Is Socialism Christian?
A letter to a young Christian
In your letter you asked if socialism is Christian. By asking this question, I am assuming you are asking whether or not it is compatible with Christianity. Before answering the question, we might need to ask another question. Does it work? Socialism, like so many other theoretical systems of man, looks good on paper, but in real life, it doesn’t seem to work very well. History seems to verify that socialism is flawed and not a workable system. In fact, it has never worked anywhere in the world. It promises equality and plenty for all but seems to make everyone equally poor, except the top two percent. Of course, all those who endorse or promote it imagine themselves as being a part of the two percent.
Not only has socialism failed in other countries, it has failed here in America as well. The first two settlements in this country attempted a pure communistic type community. These communities had common storehouses and no currency. In other words, they had no money. Everyone could take from the storehouse what they needed. I believe these communities included Jamestown and Plymouth. Now keep in mind that these were deeply devoted Christians who loved one another. In a short time the storehouses were empty and the communities were near starvation. The leadership was forced to change to a purely capitalistic system. “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” In a short time the community was thriving and people were back working. Even those who were sickly and weak miraculously got better and went to work. There is something about the grim reaper of starvation that seems to motivate people to work.
For socialism to work, massive power must be given to the state in order for the state to be able to manipulate and control the masses. The state must have enough power to change human nature and do away with sloth and greed. The problem with this is that the state can never have enough power to change human nature for human nature cannot be changed. The people who believe that it can are materialists who believe that humanity has no nature, which contradicts our faith and is rejected by science. However, if you do believe that the state can, with enough power, change human nature, you then have a problem with who will control the state. Once the state has been given this massive power it will soon become demonic as it begins to plan and control the lives of every individual. No group of men should ever have this kind of power. Remember that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Here is where we see the wisdom of the founding fathers of our nation. They knew for men to be free there must be limits placed on the size and power of government, lest government exalts itself to the place of God. We should be thankful to our founding fathers who instilled in our form of government limitations on the power of government.
It is a well-kept secret that the founding fathers knew all about socialism and communalism. Benjamin Franklin ran into it in France and was less than impressed. He saw the theories of socialism as the source of the bloody French Revolution and the chaos that followed. Samuel Adams said of socialism: “The utopian schemes of leveling (redistribution of the wealth) and a community of goods (central ownership of all the means of production and distribution) are as visionary and impracticable as those which ivest all property in the Crown. (These ideas) are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional.”
The reasons for socialism failing are many. One of the greatest, I believe, is the fact that it is based on a false view of human nature. It assumes and arrogates that man is basically good and born totally neutral in his nature toward good and evil. In other words, he is born into the world as a blank slate on which his environment writes the script of his life. This theory sets in motion a number of dangerous concepts. One is that through centralized planning the government can manipulate the very nature of man. The government can remake man to be unselfishly seeking what is the best for the community. They believe that government can undo all the faulty programming put into an individual by the institutions of a capitalistic system. If the institutions cannot be reformed or captured by the government they must be destroyed. This is why socialistic and communistic governments are never friendly toward Christianity or any religion. They see religion as a major hindrance to their central planning and manipulation.
Moreover, this centralized planning and its corresponding manipulation raises some serious questions. Who will do the planning and who will choose the agenda? Who will determine what constitutes the good? This view of man as a blank slate is also in conflict with the Christian faith which teaches that man basically has the propensity to do evil. Some refer to this propensity toward evil as original sin. However, you do not need the Bible to tell you that men are prone to evil; just read a newspaper. It is one of those self-evident truths that the founders spoke about.
Now, the greatest danger with this false worldview of man and his nature is that there is enough truth in it to make it believable. The truth is that man is both good and evil. In this, man is a unique creature who has a dual nature. He stands uniquely between heaven and earth. He has a will both to do good and evil. In other words, every man has a shadow. Therefore, our faith teaches that man needs God to strengthen his desire to do good and grace to keep him from doing evil. Left to himself, he will tend to gravitate toward the evil. It is also true that many men and maybe even the majority can be manipulated by controlling their environment, but there are always the exceptions, and we all like to think that we are the exception. These exceptions are what demonstrate that the humanistic view of man’s nature is false.
