Socialism: What Would Jesus Do?

Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity.

As political division increases, people on every side are increasingly keen on bolstering the legitimacy of their political philosophy. Sometimes, this means reaching outside the realm of politics and into religion to attempt to appeal to higher values. For some, this involves going so far as claiming that Jesus Christ himself would be a supporter or believer in one side or the other. Many Christians, even some conservative Christians, will admit that they believe Jesus envisioned an idealized socialist society for humanity. Their claim is that socialism represents Christian charity put into widespread practice. (As a note, in this article I will be referring to Jesus in the past tense, though Jesus is alive in heaven today, just for simplicity, and to indicate that I am referring to his time teaching incarnate.)

I think it’s important that we define socialism in the way that socialist Christians would before we can address this idea. When people make the claim that socialism and Christianity go hand-in-hand, they are referring to an idealistic and theoretical sort of socialism. We all know that, in reality, socialism as it has been historically implemented has not worked. Socialism, in theory, means that the community owns the means of production of goods and handles distribution of wealth. This would allow for provision for the poor while opposing extreme wealth by a few. It means radical social change and justice for the underserved. By itself, this sounds like something that Christians really ought to support. These ideas are, after all, part of the worldview that Jesus spent time promoting. Of course we should want to serve the poor. On the surface, it makes sense that we should vote for a system that would implement Jesus’ teachings, even if it wouldn’t work out as intended. However, voting in favor of socialism would actually go against many of Jesus’ teachings.

First, Jesus would not have been political at all. Had Jesus been alive (in the flesh) today, he would not have participated in marches or engaged in political debate or even voted. You will never find an instance anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus endorses politicians or bureaucrats or gives them the power to allocate resources, nor does he tell anyone how to run their business. He really has nothing to say about how the economy ought to be run. Christians in support of certain modern political structures fight to claim Jesus as their own or as the ultimate authoritative supporter of their ideals. Forcing Jesus and his teachings to conform to the structures we have developed today subverts his universal and ultimate authority by making him fit into our limited view of the world.

At the very core of his being, Jesus was charitable. The definition of “charity”, according to the King James Bible dictionary, is “In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good”. Charity is, importantly, freely given. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says that “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. You are not fulfilling your Christian duty to help the poor if you “give” because someone with more power forces you to do so. 

The truth is, socialism is completely antithetical to the Christian ideal of charity. There is no benevolence in socialism. There is no free will in socialism. Even if socialism “worked” as it should, if all the funds taken by the government were redistributed to the poor, it would not be Christian. 

But, what about the events in Acts 4:32-35? This seems to be an ideal society of believers providing for one another by laying their money at the apostles’ feet, who would then give it to anyone who had need. Further, in Acts 5, a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and only gave part of the proceeds to the community. The apostle Peter knew of their deception and condemned their actions, at which point God struck them dead. Does this not indicate that we should aim to live in a redistributive society, and that people ought to be punished who don’t do their part? Answer: it does not.

What should be noted about this passage is that the believers did not live under a governmental regime that held the threat of force over their heads lest they not pay their societal dues. Everyone participated and contributed willingly, and the only one who reserved the right to inflict punishment for disobedience was God himself. Additionally, the apostles were the ones carrying out redistribution. They were men of God and their actions were according to God’s will. The same cannot be said for money laid at the feet of a secular governing body. Such a body cannot be trusted to carry out the Lord’s will, and as such, giving money to them, rather than to legitimate men of God or directly to the needy, will not carry out the Lord’s will. 

Jesus wants people to choose to follow him. He wanted them to want to give charity due to a personal spiritual drive originating in the heart. This is the core of the principle of free will. You aren’t doing your Christian duty by simply paying your taxes under socialism. Charity is freely given and done as a result of faith, as a part of free will. Socialism tries to appear charitable, but even if it did “work”, the “giving” would not come freely from the heart and would therefore not be Christian.

Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity.

Socialists claim that Jesus disdained the rich, citing his driving of the money-changers from the Temple and his remark that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Jesus did condemn the hoarding of wealth, telling us that it is better to lay up treasures in heaven than on earth. But you’ve the right to be a rich atheist if you choose. You can also be a rich Christian, if you use that wealth wisely. Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity. All it will do is create a worldly body that infringes on people’s legitimate rights to their own property and mask the crucial importance of the heart in matters of giving.

