Will Capitalism Reign During the Millennium?
I can’t wait for the Millennium when we all work six days a week, twelve or fourteen or even sixteen hours a day. I can’t wait for that serene society, when Satan has been bound and we can send our six-year-old children to work in the mines or shuck oysters from dawn until dusk. I can’t wait for this future without war, when there are also no workplace safety rules.
That will be heaven on Earth, a thousand years of peace and happiness.
Growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I dreamed often about the Millennium. Many of the teens in my congregation received Patriarchal Blessings predicting they’d live to see the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
As a bullied kid who memorized Helen Reddy’s “Leave Me Alone,” I could only hope that day came sooner rather than later.
In my sixties now, I’ve long since understood that if the world is going to become a better place, it’s up to us to make it happen. Many conservative Christians complain that “kids today” or “sinners” or “Democrats” refuse to take responsibility for their actions while at the same time, we shrug our shoulders, waiting for someone else to solve the problems we’ve helped create.
For many conservatives, religion has become fused with both politics and economics. We believe that capitalism, a system which postdates the Bible and the events of the Book of Mormon by many centuries, is the only righteous form of economics. We simultaneously believe that the love of money is the root of all evil and that the poor live in poverty because they are sinful, lazy, and undeserving.
We believe fathers should be breadwinners while mothers stay home with the kids. Yet there is almost no city in the entire country where a family can rent a one-bedroom apartment on a full-time minimum wage income. How many kids do we expect loving parents to squeeze onto their own mattress?
Yet when workers demand a living wage, we call them slackers who just want free money.
A school district near San Francisco recently issued a call to parents to house their children’s teachers because those teachers are leaving the area, no longer able to afford either rent or a mortgage. Such a solution assumes, of course, that teachers are single and will remain so, or that the teacher’s entire family will live in that one rented room.
Is our economic system so righteous it can’t be tweaked even a little?
Unfettered capitalism gave us the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It’s given us building and bridge collapses, the opioid epidemic, even nuclear accidents. It’s given us political leaders bought by wealthy donors.
We now have 40-hour work weeks. We have paid vacation, a minimum wage, child labor laws, and much more. Business owners didn’t grant those out of the goodness of their hearts. They were forced to do it through strikes, boycotts, and eventually legislation.
“It’s wrong to force people to be good!” I’ve heard my former missionary companions say.
We have laws forcing companies not to sell food with cheap, dangerous ingredients. We have laws punishing those who steal cars from our driveways. So why is it sinful to have laws preventing employers from stealing wages from their employees?
During the Millennium, I suppose, we’ll no longer need regulations. Bosses will simply choose to be good to their employees.
But if treating employees fairly is the right thing to do during the Millennium, why do we celebrate not treating employees fairly now?
We cheer Howard Schultz as he closes Starbucks locations that have voted to unionize. We admire Jeff Bezos for being savvy enough to destroy small businesses. We applaud executives at UPS for removing air conditioners from their trucks so that delivery drivers don’t dawdle in comfort.
Would we accept a thief stealing our TV now because in the Millennium, no one will steal from us?
Why, then, do we accept an economic system designed to concentrate wealth into the hands of a few, a system based on the concept that basic housing and clean water are reserved only for adherents of the prosperity gospel?
Is it heresy to speak against an economic system never once championed by Moses, Nephi, or Jesus?
Profit has become an idol that many conservative Christians worship, sacrificing kindness, dignity, and mercy on the altar to appease it.
Imperfect humans can never create a heaven on Earth. But we can certainly do better than make life hell for millions.
So let’s separate religion from politics and economics. It’s the least we can do to prepare for the thousand years of peace we want.