"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
A friend of mine was commenting on the demographic composition of Christians in Singapore as drawn mainly from the middleclass and I replied that there ia nothing wrong with that for God blesses Christians with material comforts.
No, I have not been drinking from the wells of Joel Osteen or Khong Hee. The sense of my claim can be very easily seen in the testimony of Chinese Protestants. I remember an article where they talked about how the Christians there do not smoke or drink or gamble, etc, and are hard working people and all that. You do not require a sociology degree to know that any household which abstains from costly indulgences and becomes much more frugal will be able to accumulate capital and improve their material lot in life.
I am by no means a puritan, I dont believe that it is a sin to drink or smoke or gamble or play computer games. But there is in effect something to the idea of a “Protestant work ethic” and middleclass virtues and all that. It is just plain commonsense that those who adopt the Gospel, the Protestant work ethic and middleclass virtues would inevitably improve their lot in life in a concrete material and empirical sense. I remember a recrnt historian arguing that the composition of the early christians were drawn from the middleclass although of course they did help the poor and all that.
Sometimes the charge that Christianity is just a middle class religion involves two contradictory arguments in two stages. First, they would say Christianity is just an opiate of the masses, it dulls the misery of the poor underclass to their oppression and miserable lot in life, etc, etc, without effecting any real material change in their lives, or maybe it’s just an idle aesthetic indulgence for bored middleclass people to play at religion, a spiritual recreational drug. But when the Christian Gospel does improve their material lot in life, then they’ll turn around and say that Christians are merely greedy and materialistic and hypocritcal for believing in the Gospel for material and empirical benefits and not for elevated pure and spiritual reasons.
In short, if the faith has no empirical material effect on people, it is merely an opium or recreational drug, if it does have such an impact, it is insincere and hypocritical for its materialism. You simply cannot win against these people!
So nowadays I tend to greet theses regarding the motivations of Christians or the so called deep structural forces at work beneath Christianity with a yawn. No matter what happens or what we do, some quack social scientists will formulate some accusation to make against us.