For most of this decade the Left has been riding a wave of popular discontent over highly-publicized corporate corruption, rarely wasting an opportunity to point out scandals at Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and other major companies. That more than once their officials have been carted away to federal prison confirms the progressives' conviction that capitalism desperately needs moral therapy.
Much of this opposition is informed by a set of anti-business teachings that are explicitly religious, and from a Christian perspective. A website, Sunshine for Women (www.pinn.net), features a homily, "What Would Jesus Do?" The sermon reads in part: "Jesus Would NOT be on the Board of Directors of a Fortune 500 corporation....Jesus Would NOT lobby politicians on behalf of wealthy corporations. Jesus Would NOT be a Wall Street trader, a banker for a large national or international banking conglomerate, or participate in the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
Such sentiments are hardly new. In Europe, Catholic anti-capitalism has a centuries-long pedigree. Long after the passing of Medievalism, many have subscribed to the view that business dulls our noble religious impulses. The Christian Socialist Movement emerged in the early-19th century as a response to what its adherents viewed as the destructive consequences of the Industrial Revolution. From the early-20th century onward, the British Labour Party, more than commonly imagined, has been Christian in character; Tony Blair, far from negating this legacy, shrewdly adapted it to contemporary reality.
Here in America, Christianity and socialism (or at least suspicion of commercial culture), also long allied with one another, became a potent mass movement during the latter half of the 1960s. Perhaps its most famous alumnus is Hillary Clinton, whose sharp turn to the left during her Wellesley undergraduate years in a real sense affirmed the Methodist Social Gospel of her girlhood. The appeal of the Religious Left remains high today. The Catholic Church and many mainline Protestant denominations regularly denounce corporate greed, callousness and dishonesty, backing up their words through participation in boycotts, demonstrations and media campaigns. Jesse Jackson is in good company.
Carl F. Horowitz is director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center, a Townhall.com Gold Partner organization dedicated to promoting ethics in American public life.
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