What would Jesus do about nationalizing the means of production?

Anthony Sacramone says, uh, no, taking on a claim in the Huffington Post:

This is what passes for deep thinking at the Huffington Post: an assistant professor of history insists that evangelicals must “hate” Jesus because they’re not socialists. Because Jesus was a socialist, you see.

Really? Jesus ran concentration camps? He murdered people who wore glasses because they were perceived to be intellectuals? He shot dissidents? He confiscated money he didn’t earn in order to fund a massive slave state? He denied the existence of God and claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses? He declaimed against those who wouldn’t arm totalitarian guerrillas? He insisted that personal responsibility for helping the poor should be pawned off on bureaucrats, who, of course, really really care about the poor? Because all that too is socialism, as even an assistant professor should know. . . .

In short: Jesus came to set men free. Socialism came to enslave them to Caesar.

You should read the rest of the rant, the point being that socialism has no right to the moral high ground that many people are giving it.

via Strange Herring | And other signs that the end is near.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kirk

    There are a plethora of issues to discuss here, not the least of which being whether or not Christ should be assigned modern political leans. But, I’m just going to say that Mr. Sacramone has a very narrow and, frankly, ill defined view of socialism.

  • Kirk

    There are a plethora of issues to discuss here, not the least of which being whether or not Christ should be assigned modern political leans. But, I’m just going to say that Mr. Sacramone has a very narrow and, frankly, ill defined view of socialism.

  • Tom Hering

    Jeepers, Kirk. Don’t you know that Socialism is monolithic? This obvious fact is what allows Sacramone to conflate highly selective examples from different times and places.

  • Tom Hering

    Jeepers, Kirk. Don’t you know that Socialism is monolithic? This obvious fact is what allows Sacramone to conflate highly selective examples from different times and places.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    If Jesus had wanted to praise socialism, he had plenty to praise in Roman society–we don’t talk about “bread and circuses” for no reason, after all. Somehow, the Gospels don’t record that He did.

    One would think that the results of real socialism today–economic stagnation at best (unless you find North Sea oil to cover the mistakes), genocide at worst–would disabuse us of the notion that somehow our Lord was against the private property He commends to us.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    If Jesus had wanted to praise socialism, he had plenty to praise in Roman society–we don’t talk about “bread and circuses” for no reason, after all. Somehow, the Gospels don’t record that He did.

    One would think that the results of real socialism today–economic stagnation at best (unless you find North Sea oil to cover the mistakes), genocide at worst–would disabuse us of the notion that somehow our Lord was against the private property He commends to us.

  • Cincinnatus

    Have we entered a time machine to 1968? (Or 1938?) Does anyone seriously advocate socializing the “means of production” anymore? Not even my Marxist friends use language like that.

  • Cincinnatus

    Have we entered a time machine to 1968? (Or 1938?) Does anyone seriously advocate socializing the “means of production” anymore? Not even my Marxist friends use language like that.

  • Joe

    To be fair, I think the list of atrocities are really the side-effects of many of the attempts at socialism throughout history. Some will point to the Scandinavians as an example of peaceful socialists. But then we could debate what does and does not constitute socialism for quite a while.

  • Joe

    To be fair, I think the list of atrocities are really the side-effects of many of the attempts at socialism throughout history. Some will point to the Scandinavians as an example of peaceful socialists. But then we could debate what does and does not constitute socialism for quite a while.

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  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Jesus speaking in the parable of the workers

    Matthew 20:15
    15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?

    The Socialist answer would be ‘No.’

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Jesus speaking in the parable of the workers

    Matthew 20:15
    15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?

    The Socialist answer would be ‘No.’

  • Kirk

    @6 and then in Matthew 22 “Render unto Caesar…”

    I’m a committed capitalist, but lets no aggrandize that which we feel is the best practical functioning of an economy into a divine ordinance.

  • Kirk

    @6 and then in Matthew 22 “Render unto Caesar…”

    I’m a committed capitalist, but lets no aggrandize that which we feel is the best practical functioning of an economy into a divine ordinance.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think the real issue here is two-fold. First, there will never be any system that can overcome the depravity of human nature – it didn’t work for Israel, and it won’t work for us. Second, humanities inherently selfish nature requires many constraints and balances to avoid empowering evil. This can be done – or subverted – in any system.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I think the real issue here is two-fold. First, there will never be any system that can overcome the depravity of human nature – it didn’t work for Israel, and it won’t work for us. Second, humanities inherently selfish nature requires many constraints and balances to avoid empowering evil. This can be done – or subverted – in any system.

  • Michael Z.

