NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Religious Hostility to the Free Market

August 16, 2001

While most seminaries devote little attention to economics, those that place the heaviest emphasis on "social justice and economic issues" are most hostile to the free market, according to a survey sent to the presidents and deans of 251 American Christian seminaries. The heads of the liberal schools characterized their faculties as supportive of such measures as income redistribution, close government supervision of business and increased welfare spending.

Researchers queried the heads of seminaries about the emphasis given economics and social justice in seminary courses. It also asked them to evaluate the political and theological attitudes of their faculties and students.

  • Based on survey responses regarding faculty attitudes, researchers classified just 8 percent of the schools as consistently liberal.
  • Another one-third (31 percent) were classified as redistributive liberals -- supporting a minimum salary and income redistribution, for instance, but otherwise in the middle on most issues.
  • However, three-fifths of the consistently liberal schools were mainline/ecumenical Protestants; the mainline/ecumenical schools also made up a majority of the redistributive liberal schools.

Consistently liberal schools were the most likely to explicitly address moral and economic principles in their programs, and had students most interested in social justice, followed by the redistributive liberals. But schools classified as populist or individualist conservative were least likely to stress economics and social justice issues, and most likely to concentrate on theology and moral principles.

Liberals appear to be concentrated among ecumenical and mainline Protestant seminaries, suggesting that leftist ideas about the need for extensive government regulation and redistribution to achieve social justice may have a disproportionate influence among mainline Protestant churches, the largest religious group in the United States.

Source: John Green and Kevin E. Schmiesing, "The State of Economic Education in United States Seminaries," August 2001, Center for Economic Personalism, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, 161 Ottawa Avenue, Northwest, Suite 301, Grand Rapids, Mich. 49503, (616) 454-3080.


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