Now, if we compare socialism and Christianity, we will see a tremendous contrast. First, the church never was constituted by Jesus to force people to pay taxes or give to their neighbor. It is not an institutional Robin Hood. In the same vein, Jesus never took away from the rich to give to the poor. In fact, Jesus never commanded His disciples to give to the poor. He simply assumed that they would out of their love for their brothers. He did command them to love one another. He knew that out of love would come a freewill offering from their hearts. He had no need to level taxes or ties on them. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
The Bible or our faith should not be used to justify any kind of collectivism which invariably will take economic freedom away from the individual and lead into totalitarianism of the worst kind. Socialism seems to be an attempt by secular man to control his own greed and his love for money. In this, those who endorse socialism fail to realize that money is a spiritual power that cannot be defined or defeated by any earthly systems. Jesus spoke of it as a spiritual power, as an idol that rules in the hearts of men. Only God can destroy the love of money in the hearts of men by replacing it with love for God and their brothers.
I have a friend who is a socialist and believes that the government should have a lot of programs to help the poor. However, he believes that paying taxes is his giving. He very seldom gives money away personally and on a spiritual level that is the only way to defeat its power. Even in giving your money away, such giving should be done with the upmost caution and wisdom. It should be done in humility and not for the purpose of seeking the praises of men. The Lord said, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Giving in secret will strengthen your heart with grace.
You also need to remember that giving money to people can often hurt them and actually create resentment. Money is a mediator. Do you remember the song that says “money talks”? Money does talk; it tells you who the boss is and it mediates between the classes. In a recent survey I read, the largest group of people that dislike the government was those who received the most benefits from the government. Money does not bind people together; it separates people. If you ever want to get rid of a friend, just loan him some money. You will immediately see a change in your relationship because you are no longer his equal; you have become his benefactor.
Socialism will never serve God’s purpose in the world nor any other system of man; this includes capitalism, though at the present time capitalism seems to be the lesser of two evils. When you take money away from one group to give it to another, it has nothing to do with righteousness or goodness in a Christian world view. Socialists refer to their distribution of money as social justice. In some cultures it might be called stealing. The rich and powerful in every society including socialistic ones, give money to the poor for two reasons: To keep the poor in their places and for their own glory and praise. As Jesus said, “They love the praises of men.” Look at what the presidential candidates gave to the poor a year before the election: almost nothing. Don’t think for a minute that any government really cares for the poor. The poor are used as pawns in their political chess game.
Only in Christ is found the true equality of the rich and the poor. For in Christ there are no rich and poor, professionals and nonprofessionals, educated and uneducated; for all are one in Christ. In Christ the rich and the poor are blind to each other’s social standing. “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom fall and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business” (James 1:9-11).
Mankind has had many utopian schemes to bring heaven down to earth. The Tower of Babel was one such scheme, and we see how it ended in misery and chaos. Remember what the Bible said, “It is not in man that walks to direct his steps.” In the story of the fall of man in the book of Genesis, it is recorded that when God ejected the man from the garden, he set two angels with flaming swords at the gate to make sure that mankind would never enter by his own power. The pied pipers of progress have been trying to storm those gates since the dawn of time. Some of them may have good intentions, but they have caused great misery and chaos in the world. Their good intentions gave rise to communism which has killed over 100,000,000 people in the name of equality. It has also created a welfare class that is dependent on the ruling class for its bread and circuses. In doing this, it has stripped these people of their humanity and the dignity that comes from self-sufficiency. These people may think they are doing good, but the devil has a way of using the misguided good to do evil.
Therefore, I encourage you to be wise in your search for social justice and in the ways that you help your fellow man. Make sure that all you do encourages and builds up all those whom you are trying to help. Remember the words of President Lincoln: “If you give a man a loaf of bread you feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” Above all, remember to point people to Jesus Christ and the one and only true heaven.