    Isn’t the author describing Nazi-ism and Communism, not necessarily all socialism.
    If I remember correctly both the Nazis and the Communists hated the utopian socialists of Europe and England. These utopias lasted a few decades and then dissipated because they didn’t work.
    Broad Generalization makes his legitimate point look silly.

  • Michael Z.

    Isn’t the author describing Nazi-ism and Communism, not necessarily all socialism.
    If I remember correctly both the Nazis and the Communists hated the utopian socialists of Europe and England. These utopias lasted a few decades and then dissipated because they didn’t work.
    Broad Generalization makes his legitimate point look silly.

  • DonS

    Michael Z. @ 9 — most socialism ends up looking pretty totalitarian. Because once you concentrate power in the government, those in government become corrupted and abuse it.

    Cincinnatus @ 4: Yes, we’ve moved beyond the notion of “production”, period. Production is bad, because it pollutes. So instead of nationalizing it, we regulate and tax it to death. And then give everyone a government job, where they don’t have to produce anything.

  • DonS

    Michael Z. @ 9 — most socialism ends up looking pretty totalitarian. Because once you concentrate power in the government, those in government become corrupted and abuse it.

    Cincinnatus @ 4: Yes, we’ve moved beyond the notion of “production”, period. Production is bad, because it pollutes. So instead of nationalizing it, we regulate and tax it to death. And then give everyone a government job, where they don’t have to produce anything.

  • Another Don

    What would Jesus say about this chart?

    http://i.imgur.com/tlG0Y.jpg

  • Another Don

    What would Jesus say about this chart?

    http://i.imgur.com/tlG0Y.jpg

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Another Don, I don’t know what He would say, but I’d start by noting that matching expenditures with proposed or actual tax provisions is a nice way to use dollars to match apples and oranges, and claim that somehow they’re equivalent when they’re not.

    Regarding whether capitalism is God-inspired; of course not, but we can rightly point out that various features of a free society are definitely of God. For example, what about “if a man will not work, neither shall he eat”? We can use this principle to argue that welfare for the able-bodied is not consistent with the Word of God, no?

    In the same way, care for those who are not able-bodied is, Biblically speaking, the province of families and the church–we can legitimately ask whether the consequences we observe of Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare programs are just an accident, or whether it’s something we’d predict from what the Word says about these issues.

    There is no complete fit of Scripture with any worldly political or economic platform, but it would seem that the ones which preserve the rights of the family and church vs. the prerogatives of the government certainly come closest, and that would be free markets and capitalism.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Another Don, I don’t know what He would say, but I’d start by noting that matching expenditures with proposed or actual tax provisions is a nice way to use dollars to match apples and oranges, and claim that somehow they’re equivalent when they’re not.

    Regarding whether capitalism is God-inspired; of course not, but we can rightly point out that various features of a free society are definitely of God. For example, what about “if a man will not work, neither shall he eat”? We can use this principle to argue that welfare for the able-bodied is not consistent with the Word of God, no?

    In the same way, care for those who are not able-bodied is, Biblically speaking, the province of families and the church–we can legitimately ask whether the consequences we observe of Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare programs are just an accident, or whether it’s something we’d predict from what the Word says about these issues.

    There is no complete fit of Scripture with any worldly political or economic platform, but it would seem that the ones which preserve the rights of the family and church vs. the prerogatives of the government certainly come closest, and that would be free markets and capitalism.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Here’s a good article about Socialism and Fascism, and how they compare: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Here’s a good article about Socialism and Fascism, and how they compare: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html

  • Steve Billingsley

    Another Don

    What would Jesus say about running trillion dollar deficits every year?

    The correct answer is I don’t know and the correct answer to your question is that you don’t know either.

    Stop trying to draft Jesus into your political causes. It is misguided at best and heretical at worst.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Another Don

    What would Jesus say about running trillion dollar deficits every year?

    The correct answer is I don’t know and the correct answer to your question is that you don’t know either.

    Stop trying to draft Jesus into your political causes. It is misguided at best and heretical at worst.

  • Digital

    Ironically my facebook post the other day was:
    “Church is not a Democracy, it is a Dictatorship.”

    To which I had several posts of people saying it wasn’t a dictatorship because all dictators are evil-doers who oppress their subjects. So rather than applying the definition of a dictator they redefined it on what they felt was appropriate.
    This scenario is no different, it is an individual who defines the world on their own terms not on the truth. It makes for a very angry bitter life.

  • Digital

    Ironically my facebook post the other day was:
    “Church is not a Democracy, it is a Dictatorship.”

    To which I had several posts of people saying it wasn’t a dictatorship because all dictators are evil-doers who oppress their subjects. So rather than applying the definition of a dictator they redefined it on what they felt was appropriate.
    This scenario is no different, it is an individual who defines the world on their own terms not on the truth. It makes for a very angry bitter life.

