Friday, August 17, 2007

Capitalism, Jesus and Academic Freedom

I may have underestimated the threat to academic freedom in economics in my post yesterday. I am a bit more concerned about it today. The Rocky Mountain News reports:
What would Jesus teach about capitalism, and what would be on His assigned reading list?

That's the issue dividing Colorado Christian University, where the dismissal of a professor has sparked lively student and alumni chatter on the Internet.

The dispute at the usually tranquil Lakewood campus pits Andrew Paquin, head of a religious charity that aids poor people in Africa, against former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., president of Colorado Christian and a pillar of the religious right.

Armstrong fired Paquin from a position teaching global studies at the end of the spring semester amid concerns that his lessons were too radical and undermined the school's commitment to the free enterprise system.

The goings on at a small religious college are pretty distant from my academic world, but its disturbing to see this anywhere. The irony is that there is a real tension between Christianity and capitalism. From the Bible, Matthew (19:24):

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Inside Higher Ed's story quoted Paquin's blog:
My stance on capitalism is this ... it is obviously a very efficient and pragmatic economic system that has produced the largest and wealthiest country the world has ever seen. It also can be exploitative, lead to human greed, and leave vast populations behind in its wake. It can turn citizens into consumers. Adam Smith writes that the common good is served by the individual pursuit of self-interest. Excuse me if I believe that the pursuit of my own self-interest might be in contrast to the life of Christ that exemplifies the pursuit of the interest of others. This is my tension.
I would think that a Christian college would encourage students and faculty to grapple with issues like this. But perhaps I'm naive to believe the point of a college is to encourage its students to think. Incidentally, further down in the Rocky Mountain News story,
In a letter of dismissal, Armstrong expressed respect for Paquin's religious faith. "God may be calling you to a full-time ministry with 10/10," Armstrong wrote.
So that's how a "Christian" fires someone - tell them "God may be calling you" somewhere else [10/10 is Paquin's microlending project].

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