Saturday, November 5, 2011

Your Savior Was a Commie

In recent weeks, since my defense of the Occupy Wall Street movement and my pleas for greater income equality in the United States, I have been attacked by some conservatives as a socialist and a communist.

In response to these charges, I would say that, if by a "socialist" or a "communist" you mean that I believe that government has a positive role to play in assuring some level of basic equality among its citizens, then I stand accused. I've never denied that I think that a very well-regulated economy that protects the most vulnerable members of the society from being preyed upon by the rich and powerful is optimal. And, if you choose to label that particular view as "socialist," then I'm more than willing to embrace that title.

As a matter of fact, I derived my socialist leanings from a very good source: at one time I was inspired by a certain radical fellow by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who would almost certainly be considered a "socialist" and a "communist" by many conservative Christians today. I would bet that, if Jesus was around right now, you'd be more likely to find him hanging out with the young protesters in Zuccotti Park then you would in the boardrooms of Wall Street. If you think otherwise, then you probably have not spent much time reading the gospels.

For example, try this little passage from Matthew 25:

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life”.

...or check out the following passage from James 2:1-7:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If sentiments like these aren't socialist, then, baby, I don't know what is!

Wall Street Christians and conservative evangelicals may have forgotten just how radical the animating spirit of Christianity is, but it hasn't been lost on the Pope. His latest encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" would be slammed by reactionaries as "socialist" and "communist" if it wasn't being promulgated by the same guy who has spoken out so fiercely against abortion, birth control, the ordination of women, and gay rights.

When I reflect upon just how radical the teachings of Jesus, his early followers, and the Pope are on economic issues, it actually makes me feel quite ashamed of my own relative conservatism. I certainly would never think of asking people to give away all their wealth to the poor (Luke 1: 25-35) or claim that it is impossible to love God if you are working on Wall Street (Luke 16:9-13; Mark 10:17-31). Perhaps that's why I hesitate to call myself a Christian: if the passages I've cited above represent the standard for what it means to be a follower of Christ, then I could never in a million years be a real Christian.

I love my Ipod far too much.


  1. When you find a real Christian, would you please let me know. I'd really like to meet one some day.

  2. Whatever the founders of Christianity may have thought, the Church has become a conservative institution. It's goal is not to upend the social order, but to work from within it. At best, its goal is to moderate excessess within contemporary corporate capitalism. Of course, like any institution, the Church rarely functions at its best, and that's why throughout its history it has become corrupted by the very political order it seeks to correct.

  3. Christ ASKED those who had, as individuals, to GIVE to those who were least fortunate. He did not petition the people to increase the power of the government to TAKE, by force, at the point of a gun, from those who had. Quite the opposite, he lived to help free people from the shackles of governmental control.

    Socialism and Communism are about forcing and controlling people to cede to the will and benefit of the collective (as determined by a select few who hold the reins and control the collective).

    Christianity is about promoting generosity of the individual's heart, not supporting increasing the power of government.

    Christianity is not the failure. Individual people, who are evil by nature, who fall short of the glory of Christ, are the failure. Government is the construct of man, and as such, is evil by nature. Jesus believed in the goodness of man, despite his evil nature, and therefore would advocate less control by government.

    Jesus would definitely be anti-socialist and anti-communist.

  4. Right-wing Christians only like the Pope when he is talking about birth control and abortion. They think that he's ignorant when he makes his comments about the economy. Talk about cherry picking your beliefs!