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Religion and Economy
by Maina Kabukuru
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“Religion and Economy”

By the time we go to print the Minister for finance will have presented his budget for the coming fiscal year. One may wonder the relationship between religion and economy or rather the social impact of economic planning on religion also known as the political economy.

The last four decades of the last century are really the essence of this treatise. This is because it is during the last four decades of the last century that Liberation Theology; Prosperity Gospels have made their mark in both the Americas and the world at large.

The search for economic independence and emancipation of individuals in the clutches of poverty is the eternal race for all men. And while there are those who think differently, it really is because of self interest and not because the basic human needs have changed.

From time immemorial the search for immortality and the appendages that follow it, like for instance becoming gods or demigods is the crave of humanity. Affluence and control of luxury is the dream of all humanity. This is why we all dream and anticipate to go to heaven much more especially when we are denied the physical luxuries. After all heaven has all luxuries and affluence. This is why in heaven depending with the particular religious sect; luxury could include bliss, walking on roads made of gold or living in a harem of beautiful leprechauns beyond imagination.

The clamour by the religious leaders for attaining political offices is essentially a projection of the drive for economic freedoms, and not necessarily the desire to better the society. What is currently happening is the classical Marxian thesis on religion. On this I do concur with him to a degree. I do so with the understanding that while Marx broadly disputed hypocritical stands of the church per se, he choose to put emphasis on the role of man in the creation of religion and dislodging the creator completely in his treatise. He unfortunately, also refuses to explain the emptiness that is derived after the attainment of material needs.

The current economic standing of the Western Hemisphere or world seems to be filled with stories of emptiness and void that unfortunately cannot be filled with material needs. Hence the move towards special parks for drug addicts, legalization of unnatural wants and other opiates.

While it is true that religion has towards a very large degree been used by tradesmen for their profit and as an opiate, religion does not necessarily become an opiate. It is what Marx rightly refers to as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions.” And though he terms it as the opium of the people, the context seems to suggest that religion can only be embraced with reality in mind. And that religion should not be used as an excuse to explain misuse of power by the powers that be.

It is in the same treatise on religion that Marx states: “. . . the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism. The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths”] has been refuted.”

Marxs’ search for consistency drove him to extreme questioning of religion. That he forgot that reality is incumbent on time and space is not the issue here but rather a reason to question his rationale on religion. I suppose he was sincere in his search. I don’t think he had interest in blasphemy or becoming sacrilegious in his intellectual endeavours. He wanted unblemished truth that was not couched in theology, doctrine or propaganda.

Unfortunately, unlike Marx probably, most of our questioning is pegged on unbelief and search for justification of our unbelief. Maybe the same could be said about Marx. I am yet to find in his works blunt cynicism as it were. If there is any, this is as a result of his impatience with insincere individuals in the church or possible because the ‘church’ or religion as it were was never living to its call.

No wonder at one time one of the main proponents of ‘back to basic doctrines’ as it were, St. Francis of Assisi lamented as a result of the affluence that had corrupted the ‘church’ when he said, “Neither can the church say to the cripple and the infirm, ‘Rise and Walk.’ Because it could not also say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.”

It is the choking’s of affluence that denies us the connection with our true self. And when affluence becomes the only motivation for life and society, then basic instinctual drives take over and we become bare brutes, whose satisfaction is only found in indulgence and hedonistic pleasures.

As much as the Liberation Theology proponents would wish us to engage and embrace political power struggle or as the Prosperity Gospel engineers would wish to assuage their guilt vide positive thinking theologies, the fact remains, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man or woman for that matter to enter into heaven.” The teachings of the Nazarene are complicated, sometimes utterly impossible to some, and yet quite feasible.

Most of the Nazarenes’ discourses are filled with figures of speech, anecdotes about money. Unfortunately, for the proponents of the prosperity gospel, to them this means that money is important. But, the question rather should be, “what is money and what is true wealth?

We are not playing down the importance of money in this treatise, but rather questioning the rationale for using, our materialistic value system in the economy of the Ancient of Days.

I find it hard to believe that money is part of the eternal economy, if anything, the Nazarene says, “Give all your riches to the poor and come and follow me, to the rich young ruler who had as it were kept the Ten Commandments.” In fact, he talks of other ‘riches’ that essentially have no semblance with our type of riches.

Probably this is the reason why Marx without realizing sought to initiate a society void of none materialistic riches, unfortunately, he did so, while at the same time dethroning the very person who had the power to initiate such a society.

Copyright f.m.Kabukuru - 2007
(Interactive: maichk@yahoo.co.uk)
Kabukuru F.M.
Box 5251 -00506,
Nairobi, Kenya


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