Friday, February 5, 2016

Darwinian Economics and American Christianity

As I've studied and meditated in preparation for leading a retreat exploring the interplay between faith and science, those cogitative ruminations...or is is ruminative cogitations...have played interestingly against the background roar of American presidential politics.

I've been reading up on Darwin, and on the for-some-reason-still-active debate about evolutionary theory. And as I'm doing so, I'm reminded that there's a familiar but remarkable irony at play in American politics.  That irony is this:

The American political party that is home to most conservative Christians is socioeconomically Darwinist.

The ethos of the radically free market, and of allowing market forces their "natural" course in determining our lives together?  As an economic system, it works under the same operating assumptions as Darwinian evolution.  Meaning, it's an essentially blind, reactive process, in which the weak fail and the strong survive.

This is the "system" most vigorously defended by the American right wing, which wraps it up in the language of liberty and freedom.

From this standpoint, any effort to shape the direction of our oikonomia...which means the "rules of the house," or our life together...from a sense of moral or national purpose?  It must be rejected.  "Let market forces do their work," we are told, by those who most benefit from this arrangement.

Yet God is self-evidently not present in the dynamics of globalized free-market capitalism.  The moral assumptions that arise from the teachings of Jesus--compassion, humility, mercy--do not have any impact on this quarter's profit margin.

Instead, we are offered a process as unforgiving as the Serengeti at the height of the dry season, as brutal as a Jack London story, a peculiar mix of entropy and the raw and purposeless dynamics of self-serving power.

It's the market, red in tooth and claw.  It's Darwinian natural selection, writ in the harshest way into our lives together, and for some reason, the majority of American Christianity has decided that's all fine and dandy.

That most of those same souls also reject evolution?  It's a dissonant, peculiar thing.