Wanamaker, Moody, Rockefeller and Jesus

American Christianity is largely based on the Protestant work ethic. We truly, honestly believe God wants us to work, work, work, as long as the work in mind is not, like, you know “good works” that lead to legalism.

God wants us working 40+ hours a week making money, that’s how He blesses us with money to support missions and poor kids and stuff. We’ve bought this teaching right along with our $50 study Bibles.

After the Civil War and into the early part of the 20th Century, American Christianity was largely influenced by business. Christian insitutions cannot exist apart from rich businessmen.

Christianity, in order to pay rent, developed a theology to support businessmen, helped them feel good about neglecting their wives, kids and neighbors while they were off working all the time. “Just write a check for Jesus.”

Mr. John Wanamaker was a succesful businessman in the late 19th century and became instrumental in establishing the YMCA. He also helped out a Mr. Dwight L. Moody.

Wanamaker wanted Moody to come speak at a conference for him and deliver a message “tailored more than any that preceded it to the needs of business and professional people who wanted to be freed from the guilt of doing what they were doing.”

In other words, give them a Gospel that allows them to mind the things of the world and yet feel they are doing God a favor. Moody obliged.

Moody is not an exception, he’s merely an example I’m aware of. American Chrisitanity is a Christianity of the businessman. It’s not a Christianity of the poor certainly.

“The power to make money is a gift from God,” this was said by John, as in John D. Rockefeller. It’s not a message consistent with Jesus Christ no matter how badly you want to believe it.

3 thoughts on “Wanamaker, Moody, Rockefeller and Jesus”

  1. >In other words, give them a Gospel that allows them to
    >mind the things of the world and yet feel they are doing
    >God a favor. Moody obliged.

    I didn’t know that…it is interesting. I’ve never regarded Moody’s revival with much favor, and this puts another nail in the coffin.

    I think the Old Testament arrangement also shows God’s purpose: the people were each to have their own farms, which land was to stay in with the family (ie. no monopolies). This would help eliminate poverty and also prevent the other extreme: hoarding of riches.

    Farm work is rather seasonal…during planting and harvest it can be very busy, but it also affords times which are not so busy (winter, for example, or rainy days). This would have given the Israelites time to devote to a deeper study of the Word of God.

    As well, they were required, three times a year, to travel to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. These weren’t “paid holidays”!

  2. I don’t know that I’d throw out all Moody did and said, but there is definitely a very strong business-minded Gospel in that era of American Christianity.

  3. If Moody allowed the businessmen to justify their hording of money, then the fact that he was a respected minister makes the guilt greater. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Example:

    1. God delivered the Israelites from Egypt without horses and chariots (Deut. 11:4)

    2. The Israelite armies were instructed to destroy all the horses and chariots of their enemies (Josh. 11:6)

    3. David reserved a hundred chariots for himself (2 Sam. 8:4)

    4. Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen (1 Kings 4:26).

    How should we deal with this? “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Ps. 20:7

    Chariots and horses are just another example of money/possessions. You cannot horde these things without depriving others of what God wanted them to have. Eventually, this inequality and injustice leads to wars, and everything is lost in the battle. So the prophet spoke:

    Hag. 2:22 – “And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.”

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