Evangelicalism and capitalism have long been intertwined, but the relationship has shifted dramatically in recent years. For Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, and Georg Simmel, the exploration of the institutions of modern capitalism was an important part of their respective social theories, and the neglect of this issue left a void in sociological scholarship during the postwar period. The rise of neoliberalism and “free market” ideology has led to what Dr. Jason Clark calls the “Great Disembedding,” a process by which Evangelicals have become increasingly disconnected from their moral obligations to one another as members of a community. In his dissertation, Clark examines this phenomenon in depth, exploring how it affects both Evangelicalism and capitalism. Karl Polanyi’s theory of the subordination of social life to the market speaks volumes about what this disconnection can lead to. In his book The Great Transformation, he argued that when markets become detached from society, they ultimately destroy both capitalism and society itself.
In The Great Transformation, Polanyi argues that markets are not natural phenomena but rather are embedded within human societies; something he terms “embeddedness.” He further goes on to argue that this embedding can lead to both positive and negative consequences for individuals and communities alike depending on how those markets have been structured by political decisions over time. The importance of The Great Transformation lies in its ability to provide an understanding of how our current market-based economy functions as well as why certain aspects remain entrenched despite attempts at reform or change from different governments throughout history. “Polanyi concludes his work with the claim that the ongoing tension between liberalism and fascism/socialism is not around a dividing line of the economy, but is an issue of morality and religion.” The book provides invaluable insight for Christian leaders on how we should approach economic issues with a view toward protecting people who find themselves vulnerable under such systems, while also recognizing their potential benefits if managed responsibly by policymakers with moral considerations in mind before all else. “For Polanyi, it was not any Christian reality that was important, rather, what was crucial was how Christianity dealt with eschatological questions and the connectedness of individuals to ethical communities.”
I believe the same process is playing out in relation to Evangelicalism today, with Christianity becoming increasingly removed from public discourse. There needs to be an effort made by Christian leaders towards “re-embedding” this crucial relationship by focusing on core values such as justice, righteousness, equity, and compassion for those who are most vulnerable within our societies. By doing so, we can restore accountability on all sides while also ensuring a more sustainable form of an economic order based upon principles rather than profits alone. This process may allow us to create better outcomes in finances, spirituality, and faith. Clark provides recommendations on how Christian leaders can responsibly engage with economic “countermovement” while maintaining ethical standards rooted in Christianity’s commitment to justice, compassion, and mercy towards all people regardless of socio-economic status or position in society at large. “The market becomes a society itself.” This includes promoting fair wages, advocating for living conditions free from exploitation, supporting access to basic resources such as healthcare services, protecting vulnerable populations from predatory lending practices, and providing opportunities for meaningful work through job creation initiatives.
For me, the stand-out findings from this chapter of Dr. Clark’s dissertation provide important insights for Christian leaders today who want to engage with economics from a biblical perspective. First, it shows that there is not necessarily an inherent conflict between Christianity and free market economics, rather they can be integrated if we understand them through a theological lens that takes seriously God’s sovereignty over all creation including human economies. “American Evangelicals continue the combination of beliefs centered around providence, with an understanding of the market as the natural source of God’s providence.” Secondly, it demonstrates that Christians should approach economic questions with humility, recognizing our limited knowledge compared to God’s omniscience, when making decisions about markets or public policy. I found this to be incredibly encouraging to trust in the power of Jesus even when tackling seemingly insurmountable problems like global inequality.
 Beckert, J. (2009). The Great Transformation of Embeddedness: Karl Polanyi and the new economic sociology. In C. Hann & K. Hart (Eds.), Market and Society: The Great Transformation Today (pp. 38-55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511581380.003
 Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation
 Ibid, 18
 Clark, Dr. Jason, p. 136
 Ibid, 139
 Ibid, 135
 Ibid, 153 * For example, see R. L. Moore, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture, new ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).