amy courts: en route


Was Jesus a Socialist: The Discussion Continues…

A point of clarification I’m allowed to make 30-comments-in, just because I’m the blog owner (and I get to do what I want): While I believe the Christian values of caring for the needy, and the least being treated as the greatest are reflected in socialism, I don’t believe Jesus was an *actual* socialist, or that He would – were He walking among us today – endorse any of the various forms of government. In fact, I believe that since the Devil is currently in charge of the world’s governments (according to Matt. 4:8-10, when the Devil offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world [which Jesus turned down, obviously] which implies they were the Devil’s to offer), none will ever earn the endorsement of Christ. I ought to have said that from the start instead of saying “Jesus sanctioned socialism.” I was dumb to have said that…or at very least, not paying attention. But, you live and read comments and learn and amend. Moving along…

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I won’t lie: I’m a little frustrated right now. My brother-in-law, who is a pastor in McCook, NE and blogs on theology, apologetics, culture, and more as part of his church’s ministry, responded in his own blog to my post-election thoughts. But that’s not what’s making me nuts. What’s driving me crazy is the fact that I can’t log in to respond to his blog on his blog.

So I’m left with one option: to move his blog over here and continue the discussion. I certainly don’t mind – but in fact, find immense joy – in the conversation.

I just hate technology sometimes.

Anyway, I’d like to respond point-by-point to his responsive blog entitled “Jesus Institued Socialism?” (which I’ll only quote here in red, to save space, but can be found in full here):

[Quoted from my previous blog: What we see happening in Acts 2 is exactly that: socialism, if not communism, even. The equal distribution and sharing of all wealth, goods, and property among all people so that no one is richer and thus more significant, or poorer and thus less significant.]

First, one will notice that Jesus is not even present.

Really!? Jesus wasn’t present with the early Church!?

Forgive the sarcasm. I think it should be obvious that while Jesus may not have been <i>physically</i> present with the early Church, He was most certainly present in their hearts, at the forefront of their thoughts, His principles, values, and teachings foremost in their consideration of how to “set up shop.” To assert otherwise is just plain silly. His promised Holy Spirit was among them, reminding them of Christ’s Way. So while Jesus may not have explicitly said, “This is how I want you to live in community with one another, by sharing everything,” His daily teachings and the way in which He continually engaged with His twelve closest disciples and hundreds of other followers is certainly reflected in their “share all things; have everything in common” lifestyle. They were, indeed, continuing His work in His Way. Whether sanctioned by explicit word or implied by deed, their way was Christ’s Way.

Second, we must consider that the church, not the government, is the primary subject here. There are distinct roles given to church and distinct roles given to government. What is the right and responsibility of one is not necessarily the right and responsibility of the other.

Indeed, the Church IS the primary subject here. However, while it’s not our government’s responsibility to obey Scripture, it is arguably every American Christian’s right and responsibility to vote for the candidate we believe most fully (though will never completely) reflects our Biblical values and makes Christian priorities National priorities (or abstain from voting if participating violates one’s conscience). This doesn’t mean seeking, electing, or promoting a “Christian” President, but supporting a platform that reflects Christ’s heart for people. (And, inevitably, we will often disagree about who’s platform best reflects Christian values.)


Third, Acts is written as historical narrative. It is not didactic in nature so what we find there is a record of what happened, but not necessarily what should be. A good example of this is the life of the patriarchs described in Genesis. Many were polygamists. We cannot make the leap that just because something is recorded that it therefore has God’s sanction. We must go elsewhere for our doctrine of marriage. In Acts we see that people are doing something (sharing their things), but that in no way makes it normative.

