From the title the reader would be forgiven for thinking this article is concerned with some quite grand political and theological concepts. Alas I must begin somewhere a little less lofty: doggy sex.

A friend of mine has fallen on difficult times and needs to come up with some money making ideas. One idea he had was to take his dog, introduce it to another dog, make lots of little dogs, and punt them on at £200 a go. He managed to find a guy who owned the same breed of dog as him and asked if he would be interested in doing a spot of doggy breeding. The reply my friend got was bizarre indeed: “I’ll have to pray about it.”

So there we go. Half the world is starving, the Middle East is a mess, and according to some of the least alarmist green campaigners the world will be melting into a puddle sometime in the next few months, and despite all this this guy thinks that God actually gives a fiddler’s fuck whether or not his bitch gets jiggy with the German Sheppard down the street. I’ve heard some very bizarre prayers in my time: a woman asking God to make her sick cat well, another woman asking for God to help her lose weight so as to fit into a smaller dress size, and a guy asking God to help him stop smoking.

OK. I’m not God (there goes your belief system, eh?) but if I was God these would be my answers to such prayers:

1. Doggy sex? Who cares. Be fruitful and multiply. Just pick their shit up off the street.

2. Take your cat to the vet and have him kill the damned thing, I hate cats, and only created them to give dogs and pigeons something to do. Buy a gerbil.

3. Stop stuffing your fat face with cakes and move your arse once in a while. Haven’t you evolved past the stage were homo sapiens first lifted their knuckles off the ground and hauled themselves upright onto their feet?

4. Stop buying cigarettes and putting them into your mouth.

Or, to summarise: for God’s sake get up off your own arse and do something for yourself for a change. Be responsible and stop expecting divine handouts all the time.

What is it that makes these folks pray the way they do? Is it that Christianity has tended to be cast in terms which lessen individual responsibility for one’s own life: from the doctrine of original sin, to the notion that God has a plan for all our lives, to the rather more absurd notion that our lives have been predestined. These and other religious teachings have heavily denigrated individual responsibility, which may go some of the way to explaining why Christians tend towards more collectivist brands of political ideology and political goals that ride roughshod over individual freedom and rights in favour of “society.”

A year or two ago a telephone poll for Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme revealed that over 70% of callers (the vast majority of which are Christian) stated that they believed capitalism to be incompatible with Christian faith, in fact capitalism seemed to be used as a byword for oppression and exploitation of the poor rather than an expression of freedom and individual responsibility.

One of the ironies of Christian opposition to capitalism is that many Christian critics advocate socialism as an alternative. Capitalism is to them an unchristian political philosophy because they think it exploits the poor. However, in advocating socialism they are supporting a political philosophy that effectively justifies state theft of individual property and money in the name of “a fairer distribution of wealth.” Socialism robs individuals of what is rightfully theirs and gives it to those who have no right to it, since they have not worked for it. It also denigrates personal responsibility – which is the very foundation of any coherent notion of morality. This is supposedly more ‘Christian?’

Capitalism is about freedom: the freedom to choose; and personal responsibility: for the choices we make. For instance, capitalism allows us to choose whether or not we want to be charitable or miserly. Capitalism does not advocate either, contrary to popular belief that it encourages the latter. It is left up to each individual whether or not they wish to donate money to help others. If Christians or any other group wish to support charities or impoverished people then they are perfectly entitled to do so. Anyone who believes in redistribution of wealth is entitled to do just that – with their own wealth – if that is what they wish. All that capitalism denies to people is the right to redistribute the wealth of others without their complicity.

Sometimes Christian socialism is justified by appeal to Jesus’ own teaching about the poor and the oppressed. However, concern for the poor and oppressed is not the same thing as being socialist. I am a capitalist and I have as much concern for the poor as do my more socialist friends. Anyhow, Jesus teaching about looking after the poor presupposes personal responsibility. His message was one for each and every individual. Nowhere does Jesus ever teach socialism or state redistribution of wealth. He teaches freedom, personal responsibility, and moral conduct, and these are actually hindered under a socialist system, which takes the power and responsibility that individuals should have over their own lives and concentrates it in the hands of the administrators of the state. A socialist system does not allow individuals to dispose of their wealth in a moral way. Their wealth is taken from them and used in whatever way the government sees fit – whether that be for homeless people or for the promotion of generally non-Christian ideals – such as gay and lesbian societies. Removing freedom and personal responsibility – thus removing the very basis of morality – can hardly be compatible with the ethos and teaching of Christ. Lets be very clear. Not only is it anachronistic to call Jesus a socialist, it is also to ignore some central tenets and implications of his teaching.

The central tenets of capitalism are not merely compatible with Christian faith but directly mirrored by some central Christian themes. Perhaps Christians need to get to grips with their own faith and take a little bit of personal responsibility for themselves. Did God give you a mind? Use it. Stop expecting divine help for every aspect of your life: what job, what partner, what dog to bonk your German Sheppard. Use your brain, take responsibility, and make a decision. Like the adherents of many other religions Christians could do with a good healthy does of libertarianism.

Will Christians agree with me? They’ll probably have to consult God first.

Stephen Graham