Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Friendships Broken- Capitalism and Evangelical

Written by: on October 6, 2023

I must admit that I felt a little intimidated by the thought of reading Dr. Jason Swan Clark’s Dissertation. It felt weird to read his work and write about it, not sure why but it was not a task that I was anxious to complete. Perhaps it’s his over 6-foot stature or maybe the English accent, Dr. Jason Swan Clark powerfully commands a space and for the weak at heart, he may seem a bit scary. His physical presence is a bit deceiving because he speaks with kindness in his voice and is the nicest man, yet I was keenly aware of the unique situation it creates when you write about the work of a man that will have a significant say on the conferring of your degree. Honestly, it caused me a bit of a pause and I was hesitant to go deeper. I also knew that he had read and written extensively about D.W. Bebbington, so I was not rushing to read his book either.
I finally leaned into what I know works for me. My process is always to try to read the material through my own lens while attempting to understand the author’s intent yet also finding a correlation to my research. I approach the reading with this question in my head, “How can this help my research?”. I was struck immediately by the two terms that I have been actually struggling with and if I’m being completely honest, motivated my research topic: Capitalism and Evangelical. Quite naturally, my anxiety and intimidation dissipated slightly as I began Chapter 2 of Dr. Clark’s Dissertation and read, he would be providing definitions for Capitalism and Evangelical. Capitalism and Evangelical are terms that arise often in conversations, directly or as an undercurrent, when I talk about the experiences of Black Women in White Religious Spaces. The complexity of how these two terms intersect was amplified during the last two Presidential Elections. I learned a great deal about what truly lies in the hearts of people that I had shared quality time with, in Christian Spaces (Christian K-8 School and Ladies Bible Study). Perhaps that most heart-breaking comment that I received from a once dear friend. When I asked her how she could support views that were damaging, she responded, “I vote for my wallet not my heart, ‘The Almighty Dollar’ rules”! Our relationship has never been the same, which is quite complicated because our kids are still good friends, The term “The Almighty Dollar” has always troubled me. Almighty is defined as having “unlimited power: omnipotent, as God”(1). It never made sense to refer to money in this manner. By using this term, my ex dear friend showed me where her values lie. She would place the need for money over her “strong” evangelical values. My first thought was “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”(2) My second thought was that capitalism seems to crash against the strongest of values even Evangelical. And this interaction was the impetus for my research.
Dr. Clark uses a combination of authors to help define capitalism. Perhaps the best is a definition quoted in Dr. Clark’s writing is by Nichloas Townsend, he states, “the meaning of capitalism is given precisely by reference to capital, the financial resources invested in a business and the asset they purchase. In that strict or literal sense, ‘capitalism’ names a form of business in which the objective of making return on capital overrides others and so determines what the business does.”(3) The objective is making the return, and it overrides all other things. My heart sank a bit as I processed that.
I acknowledge that I have often and still do associate the term Evangelical with Conservative values/views. I was open to embracing a different perspective. Bebbington describes Evangelical Religion as having four qualities that help form the priorities that are the basis of Evangelicalism. He states:
“There are four qualities that have been the special marks of Evangelical religion: conversionism, belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called crucientrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism. “(4)
This quadrilateral theory that is different from what I have viewed as Evangelical (I am told by Pastor Adam Harris that Wesley’s Quadrilateral Theory and also Richard Rohr’s Triangular Theory are both worth researching). Bebbington’s theory is not only digestible, but it is beautiful. Believing the lives will be changed by Christ, living the Gospel, regarding the Bible and acknowledging that Christ died for our sins. YES! All of this is the basis of living a life that pleasing to God, loving our neighbors, being changed by Christ. I don’t know how money- capitalism got mixed up in this.
I wonder if the answer lies in the belief that working hard (which has become code for gaining wealth) is somehow tied to our salvation. I found this passage in Bebbington intriguing. “A converted character would work hard, save money and assist his neighbour. The line between those who had undergone the experience and those who had not was the sharpest in the world. It marked the boundary between a Christian and a pagan.” (5) This implies that a person converted is to work hard and assist his neighbor.
I admit that I have not fully reconciled these issues. I am amazed by how many disagreements, false judgements, biases, and wrongdoings can be traced back to money and/or religion.
If you have time, I invite you to think about these questions:
1. Are you defined by your (Christian) walk or your account balance?
2. Do you respect or add more value to the views of the wealthy over the views of the poor?
3. Does economic gain determine how you vote and where you worship?
4. Do you believe that EVERYONE is your neighbor?
I don’t expect answers on this public forum, but I thought it was important to pose the questions. This week’s readings left me with more questions than answers, Loved Ones!