First, that Acts is written in historical narrative does not negate its usefulness as a model for the current day Church. In this instance, I believe the early Church is a model for the Church today and forever. Why? Because they lived, breathed, ate, and drank the life and teachings of Christ. Having been born of His death, resurrection, and ascension, and being the only examples we have of people who knew Christ in person as close friend, Savior, and God, it seems obvious by extention that their fellowship without His physical presence would model the fellowship they shared with Him. Theirs are the nearest hearts to (and thus, I’d say, the most reflective of) Christ’s heart for His established Church, all people worldwide, and future of His Kingdom that we can see modeled in action. They were living and setting up shop in the wake of the single most defining moment in the history of the God-human relationship. No doubt they did everything with deliberation in light of all Christ did and taught, explicitly and implicitly.

Second, I find the example of the patriarchs and their polygamy ill-fitting to the context, since polygamy was expressly condemned numerous times throughout the Mosaic Law (most notably in the Ten Commandments). We find no such condemnation – implicit or otherwise – of the Way of the early Church. His endorsement of their Way, though not explicit, I believe is inferred simply by their doing it.

Third, while its record in Acts doesn’t make the sharing of all things normative, the more-than 2,000 commands in Scripture to care for the orphan and widow, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and otherwise treat the least as the greatest certainly support their communistic fellowship as “standard behavior” for Christians. Certainly Christ’s explicit warning in Matthew 25:31-46 in which He describes exactly how He will separate the sheep from the goats – i.e. by whether or not we have fed the hungry, quenched the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the prisoner, and welcomed the stranger – serves as ample evidence that this is the Kingdom Way: to give selflessly from every possible reserve, whether financial, time, or goods.


Should Christians be gracious? Yes. Compassionate? Yes. But here is the catch: grace cannot be mandated. For grace to be grace it cannot be a requirement. If it is required (such as a wage) it is justice, not grace. The church can therefore encourage its members to live out these virtues, but not even the church can put it into ecclesiastical law.

While I agree that giving and service to the church ought to be a matter of graciousness and selflessness – the deliberate decision of a cheerful giver (which God loves) – the mandate to care for the fatherless and the widow is, again, not optional. I don’t know how to make this more clear than to italicize and embold: True Christ-followers will be known, defined, and separated based on how they actively respond to the greatest commandment to Love the Lord their God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. (Matt. 23:37-39, 1 John 2:3) Christ’s example, His teaching, and the teaching of His nearest discipes make abundantly and irrefutably clear that ours is a family, a nation, marked by love made evident in service, that the world may come to know the glory and salvation of Christ. We will be known (and judged, eternally) by our love and how its expressed in our selflessness (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16).

This is born out a few chapters later in chapter 5 when Ananias and Sapphira sell their goods and give it to the church (as we saw in ch 2). Their problem was that they lied. Peter makes it quite clear (v4) that they had no obligation to give it to the church. It was their money to do with as they pleased.

The difference here is that we’re not talking about tithing to the church or selling their stuff to give to the church.

We’re talking about the Biblical mandate, seen both explicitly and implictly throughout the entirety of Scripture and laid out in detail by Christ Himself, to care and provide for those in need, both physically and spiritually. This is not a matter of finances, but of how the true Gospel is spread and disciples are made.

If not even the church, as God’s ordained institution for effecting his will on earth, can make such demands on people, how can we legitimately make the leap to the government doing it?

Here we part ways. I believe God has commanded His people to care for and plead on behalf of the poor, impoverished, and desperately-in-need. And I believe my vote for Obama, whose policies reflect the Christian values and obligation to care for the least of these, is as justified by Scripture (I’d even argue more justified) as the votes of so many Believers who voted for McCain “on behalf of the unborn.”

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52 Comments so far
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Acts describes The Church sharing, not the government forcing The Church to share. The US government can’t bail us out of financial turmoil and it certainly can’t decide better than I can which widow and orphan I should care for.

Aren’t we always hearing the pro-abortion apologists always argue “you can’t legislate morality” ?

Comment by to

I found your entry interesting, it is amazing that we can all get different things out of the same things… Anyway, a nice debate and in my humble opinion you have really thought your priorities out and no one can take that away from you… There are a lot of issues on the table, and one persons trump card may not be someone else trump card. Anyway, good job…

Comment by Terra

On the first point I am glad to see that you condede the fact that Jesus did not explicitly say any such thing. You have to make an implicit case fot it. But where is one to go for that? Your answer is out of Acts 2 and into the teaching found elsewhere (exactly as I said in the full text).

