This entry stems from a recent awakening I’ve had. When I was growing up, I was unofficially taught that Christianity only aligned with conservative politics. With a few exceptions, the Christians I knew feared the political left because they felt threatened by some liberals’ anti-God attitude. Only the GOP will protect your God, I was told. It is more important, they said, to protect marriage and outlaw abortion than worry about the poor. The poor can wait, because, after all, you earned your money. It’s about hard work. Each person has what they’ve earned. Those who don’t work hard enough, well, that’s not your problem. You deserve to keep what you earned. So conveniently enough, conservative policies protected “morality” along with wealth. It’s a win-win for suburban Christians, the best of both worlds.
Thankfully, I didn’t completely buy into this logic. I always considered myself a moderate, someone who despised both political parties. I was alienated from the left because so many of them (or at least the most vocal ones) were clearly opposed to religion, to God. Why would I want to be a part of a party that thinks I’m ignorant, that denies the most important part of my life? The left was out. But the right wasn’t much better. They may not deny God, but they do worse. They use God for their own advantage. Parade your materialist-driven, selfish policies under the banner of Christianity and you can win the hearts of mainstream America. Not cool. So there goes the right. And unfortunately, my moderate-I-hate-all-politics stance doesn't do much in the way of feeding the hungry or sheltering the poor.
And then there's socialism. What is it exactly? How does it fit in with Christianity? Why don’t more Christian’s embrace it? In response to the latter question, Christians feel alienated by the left. They sense (as I often do) the prevalent anti-God sentiments voiced by so many liberals. Christians are human, and it’s hard for us to find common ground with people we feel threatened by. Despite this, I have a feeling that more Christians would agree with socialist policies if someone explained to them what it really meant. One of the main stumbling blocks to socialism is the word itself, which is loaded with connotations and misconceptions preventing a lot of people from accepting it.
So what is socialism exactly, and why would so many Christians embrace it if they understood it better…. Well, for starters, socialism aims to undo the harms and injustices found in capitalist systems which can include a redistribution of wealth that is subject to social control. Social democrats want to establish a society where people have a more or less equality of opportunity to flourish. Everyone should have access to the means necessary to live meaningful lives. This can include, but is not limited to, access to quality health care and education. Why would Christians be opposed to everyone having an equal opportunity to flourish? I don’t think they would be opposed, if they saw socialism in that way. After realizing this, they may very well take up the socialist banner.
So what is it about Christianity that lends itself to promoting social justice? If you take a look at the early Church, you’ll see that the first Christians not only valued social justice, but they lived it. These Christians often lived in communes where wealth was shared, and you made sure you took care of your neighbors. These Christians didn't value wealth. They knew that if you served the things of this world, there wouldn’t be any place for God in your life.
We were commanded to feed the poor, support widows and orphans, and look after the sick. The wealth we are given on earth is not our own. It belongs to God. He entrusted us with it so that we would put it to good use, to glorify Him. Luke 12:48 says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” The more wealth you are blessed with, the greater responsibility you have to use that wealth to serve those in need. It’s not a hard concept to preach, but it’s a hard lesson to live. Why do we gripe about taxes being too high when we live in luxury and those around us don’t have enough to eat or a place to sleep?? We are a selfish lot, and the world knows it. Why would you want to become a Christian when the only Christians you see hoard their wealth while children live in poverty? It is in part because we have been taught to fear those who would join with us in the fight for social justice. The right-wing has exploited faith, and used people’s sense of morality to keep them from doing the morally right thing.
In the book of Matthew Jesus says, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away…Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
And as for non-economic justice, well Jesus came to level the playing field. Galations 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” When Christ came, he made us all equal in God’s eyes. So if Jesus doesn’t see our race, sex, or class, then we shouldn’t see them in each other either. This means we need to take care of everyone, not just ourselves and those like us.
Here's a quote from Rev. Roden Noel: "Surely that man or woman is no Christian at all, except in name, in so far as he or she remains indifferent to the awful abyss that yarns between rich and poor; to the insufficiency of the share in our immense wealth which falls to the lot of those who produce it."
So what would Jesus think about conservative economic policies? Would Jesus care if the poor were marginalized? Or would Jesus want his sons and daughters to take care of those in need? I think the answer is pretty obvious. Loving God’s children is the best way we can glorify Him, and it’s the best way to show them God’s love. If they don’t experience God’s love, then why would they want to love Him in return? The best testimony we can have is through our actions, not our words. Would Jesus be a socialist? Maybe he would, but that’s not the point. The point is that what we’re doing right now isn’t working. We aren’t taking care of each other, so we need to change the way we do things. Let’s not make a mockery of God. Instead, let us start being the salt and light of the earth, as Jesus called us to be.
“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:6)
Something to think about.