Self-Interested Evangelicals

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When asked who we hope our vote benefits most, 41% said “people like me” and 20% said “me and my family.” That’s 61% of evangelical Christians putting ourselves first. To be honest, this is disappointing but not necessarily surprising. It goes directly against the entire basis of our faith – we follow a savior who demonstrated a life of self-sacrifice and called us to do the same.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” – Philippians 2:13-14

The political nature of this is merely a symptom of something that goes much deeper. In reality, many of us who are Christians merely desire a savior to provide personal forgiveness and afterlife bliss. We’re no less self-centered than anyone else. Its almost like our faith makes little difference in our daily lives because the way we’ve formulated our faith casts Jesus as the Secretary of Afterlife Management and little else.

This self-interested attitude demonstrates the victory of self-interested capitalism over self-sacrificial Christianity. Adam Smith famously wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.” Capitalism reduces people to nothing more than self-interested actors and Christianity has become amalgamated with that idea over the past centuries. In many locales, to imagine a Christianity apart from self-interested capitalism makes no sense. Yet the best syncretisms are the ones we do not notice.

This is why this goes much deeper than who you vote for next month, or than politics in general. Notice, the point here is not who we are voting for but what our motivations are in voting. Likewise, our motivations in votes are a microcosm of our motivations in all else. Do we work for the good of ourselves and those like us? Or do we work from a motivation for the good of others?

If we become people who work for the good of others (and admittedly, I generally fail at this, so I am not trying to sound self-righteous in this writing) it is going to affect everything we do in all phases of our life. We can dare imagine a culture of people working for the good of others above their own good. This utopian vision will never happen this side of eternity. But just because we can’t reach perfection, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

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