Comment by Brett

To “To” – I don’t know who you are. However…I’m not in any way suggesting that morality be mandated. I’m saying that, as a Christian, I voted my conscience and my values by voting for Obama, who’s policies reflect my worldview. Regarding “which widow and orphan to care for”…that’s a lazy excuse not to care for any. The command is to care for ALL of them. If I can’t, personally, care for all of them, I certainly need to care for as many as I can.

Terra – great point: everyone has a different trump card. Which is why I love the treatis, “In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Brett – I don’t believe I need to make an “explicit” case for this any more than a pro-life person needs to make an “explicit” case for why Believers ought to vote on one issue. The explicit case to care for the orphan and widow was noted in the various verses I noted. The implicit case is evident both in how Christ lived among His disciples (sharing all goods, food, housing, etc) and how they lived and carried out His ministry after His departure (which is described in Acts 2; which is, by the way, the ONLY model of how church can or should be set up). You mentioned in another blog of yours that Christians will be known and judged by their actions. Indeed, this truth is clear in Matt. 23:37-39 and James 2:17, among others. The “Greatest commandment” is to love God and others, and the most prominent mandate throughout Scripture is to care for the poor. These actions – how and in what context we care for one another and give of ourselves and our resources as mode of love (i.e. how we “do” community) – are the basis for judgement. I don’t think it needs to be spelled out, because caring for all and giving selflessly, sharing all things with everyone, is reflected in socialism.

Point being: there is a strong case that Jesus’ way was what we call socialist.

Comment by amycourts

Point 3, part a and b: You need to be careful about such an endorsement of the early church. We would have no epistles today were it not for all the problems of the early church. This was exactly my point in mentioning the patriarchs. Just because it was recorded doesn’t mean either that it was commanded or endorsed. I was not offering an analogy but a case in point.
Point 3 part c: I responded in your previous thread to this. Here it is, “Ok, quickly, let me challenge the oft repeated claim that the command to feed the hungry and care for the impoverished occurs “over 2,000 times throughout Scripture….No other message is so prominent in Scripture.” As I look at the imperatives found in the NT there are only 4 to do with the poor 5 on the widows (of these 4 are commands that that the church not care for all widows) 2 about feeding the hungry (one of which commands the hungry to feed himself). Undoubtedly there will be more in the OT because of the laws for the theocracy (which were given twice). I haven’t the ability to search OT imperatives (except by counting) so I was wondering if you could substantiate your own claim?”
Continuing: We agree that this is a Christian principle; the question is which method better reflects Christ’s ideals? I don’t think socialism is a biblical position. You can share you things and care for the poor without socialism.

Comment by Brett

Amy, Amy, Amy. 😉 While I don’t necessarily agree with all the points your brother in law made, and I even agree with some of your assessment of said points, I don’t agree with the conclusions that you come to based on that assessment. Was Jesus a socialist? That question can be answered easily with another question: Did Jesus force anyone to do anything?

Socialism is an involuntary redistribution of wealth – involuntary being the key word. While we as believers have a mandate to take care of the poor, there is no scriptural basis for what that has to look like, whether it be set percentages or whether the rich are more responsible than the middle class, or even whether an unbeliever is held to the same standard… there can be no normative demand placed upon anyone as to what that should look like specifically. Socialism and communism make arbitrary delineations that are not in keeping with the ideas of taking care of the poor, widowed, and orphaned in the Bible.

