Jesus Christ: Socialist?
Credit: Christopher Williams, RTC Deputy Secretary
"Who is the covetous man? One for whom plenty is not enough. Who is the defrauder? One who takes away what belongs to everyone. And are not you covetous, are you not a defrauder, when you keep for private use what you were given for distribution? When some one strips a man of his clothes we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not—should not he be given the same name? The bread in your hoard belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. All you might help and do not—to all these you are doing wrong." - St. Basil of Caesarea
To start: I am a Marxist-Leninist, not a Christian. With that being said, I can't help but love the figure of Jesus Christ in the Bible. In Christ, I see a fellow revolutionary, a radical community worker helping the oppressed at every point and pointing people to a new and better world. Now, I am not going to make the absurd claim that Jesus was a Marxist, as Marxism is socialism rooted in science and materialism; whereas, Christ's politics are rooted in religion and idealism. I will, however, argue that Christ's teachings are compatible with a religious based socialism utterly opposed to capitalism at every point, and thus, his followers must be also to be true Christians. Further, I will do it in Christian terms. All of the biblical quotes will be taken from the New American Standard edition of the Christian Bible for the shear literal nature of its translation.
"And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way." - Luke 6:20-26
Now, the Beatitudes are generally considered the very core of Christ's ethical teachings. Right out of the gates, we have Christ both recognizing that economic classes exist and immediately showing with which class he stands in solidarity and which class receives his disdain. This disdain for the wealthy classes is reiterated in the Parable of the Rich Fool:
"And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” - Luke 12:16-21
"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” - Luke 16:13
Capitalism is, of course, rooted at every point on the accumulation of worldly profits, and yet, Christ makes the exact opposite central to his doctrine of salvation:
"A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” - Luke 18:18-25
“But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence, the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.” - Gustavo Gutiérrez
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