The Public Religion Research Institute finds that most Americans are unable to comport capitalism with Christianity:
As it happens, they are absolutely correct; the Gospels are incredibly short on issues we associate with modern "values voting" — abortion and homosexuality, mostly — and incredibly long on reverence for the poor and disdain for the wealthy. Of course, that hasn’t made much of a difference to the United States, which through its history, has combined religious piety with stunning accumulations of wealth.
The “social gospel” has been with us since at least the late 19th century, but Jamelle seems to be talking about a different problem than capitalism. In fact, capitalism is firmly supported by the Scriptures and by our God-given faculties.
From the very beginning, man was put to a life of toil to provide for his needs by the sweat of his brow:
17To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
Genesis 3:17-19. Paul confirmed this rule when he stated to the Thessalonians that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10. The Mosaic injunction against theft at Exodus 20:15 establishes the right to property, which itself contains the germ, the atom that explodes into the whole system of Christian ethics. The parable of the talents at Matthew chapter 25 demonstrates the Biblical injunction to be fruitful with one’s labor and property. The parable of the workers in the vineyard at Matthew chapter 20 demonstrates the natural right to freedom of contract when the employer rhetorically asks at verse 15 “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?”
The Scriptures are filled with prescriptions to work, to be shrewd, to be fruitful, to observe the God-given rights in others just as you recognize those rights in yourself, and so on. At its core, then, the modern social gospelists simply misunderstand what capitalism truly is. As Max Weber observes in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:
The impulse to acquisition, pursuit of gain, of money, of the greatest possible amount of money, has in itself nothing to do with capitalism. This impulse exists and has existed among waiters, physicians, coachmen, artists, prostitutes, dishonest officials, soldiers, nobles, crusaders, gamblers, and beggars. One may say that it has been common to all sorts and conditions of men at all times and in all countries of the earth, wherever the objective possibility of it is or has been given. It should be taught in the kindergarten of cultural history that this naïve idea of capitalism must be given up once and for all. Unlimited greed for gain is not in the least identical with capitalism, and is still less its spirit. Capitalism may even be identical with the restraint, or at least a rational tempering, of this irrational impulse. But capitalism is identical with the pursuit of profit, and forever renewed profit, by means of continuous, rational, capitalistic enterprise. For it must be so: in a wholly capitalistic order of society, an individual capitalistic enterprise which did not take advantage of its opportunities for profit-making would be doomed to extinction.
In other words, capitalism, properly understood, is concerned primarily with the production, not the product. While capitalism carries a rightful expectation to profit in exchange for the discharge of one’s natural duty to engage in useful enterprise, the right to profit cannot neither be taken away from nor made superior to the primary obligation to commit oneself to productive labor.
Weber goes on:
Now, in glancing at Baxter’s Saints’ Everlasting Rest, or his Christian Dictionary, or similar works of others, one is struck at first glance by the emphasis placed, in the discussion of wealth and its acquisition, on the ebionitic elements of the New Testament. Wealth as such is a great danger; its temptations never end, and its pursuit is not only senseless as compared with the dominating importance of the Kingdom of God, but it is morally suspect. Here asceticism seems to have turned much more sharply against of earthly goods than it did in Calvin, who saw no hindrance to the effectiveness of the clergy in their wealth, but rather a thoroughly desirable enhancement of their prestige. Hence he permitted them to employ their means profitably. Examples of the condemnation of the pursuit of money and goods may be gathered without end from Puritan writings, and may be contrasted with the late medieval ethical literature, which was much more open-minded on this point.
Moreover, these doubts were meant with perfect seriousness; only it is necessary to examine them somewhat more closely in order to understand their true ethical significance and implications. The real moral objection is to relaxation in the security of possession, the enjoyment with the consequence of idleness and the temptations of the flesh, above all of distraction from the pursuit of a righteous life. In fact, it is only because possession involves this danger of relaxation that it is objectionable at all. For the saints’ everlasting rest is in the next world; on earth man must, to be certain of his state of grace, “do the works of him who sent him, as long as it is yet day”. Not leisure and enjoyment, but only activity serves to increase the glory of God, according to the definite manifestations of His will.
. . . .
Wealth is thus bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition is bad only when it is with the purpose of later living merrily and without care. But as a performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally permissible, but actually enjoined. The parable of the servant who was rejected because he did not increase the talent which was entrusted to him seemed to say so directly. To wish to be poor was, it was often argued, the same as wishing to be unhealthy; it is objectionable as a glorification of works and derogatory to the glory of God. Especially begging, on the part of one able to work, is not only the sin of slothfulness, but a violation of the duty of brotherly love according to the Apostle’s own word.
Of course, the Bible also prescribes generosity and modesty and to care for others. But there is nothing inconsistent with these prescriptions and capitalism properly understood. And these general prescriptions certainly do not suggest we ought to ignore the specific prescriptions to be productive with our labor and property and to respect the labor and property of others.