Jesus did not demand that Rome must take care of the poor. That would be inconsistent with his call to the elect to be the change needed through the light of the Gospel. So congratulations, you elected a man that cannot bring freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, or deliverance to the oppressed. You elected a man that will make a lot of people feel better about themselves and give no one any eternal benefit. It’s better for a man to starve with the Gospel than be filled without it, and the patriotic, nationalistic church keeps voting away their responsibilities onto a system that may fill bellies but without love or relationship. I’m not saying there should not be systemic change, but I am saying that we need to be the change and not vote the change, otherwise the change will not bring us anywhere closer to the Kingdom, but rather to Babylon. Babylon is the height of human achievement without God, and it will come through the government doing the job of the Church without any of the substance of the Gospel. So congrats on the win for secular humanism. The social gospel is not the gospel unless it includes the Gospel, and not just in words, but in loving redemption and restoration. A vote for Obama is not scriptural (not that a vote for McCain would have been either, or a vote at all for that matter), and at best falls under the covering of permissible but not beneficial.

As someone who has seen the welfare system of this country first hand in a myriad of ways, I can tell you that the way that the government takes care of the orphans and widows many times leaves them worse off than where they started because they may have some needs met, but they have been dehumanized and systematized, and now have had their opportunity for loving deliverance removed. If the Church would step in and take back our role in society, then the poor, oppressed, and widowed would know true freedom and provision from the hands of a loving God, rather than the bureaucratic, forced redistribution from the hands of the government.

Socialism and communism are evil, because they elevate man and his systems as the source of provision, and eliminate God from the equation. Only loving, humble, and voluntary giving for the glory of God comes close to the sort of communal and provisional life that we see in Acts or throughout the scriptures.

Comment by Layne

Amy, I found your post very interesting. Your points are very well taken. It is my humble opinion that there are two types of Christians, those that walk as Christ in love, and those that try in their “religious” effort to walk as Christ but lack love. It seems you were not prescribing the remedy of love upon the Government but rather the Body’s responsibility walk in Love, Live in Unity, and in fact impact the Government. Super Post!!!!

Comment by Walk as Christ

I don’t believe I need to make an “explicit” case for this
The quote (which I presume you agree with) is that Jesus ordained socialism for church life. The quote was not that Jesus shared his stuff with other people so we should too. The statement was that Jesus ordained socialism (and that Acts 2 is an example of it). But where is this decree? It is nowhere to be found. If there is no decree, no command, nothing explicit, then that statement is false as it stands. From the mere fact that Jesus shared his stuff and that we are to care for the poor, you can get many different forms of government and many different methods to accomplish his command and fulfill his example.

Comment by Brett

Point 3, a & b:
Indeed, the early church had its issues. They dealt as much with idolatry and laziness among themselves as we do today. But among the epistles we see nothing asking or seeking a change in how they live life together. Certainly, we see them continually being told to act justly on behalf of the less fortunate, to treat others as more important than themselves, and to give selflessly of their lives and resources. Since those values were enacted in their early community, it wasn’t addressed explicitly.

Point 3 part c:
I should and my statement to say that there is no topic *mentioned* more often in Scripture than the orphan, widow, poor, oppressed, and otherwise defenseless. I’m not sure what you define as “imperatives” in the New Testament, but I’m willing to argue that because Jesus explicitly said our judgement will be based on how we treat such people, it serves as evidence enough, in itself. However…I’m working on compiling the list of references to all such people.

Continuing on your continue: At least we can agree the principle is the same and the method is in question. And while I won’t say ANY form of government is God’s ideal form, I do believe socialism most closely reflects the values of Christ and the early church. You CAN (and should!!) care for the poor without socialism. But as I mentioned before: the church has failed to obey and the hungry are still hungry. They need to be fed. If the church won’t, someone must. I’d much rather the Church actually step up to their obligation.

Comment by amycourts

Amy, you do have good points, and I would agree with your overall worldview, however I believe that the difference I would have is this, the early church was behaving in a socialist manner, but they were ALL believers. They all had everything in common (Acts 2:44). The difference between a community of believers sharing everything they have, and a secular government based on socialist principles is enormous.

Another thing to consider is this. As a believer in Jesus Christ, and as a follower of Christ, our first and foremost concern when it comes to humanitarianism is to be the eternal destination of the lost. Not their temporal circumstances. The end result always needs to point to the salvation of the lost soul, not just giving a hungry person food.