Government controls from the outside-in, while discipleship transforms from the inside-out. Jesus sought to complete his vision via discipleship, focusing on the means rather than on the ends. He didn’t establish a government or any sort of governing body during his time on earth. Outside-in control will lead to resentment and rebellion and resistance against truth. Inside-out transformation will lead to new life and to revelation of the truth.

Socialist Club Founded at Trinity

The Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter wants to build a “socialist world and a democratic socialist future.”

Last year, Gallup poll released a survey showing that “43% of Americans say socialism would be a good thing for the country.” Now, that figure has spread to Trinity University. 

On Monday, Jan 27, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) club held their first meeting in the Storch Memorial building. In total, about 33 students—some who openly claimed to be communists—attended the meeting.

In flyers handed out during spring Club Rush, YDSA Trinity states that they are “training a new generation of socialist leaders” to build a “better, socialist world… [and] a democratic socialist future.”

Victoria Henretty, co-chair of YDSA Trinity, said she wanted to start the club after going to meetings for YDSA at UTSA. “I became super interested… [and heard] that people at Trinity were trying to start it but were graduating or had lack of motivation,” Henretty said. “I wanted to see more action on campus. I thought TProg (Trinity Progressives) wasn’t as involved as I wanted them to be and too broad to my taste.”

However, Henretty also stated that YDSA Trinity “is very open to working with a lot with student groups” and allowing TProg to handle electoral activism on campus while they handle more social activism.

In terms of goals and action that YDSA wants to take, Henretty said they want to start a divestment campaign. “We want Trinity to stop taking investment money from oil and gas,” she said. YDSA also plans to focus on activism regarding prison abolishment with respects to Aramark, ecosocialism and pushing for more health and mental care resources on campus.

At the moment, it’s unknown how the introduction of YDSA will impact political culture and activism at Trinity University but it does look like leftism is here to stay at Trinity with a newly found voice.

From Socialism to Liberty

By Stephan Lopez.

Back when I was a freshman in the wake of the 2016 election, I felt abandoned by my party. The Democratic National Convention (DNC) had exposed its true nature when it didn’t give the nomination to Bernie Sanders, who I believe should have won the primary. To know that the man that controlled the debate topics and carried much larger crowds still lost really made me wonder about the legitimacy of the party. Amidst the Trump run, I decided to give him a chance but I still held onto my socialist values of Medicare for all, high taxes, and other government subsidies. Then, the impossible happened: Trump actually won. I wasn’t really shocked by the results but more by other students’ reactions. Some people cried, others wallowed, and some celebrated and I just kept working. I reminded liberals that it was their fault for denying Bernie the opportunity to run. I still believe the battle of the political ideologies should have been dished out between Bernie & Trump, but I will settle for good ol’ AOC from Brooklyn.

It was probably halfway into my sophomore year at Trinity that my whole political view started to change. One of the things that really got me started was rereading some of the founding documents. The Constitution & Bill of Rights are great at reminding us about the American ideal that we used to all agree upon. Go even deeper and you may find your way into the Federalist Papers to see how they debated government in their day. These writings show some of the best mockery dished out between Hamilton and Jefferson as they debated the formation of the federal government. The debate then wasn’t about what things counted as rights, but rather the functional role and size of the federal government. This contrasts the current political state that seeks to grow its reach and power, deciding for the people what rights they have and do not have.

By this point in my life, I’d gathered a lot more experience through work, school, family, and friendships, so when I got to reading these things it felt like a whole new message. I’m not talking sleazy political messages, but more of a deep-rooted belief. One of the things that truly makes someone a Texan, more than being born here, is that you take things with a rootin-tootin attitude. This means that I have always loved guns, but also that I don’t get weighed down with my own faults or others and instead try to be exemplary. It is this state of mind that slowly took over, helped me through the toughest of times, and made me realize what it means to be a Texan, once I knew that it was easy to know what I stand for. Ultimately when I realized that the government has no power to grant rights to people I figured it was upon each one of us, as individuals, to come together and regain control of our lives instead of entrusting them to the government.

Even as a socialist, this idea applied to me. Although I didn’t like the idea of having to pay out of pocket for medical expenses, I further disliked the idea of a bureaucrat telling me that I cannot receive a certain treatment or drug because it isn’t within their bill. Instead we should all work together, whether through church, family, or community, before we even mention government intervention. That was the root of all the problems that came with socialism. In the Founders’ days, no one truly trusted the federal government to do anything except collect taxes, so why should we allow it full control of our lives? It was within our Constitution, that explicitly warns against a tyrannical and giant government, that I could find solace in my new political stance: libertarianism.

Photo: Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.