  • Porcell

    More than any other economic system capitalism has lifted men and women from poverty. In recent years hundreds of millions of Asians have been lifted from poverty due to capitalism.

    The Judeo Christian religion in that over time it came to value freedom and equality favors an economy in which free people make their own fundamental economic choices.

  • Porcell

    More than any other economic system capitalism has lifted men and women from poverty. In recent years hundreds of millions of Asians have been lifted from poverty due to capitalism.

    The Judeo Christian religion in that over time it came to value freedom and equality favors an economy in which free people make their own fundamental economic choices.

  • steve

    I think Jesus would have humbled himself to dwell among us sinners, live a perfect life in our stead, teach us to love God and our neighbor, and die a sinner’s death in our stead.

    Can we agree that’s all that matters in this regard and that everything else is just silly partisan speculation?

  • steve

    I think Jesus would have humbled himself to dwell among us sinners, live a perfect life in our stead, teach us to love God and our neighbor, and die a sinner’s death in our stead.

    Can we agree that’s all that matters in this regard and that everything else is just silly partisan speculation?

  • Steve Billingsley

    steve (#17)
    I totally agree.
    Political economy is important and we should try to be as informed and participate in the discussion intelligently. And we should seek to hear God speak to us in such a way that our views are consistent with faith in Him. But we should own our views as our views, not present them as having been rubber-stamped by Jesus Himself.

  • Steve Billingsley

    steve (#17)
    I totally agree.
    Political economy is important and we should try to be as informed and participate in the discussion intelligently. And we should seek to hear God speak to us in such a way that our views are consistent with faith in Him. But we should own our views as our views, not present them as having been rubber-stamped by Jesus Himself.

  • helen

    Porcell @ 16
    More than any other economic system capitalism has lifted men and women from poverty. In recent years hundreds of millions of Asians have been lifted from poverty due to capitalism.

    And millions of Americans have not been able to improve their standard of living in 30 years because “capitalism” has exported their jobs to those Asian countries. There was no chance to “make your own economic choice” on the assembly lines, only in the board rooms. And the board room occupants profit greatly, at our expense.
    Even most of our independent farmers, once the back bone of democracy, (e.g. in Wisconsin)
    are serfs for the food and fertilizer conglomerates.

  • helen

    Porcell @ 16
    More than any other economic system capitalism has lifted men and women from poverty. In recent years hundreds of millions of Asians have been lifted from poverty due to capitalism.

    And millions of Americans have not been able to improve their standard of living in 30 years because “capitalism” has exported their jobs to those Asian countries. There was no chance to “make your own economic choice” on the assembly lines, only in the board rooms. And the board room occupants profit greatly, at our expense.
    Even most of our independent farmers, once the back bone of democracy, (e.g. in Wisconsin)
    are serfs for the food and fertilizer conglomerates.

  • Porcell

    Helen, you suffer from the essentially Marxist illusion that those people in the boardrooms are involved in a conspiracy against ordinary American people. The truth still holds that the vast majority of Americans who graduate from high school, develop work skills, and stay married will over-time enjoy a middle-class lifestyle that far surpasses most of the world.

    Most economists are agreed that free trade, including that of labor, in the long run improves economic conditions. The more America allows free trade, the better off the country will be. Yes, short term economic adjustments are painful, though most sensible people work through them. Free economies are always involved in creative destruction.

    Your view that the people in the board rooms are out to do in the American people is rather mistaken. Americans, at least materially, enjoy still enjoy substantial wealth. The truth is that most Americans still own their own homes, cars, televisions, and computers, as well as retirement funds invested in stocks and bonds.

    America’s most crucial problem is government spending that has become dangerously unsustainable, not the relatively minor problem of jobs lost over the short term to overseas nations, your crude conspiracy view notwithstanding.

  • Porcell

    Helen, you suffer from the essentially Marxist illusion that those people in the boardrooms are involved in a conspiracy against ordinary American people. The truth still holds that the vast majority of Americans who graduate from high school, develop work skills, and stay married will over-time enjoy a middle-class lifestyle that far surpasses most of the world.

    Most economists are agreed that free trade, including that of labor, in the long run improves economic conditions. The more America allows free trade, the better off the country will be. Yes, short term economic adjustments are painful, though most sensible people work through them. Free economies are always involved in creative destruction.

    Your view that the people in the board rooms are out to do in the American people is rather mistaken. Americans, at least materially, enjoy still enjoy substantial wealth. The truth is that most Americans still own their own homes, cars, televisions, and computers, as well as retirement funds invested in stocks and bonds.

    America’s most crucial problem is government spending that has become dangerously unsustainable, not the relatively minor problem of jobs lost over the short term to overseas nations, your crude conspiracy view notwithstanding.


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