expression of his Christian belief system. And, his counterpart who ended it in the United States, Abraham Lincoln said “God told me to free the slaves.”
In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber did what all good social scientists do: He showed a difference. After the reformation in 1517, northern Italy went protestant and capitalist. Southern Europe remained Catholic and feudal. There are still remnants of this difference. Simply looking at a map of Europe, you can draw a straight line through the four countries that struggle in the EU. They are the PIGS countries: Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. I often express it this way, “How I see God determines how I see my fellow man.” There, a Baptist just crossed himself.
Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the masses.” Well, it’s better than taking real opium. It does enable us to live in a fallen world with greater joy, that’s absolutely clear. But while opium only helps you FORGET your troubles, while disabling you from fixing the world, Christianity BOTH heals your current wounds and gives you the impetus to go out and do something about the fallen world. It’s a two-for!
John Stonestreet at the Colson center is one of the smartest people I know, operating in the Christ and Culture space. I’m going to quote him three times in this podcast. His recent Breakpoint podcast, co-authored with Kasey Leander, is titled Is Religion the Opium of the People or the Ladder? He says,
Economist Robin Grier conducted a cross-national survey of 63 formerly European colonies. She found that not only Christianity but the LEVEL of Protestantism is significantly related to increases in real per capita income levels.”
Many years ago, I co-authored a paper simply titled Christianity and Capitalism, with my Dallas Baptist University colleague Bobbie Martindale. Our first line states, Christian countries are richer than non-Christian countries.
In the introduction to his very good book, For God & Profit, Samuel Gregg points out that the monks who essentially started what we now call free market capitalism wrote at the bottom of each financial contract the phrase that became the name of his book, For God and Profit. They were in the city-states of Northern Italy.
Caring for Others
When lecturing about the value of price gouging – there’s more to be said about that in another podcast – I clarified that it was also good to give away products and services following a catastrophe, as the Texas Baptist Men do. Strange: I have not seen the Texas Atheist Men giving out food and water after a natural disaster.
Johnnie and Chuckie witnessed to prisoners in such a methodical way, they were derisively called “Methodists.” John and Charles Wesley adopted the name and built what was to become the largest Christian church in the United States in the 1830s.
There are three hospital systems in the Dallas-Ft Worth area where I live. Baylor is Baptist, Methodist is….you guessed it: Methodist and the third is a combination of hospitals under the name Texas Health Resources. Those examples are found throughout North America.
In his book Enlightenment Now, Stephen Pinker wrote, “We no longer need a father in the sky.” He tries to argue that we’ve “moved on beyond God.” My response is that the University where Pinker teaches was saved from failure by the endowment of a lay presbyterian minister named John Harvard.
In Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks states that even if you’re not a believer, living amongst believers increases YOUR economic status. That’s because they produce greater value, which spills over onto you.
How many San Franciscans know that their city was named after Saint Francis? Here’s how it happened: The sixth mission in California was established by Padre Junipero Serra on October 9, 1776, and was named Mission San Francisco de Asis a la Laguna de los Dolores (Saint Francis of Assisi at the Lagoon of Sorrows).
St. Petersburg was NOT named for its founder, Peter the Great. He named it after HIS namesake, Peter, the Apostle. Peter the Great is buried in a chapel on an island in St. Petersburg called the Chapel of Peter and Paul. The list goes on and on: There really was a Saint Diego, a Saint Antonio, a Saint Jose.
When God told Abraham there was ONE god, the world changed, and it has not gone back. Francis Bacon’s invention of the scientific method grew out of his monotheistic assumption that God had created a structured world. Think about it: Why would you test gravity, if you assumed it would be different in various parts of the world? It’s only because he was a monotheist that he assumed humans could discover standardized rules of nature that could be applied in all situations.
When King George heard that the American revolution had started, he said, “They’re following that Presbyterian minister.” It was John Witherspoon, then President of Princeton. And, that’s why the red coats targeted his university at the battle of Princeton.
That the founders were Christian is beyond dispute, and I’ll refer you to David Barton at Wallbuilders for more on that. His book The American Story is quite good, and it’s worth watching his lecture on the subject. Yes, some of the founders were deists, and Benjamin Franklin first was going to seek the ministry, then moved a long distance from it. But during the difficult days of writing the constitution, Franklin was the one who suggested a local minister be engaged to offer a prayer every morning.
Where did the idea of equality come from? You’ve noticed that the founders, in the Declaration of Independence, claimed that equal rights came from their creator. I don’t want to dig into comparative religion here, but the Hindus believe inequality is sanctioned by their gods. You’re born into a caste, and you can escape it, only in the next life. Christians don’t make their fellow humans wait that long.
Try It: It’s Good for You
Quoting John Stonestreet again: “Regular attendance at religious services consistently correlates with longer life spans, stronger immune systems, and lower blood pressure, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, and suicide. Kids raised in religious households have a lower incidence of drug addiction, delinquency, and incarceration. They’re more likely to graduate high school. In short, the nearly unanimous scientific consensus is that religious belief is good for you.”
Christianity: Try it. It’s good for you. You will get a twofer.
TELL THE TRUTH,
EARN A PROFIT.
Read along with #TheChristianEconomist:
- Biblical Economic Policy | https://amzn.to/3nn8inO
- John Stonestreet | The Colson Center | https://breakpoint.org/john-stonestreet-bio/
- Is Religion the Opium of the People or the Leader? | https://breakpoint.org/is-religion-the-opium-of-the-people-or-the-ladder-2/
- Christianity and Capitalism | https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.517.8464&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- The Battle of Princeton | https://www.battlefields.org/learn/revolutionary-war/battles/princeton
- The American Story Lecture | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc32T4KED2c
- Sources Cited in the Breakpoint Podcast
- Science Says Religion is Good for Your Health | Forbes | https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2019/03/29/science-says-religion-is-good-for-your-health/?sh=792f36b83a12
- Religion is Good for All of Us | Forbes | https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2013/12/22/religion-is-good-for-all-of-us-even-those-who-dont-follow-one/?sh=2ca342f964d7
- Psychologists Are Learning What Religion Has Known for Years | Wired | https://www.wired.com/story/psychologists-religion-how-god-works/