It is not breaking news that the increased secularization of America has muddled the traditional values on which this country was founded. America’s Spiritual Capital, by Nicholas Capaldi and Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, offers a refreshing reminder of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and how this heritage has led to American prosperity, and from a pair of academics, no less.
Capaldi teaches at Loyola University in New Orleans. Malloch has been affiliated with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
Spiritual capital encompasses the fundamental religious beliefs that define a civilization and that provide a strong link to its political, economic, and social institutions. The authors argue that the Judeo-Christian faith is the basis for American spiritual capital because it has fostered such features as the free market economy, rule of law, limited government, and personal autonomy. The relationship between these elements forms the “logic of modernity,” which is principally defined by the “technological project” or the attempt to control nature in order to provide for the common good. In short, the advantages that Judeo-Christianity lends towards American spiritual capital effectively establish America as the leader in “the spiritual quest of modernity.”
Capaldi and Malloch scrutinize the connection that American spiritual capital maintains with economic development and praise Judeo-Christian values for advancing economic growth through high levels of productivity and philanthropy. They examine Old Testament and medieval Christian economic thought as well as modern philosophy characterized by Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, legitimizing the claim that “the creation of wealth by virtuous means is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and for the world at large.”
The authors also break down the two conflicting “narratives of America”—Locke’s liberty narrative and Rosseau’s equality narrative. They contend that the idea of God-given natural rights aligns with the Lockean principle of equality of opportunity over equality of outcome and condemn the post-American and anti-religious values of modern-day scientism.
As secularism seeps into American culture, foundational Judeo-Christian values such as self-discipline and personal responsibility become lost. All inequality becomes demonized and America adopts a socially-collectivist mentality where everyone becomes dependent on welfare and other government entitlement programs. Institutions and ideals once upheld by our nation as sacred have been gradually abandoned and left to die. There is no question that the immediate recovery of America’s spiritual capital is absolutely paramount to the survival of this country.
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