NPJ Book Review: The Money Cult, Capitalism, Christianity and the Unmaking of the American Dream by Chris Lehman

The Money Cult, Capitalism, Christianity and the Unmaking of the American Dream by Chris Lehman

Much has written about the interweave of Christianity (especially Protestantism, capitalism, the industrial revolution and the American Dream). Several historians have tackled the subject such as John Kenneth Galbraith though few theologians have perused the subject in-depth without apology though Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Marty had some excellent thoughts about it. Mike Novak tried to offer cover for capitalism but stumbled intellectually. Why? There is no cover. Though this work is written by a journalist the result remains exceptional with some added provocative scholarly insights.

The author’s work rips apart the myth that Wall Street bankers are ‘Prometheus’ job creators. Religion in America was never really secularized, and instead the market was sanctified, as this study so aptly documents.

Lehman shows how the wealthy are/were able to manipulate the thinking of average Americans in believing that people became wealthy as a result of God’s work. In other words, “God appoints different outcomes to different people and the poor must embrace a benevolent view of their social betters.”

The protestant assault since the industrial revolution on the public conscience amounted to creative destruction – “a relentless dismantling of old structures of enterprise in the perennial quest for new and improved system of production through the conversion of believers.”

The resulting development of the prosperity gospel is hypocritical, manipulative and has done more damage to democracy than previously thought. The author states, ”It’s important not to absolve the current mega corps of prosperity minded mega pastors for their silence before the unconscionable spectacle of American rights and so far successful effort to create socially engineered suffering for the poor in order to realize short-term gains….” the well-heeled players in capitalism are just that – players.

The author relates, “How the once austere and communal version of dissenting Protestantism developed such a ripe recruiting ground for sanctified capitalism of our financialized, upward skewered and uniquely destructive market order.”

Lehman has offered a provocative, well researched commentary on the symbiotic relation between Christianity, capitalism and the abuses of the privilege / wealthy. The future is uncertain at the best and Lehman’s work is frank, readable and quite disturbing as is the future of the United States.