I’m always keen to give other writers a chance to submit articles for this blog and share their views and opinions. I’ve had two sent to me over the last couple of weeks coming from very different viewpoints on the subject of Christianity and socialism. The first is below. It’s by Dominic Moass who is a 17-year-old A-level student. He describes himself as a right-leaning, Euroskeptic, with a firm belief in God. He blogs at Politics from A Level Perspective. Please do give him some feedback.
The second of these two articles will be published next week.
Reading through the New Testament, it can be easy to see why someone might jump to the conclusion that Christians should be socialists, even communists. Jesus’ primary message was to love others, and former soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev even remarked ‘Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.’ However, why then are there so many dominant, right-leaning Christian groups, the so-called ‘religious right?’ And are there alternatives to this socialism which is seemingly advocated in the New Testament, or are all Christians really called to socialism?
First, an exploration of how some may come to view Christians as being called to socialism, as I put it. Perhaps most obviously, there’s two key verses in Acts 1:44-45 (NIV): ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.‘ It is not hard to see from these verses how one could expect Christians be socialist. Indeed, this goes beyond socialism, sounding instead like the early church was communist. In John 13:34, Jesus also outlines how we should love each other: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Putting the two verses together, one conclusion can be reached almost immediately – as those who ‘had need’ were given to accordingly, the early church seemingly believed this to be the most loving thing.
Indeed, the two verses from Acts seem a fitting description of the welfare state, being that which many socialists, in the UK at least, believe should be used to redistribute wealth in a more equal fashion within society. However, is this the loving thing to do, if love was the basis on which the apostles worked when they gave freely to those in need? This is where I start to build my case that, in-fact, Christians are not called to socialism.
Because, if the early church acted out of love with this seemingly pre-modern welfare state, today it might not be the most loving thing to do. For example, I strongly agreed with the government’s recent curbing of, as I see it, excessive welfare, with measure such as an overall cap on claimants income. My reasoning is that the gradual growth of this ‘dependency culture’ is not beneficial to people, or to put it into the biblical context of John 13:34, it is not the loving thing to do. Rather, making work and an honest wage pay more than benefits is the loving thing to do as they teach valuable life skills about working hard and earning, rather than having everything done for oneself. Paul writes along these lines in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 (NIV): ‘For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”’
That is a very narrow exploration of how Christians aren’t called to socialism, based on the premise of doing the loving thing, as Jesus taught. Key to the verses from Acts 1:44-45 is that those provided for ‘had need’ and thus the loving thing to do was to provide for them. Modern socialism, however, doesn’t take need into account, and as such things like an over-generous welfare aren’t in accordance with the teachings of the New Testament. Relax, Christians, we won’t be voting Respect just yet.