2.“Bible Gateway Passage: 1 Timothy 6:10 – English Standard Version,” Bible Gateway, accessed October 6, 2023,
3.Nicholas Townsend, “Transcending the Long Twentieth Century” in Kidwell, Theology and Economics, 204.
4.David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Routledge, 2005), 2-3.
5.Ibid., 5.

About the Author


Jonita Fair-Payton

16 responses to “Friendships Broken- Capitalism and Evangelical”

  1. Adam Harris says:

    Glad to be the first to respond to this honest and amazing post. So many nuggets and good insights in here. It is amazing how so many “other things” slip into our gospel, our systems, and our worldviews that don’t matter and even worse, that may be counter to the heart of our faith. Prioritizing money and material success being one of those.

    It is also refreshing to realize Evangelicalism has several different forms and expressions. So many, especially in America now, are calling themselves Ex-vangelicals and what I really think is happening is an exodus away from a certain form of Evangelicalism that is not sitting well with people for some valid reasons. Unfortunately I think some babies are being thrown out with the bath water.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I agree that we are witnessing an exodus from certain parts of Evangelicalism. The increase in individuals deconstructing their faith is evidence of this. My question is always, “Then What?” After the deconstruction: What have you learned? How are you changed? How do you move forward with what you have discovered?
      We are in truly interesting and strange times…fighting ugliness/evil. I’m not always sure how to deal with it all. I have, however, chosen prayer as my preferred weapon. I am thankful that we are in this fight together.

  2. mm Cathy Glei says:

    “The almighty dollar” disturbs me too. A funny thing happened to me on my flight home from Oxford. I was sitting at Heathrow waiting for the gate posting. I was drinking coffee outside of Cafe Nero, reading a book. Next to me, were four older English women. They were talking about America and how everything is so big. . . big cars, supersized coffees, big car lanes, big everything. They went on and on. Then one of them shook their head and said “It is such a shame.” They had no idea where I was from but I was ashamed to admit deep within me that much of what they said rings true about our culture. Here is a song that helps me to consider what I really “want” or “need” when living under the influence of consumerism.

    “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      Oh Cathy,

      This is such a beautiful song. Thank you for sharing it. My husband, Larry, and I decided at the beginning of our marriage that we would not let money guide our decisions. That has not always been easy, but it does provide a clarity that you don’t get when money is the defining factor. Thank you for sharing your airport story. We live in a country, and I live in a State (Texas) where bigger is considered better. We have to be very intentional about teaching values to our kids to value hard work, kindness and respect. The exposure to “big” living and “big” spending is everywhere.

  3. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Jonita,
    I love that you found beauty in Bebbington’s quadrilateral. I must admit that I have been confused by the term evangelical so it was very helpful and beautiful as you noted. It seems that over the decades it has come to be defined differently than what I remembered or experienced in the 1980s, but that may have only been my perception. All this reading on evangelicalism and capitalism is making me curious as to how this has impacted non-western cultures both positively and negatively without the benefit of understanding the history and progression of it all.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      I did find it beautiful. As I shared, the term Evangelical is difficult for me. I am curious to hear more about how you perceived the term in your youth/ young adult years in comparison to now.

  4. Kally Elliott says:

    Jonita! What a heart breaking comment made by your ex-dear friend. I’m so sorry.

    Sadly, she is not the only church going person to vote this way or to think this way. In response (though I don’t always say it) I wonder, is this the way Jesus would vote? Wouldn’t he vote to make the lives better of those who don’t have as much access to the “almighty dollar?” Also, who/what do you really worship? God or money?

