Christian Socialists

Christian Socialists December 28, 2020

Those who simply identify Marxism, Communism, and socialism, and view socialism and Christianity as inherently incompatible, have never read The Communist Manifesto and have never understood the Bible. In most instances they also don’t understand American democracy either.

I say that it is clear they have not read Marx and Engels because one of the things they do in their manifesto is argue against other varieties of communism and socialism, including Christian varieties. Even before that Engels quoted a statement by Renan that already earlier in the 19th century recognized a similarity between early Christian communities and forms of socialism that predate Marx and Engels.

I say they have not understood the Bible because the Bible says so much about economic justice. It certainly does call on people to be generous. But it does not leave the matter there. It establishes laws that require people to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor can eat from them. That is a tax of crops rather than money (the latter is a relatively recent invention and even in ancient Israel was not always part of transactions and payments, so that people tithed and paid taxes in the form of produce), and a form of economic redistribution. The law pertaining to the Jubilee year cancelled debts once a generation. In the New Testament, we can contrast what both Jesus and his mother had to say with what Vice President Mike Pence recently said:

Mike Pence: “They want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable.”
Mary the mother of Jesus: “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”
Jesus: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”

There is a contrast there that is striking, and yet so many conservative Christians who claim not only to believe the Bible but to be its defenders show no awareness of the tensions between what the Bible says and the political and economic stances and parties they support.

I also accused those who reject “socialists” of “anti-Christian” and not understanding democracy in the United States. I say this because what they objected to about Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe was not only the economic policies but the lack of freedom and democracy. In the United States it is so ironic to hear conservative Christian Republicans and the like speak about “government control” as though the U. S. government were not designed to be an expression of the will of the people. Whether it works in practice in general or on any specific occasion would have to be investigated. The point here is to highlight that in the U. S. one can only play the will of the people off over against “the government” if one has abandoned the democratic principles on which the United States was founded.

Ultimately I might not accuse conservative Christian Republicans of having abandoned the Christian faith only because of the above forms of dishonesty and biblical ignorance. Not knowing ancient Israel’s laws and perhaps missing the Lukan beatitudes might be forgivable however appalling and disappointing. But the way they mischaracterize their opponents as “libs” without any effort to understand or to engage honestly with the views of Christians like myself shows they are opposed to Jesus at a much more fundamental level. They reject his teaching to love enemies, for that is what they consider Christians like me. They reject his call to treat others the way they would want to be treated. And so there seems little reason to beat around the bush. Modern conservative Christians, even those who claim to have repented and believed the gospel, have shown themselves to be antichrists rather than followers of Christ.

I say this on the basis of yet another of Jesus’ teachings that they ignore: by their fruits you shall know them.

Of related interest:

Atwater’s Explanation Still Applies

Is the Bible socialist?

Is “Trumpianity” the latest “folk religion?”

Evangelicals are the “Trumpiest demographic in America”

Nicholas Kristof’s interview with Jim Wallis

It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed

Not many powerful, not many of noble birth

Kinzinger called Trump’s efforts to overturn the election a money-making scam

Do Marxism and Christianity have anything in common?

The Virus Didn’t Defeat America, Freedom Did

Previously on this blog:

Ruth: Romance, Racism, and Redistribution

The Bible and Economic and Social Justice: Following Ruth into Leviticus

Justice, Not Charity

Scribblings in the Margins of the Law

The Year in Quotes on Posters

Browse Our Archives