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in this post. I will be super interested to see what your research and project bring forth.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      Hi Kally,

      It was heartbreaking yet it prepared me for what I begin to witness in others that shared her view. There is so much work to be done in the Church. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed by it all. I love your question/response: How would Jesus vote?

  5. mm Russell Chun says:

    You wrote, “Bebbington’s theory is not only digestible, but it is beautiful. Believing the lives will be changed by Christ, living the Gospel, regarding the Bible and acknowledging that Christ died for our sins. YES.”

    I am a simple guy and the ABCCs of Bebbington’s quadrilateral make sense to me. It wasn’t till this time, though, that I had heard it put so simply to me. As a review my somewhat broken theological educational process, Bebbington gives me a place to hang my hat on (I like hats).

    I decided to take a stab at your questions.

    1. Are you defined by your (Christian) walk or your account balance?
    “Trudy and I have lived on what counts as US poverty level finances in Europe for most of our lives. Outside of the lifestyle of the U.S.A, we grew more accustomed to 2nd world nations…so I guess I am equally appalled at U.S. consumerism (arriving late to the party – lived 30 years overseas).

    2. Do you respect or add more value to the views of the wealthy over the views of the poor?

    You mean like Trump? or Tyler Swift? Nope.

    3. Does economic gain determine how you vote and where you worship?

    Abortion is my key voting issue and I guess determines where I worship. It is hard for me to vote for a person who thinks its okay to kill babies (odd that the nation would label Vietnam vets with such hatred but have come to embrace the concept of babycide.)

    4. Do you believe that EVERYONE is your neighbor?
    Everyone has a potential to be my neighbor when they are in need. When they seek to harm mine, they are enemies. I slip back into the need for Holy Violence when I think about Putin, his war in Ukraine, and the burgeoning war between Palestinians and Israelis.

    Wondering if the new Israeli war is not a by product of the Jewish failure to eliminate these tribes when instructed by God to do so (the first time around).

    I guess that is water under the bridge and we will have to deal with the consequences today.


    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Your willingness to share your thoughts is truly a gift.
      This statement, “Wondering if the new Israeli war is not a by product of the Jewish failure to eliminate these tribes when instructed by God to do so (the first time around).” is deep. This will take some further thought and conversation. Perhaps on Friday…

  6. Jonita, my dear friend! WOW! I really felt your heart come through on this one. Speaking of your heart, how is your heart doing in regard to your ex-friend?

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      Hi Todd,

      Hers was the first of many conversations that I found disheartening, disappointing, and hurtful. My heart is fine, I have learned to place people where they are. She has a good heart, I know that to be true, but she is misguided. I’ve learned what is God’s work to do and what is mine. Her evolving, growing and changing…well, that’s God’s work to do. Thank you for asking and for seeing my pain and my heart.

  7. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Hi Jonita! Civil discourse is so hard when we fundamentally disagree on a moral level! I know I am a fairly big critic of the church (and I know there are really good people in it!) but too many times I’ve seen the tug of war of power in the church suffer under who“tithes” holds the power. Or their vote is considered more! So hard when “the almighty dollar” rules. I had some real challenges with family members who voted their faith and I voted opposite and felt like I too was voting my faith! This stuff is hard! Thanks for your reflection! Love your voice!

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I know that it is tough to experience challenges with family members around politics and religion, I am sorry that you have had to go through that. Yeah, I agree, Sis…this stuff is so hard. We must keep pressing forward or as my Mama used to say, “keep on, keeping on!”

  8. Caleb Lu says:

    Jonita, Russell crossed over and left a comment over on the DLGP1 side and it struck me that I would love to read some of y’alls thoughts sometimes too! Even as you were confused how money/capitalism got mixed up in all this, I think you have a great solution in the questions you pose at the end, which I so appreciated! It’s so easy for stuff to just slip in unnoticed when I’m not taking time to ask myself questions and really critically self-reflect. So thank you! I’ll be thinking about these questions this week!

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      It would be Russell to cross over to DLGP1 and leave the portal open (LOL)! Seriously, it was a wonderful surprise to have you read and respond to my post. Thank you for pointing me back to my questions as a solution. I spent so time thinking about them after reading your response. I pray that all is well, my friend!

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