I am all for caring for the poor and widows and orphans, it’s one of my deep passions actually. I recently was on a missions trip in Africa, and was able to bless an elderly lady who’s last request was to eat meat before she died. She had not had meat in a long time. We brought her some meat and she was overjoyed and burst into song and tears. Anyways, the point is, I love caring for the poor and helpless, and believe it is a mandate of Christ. But, caring for the poor and helpless always needs to come back around to caring not only for their temporal needs (food and clothing, etc.), but for their eternal needs. If I give a poor widow some meat, that’s great. But does it actually accomplish anything for the Kingdom? Does it actually benefit her if I do not thereafter share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her?

That is where I believe that the responsibility to care for the poor and lost should not be left on the shoulders of the government. I should not trust the government to care for those people’s needs, because they are only able to meet temporal needs, they cannot meet the eternal needs of those people. In fact, I believe that if the government meets the temporal needs of those people, it will push the people further away from realizing their eternal needs. I have never met people more hungry for the gospel than those who are truly in need in this world. I wish I had that kind of hunger for God. Luke 6:20… blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Not that I’m saying we leave the poor, it is our responsibility to care for them. But we, as Christians should step up and care for them with meeting their temporal needs in the love of Christ, not trusting a secular government to accomplish that task, because they will not share the love of christ with those people.

That is why I believe that a secular socialist government is not something we should strive for, but instead we should get our act together as the Church of Jesus Christ and begin to reach out ourselves.

Thanks!

Comment by nater

the mandate to care for the fatherless and the widow is, again, not optional…. I don’t know how to make this more clear than to italicize and embold
I am aware of these commands. Bold, italics, colorized or all caps are fun, but I already know these commands ;-). These commands are not without qualifiers. Are we as the church to care for all widows? No. They must meet certain qualifications. Are we to feed all the hungry? No. How are we to go about fulfilling the legitimate needs of some of the widows and some of the hungry? Shall the government do it for the church? Shall the church do it in a monolithic way by exacting a certain percentage from everybody? Shall the church as individuals have the freedom to do it do it in ways they deem best given their situation, means, and the circles they run in?
The account of Ananias and Sapphira was not about tithing. This was an extension of what you initially cited in Acts 2 (see the end of Acts 4 going into 5 recognizing that chapter divisions are artificial). Their money was theirs to do with as they pleased. They did not have to give it to the church in the communistic/socialistic manner that the others were doing. This was voluntary. They could have fulfilled the call to care for the poor and widows in other ways. However, if this was how God ordained the church to live, then Ananias had no choice. He had to sell and he had to put it into a central pool to be distributed more evenly. Peter as God’s apostle was wrong to tell Ananias that he was free.

Comment by Brett

1) While as Christians we are called to feed, clothe, protect, etc, we are each called to do so out of our own individual means. You are not called to appropriate my resources as you see fit, you are called to give from your resources, and me from mine. It is voluntary, it is an outpouring. It is not mandatory “or else!”

2) The only direct command to give up everything was given to the Rich Young Ruler. And even then the command was to sell everything and give it to the poor, not to give everything to Jesus so He could distribute it.

3) The Acts church behaved voluntarily. The church leaders did not go and confiscate all the resources of their members and redistribute them, the members each distributed their individual resources where they saw need.

4) Nowhere in Jesus teaching is coercion endorsed/condoned/encouraged/sponsored. And yet taxation and mandated wealth redistribution is coercive by nature. It is taking from me my wages, which is by definition of wage, unjust.

5) By increasing the taxation of my income, you directly impact my ability to spread the blessings I’ve received in the manner I feel led. At that point, you are actually playing the role of the creator.

6) Why stick to hard assets? Why not appropriate my time for me? Why not dictate what I use my body to accomplish?

7) Exactly how does supporting a regime that forcefully takes from me what I have earned display love to me? Display respect for my intelligence and ability to contribute to society? Demonstrate placing me above you?

Your position in this regard is the very definition of legalism, against which you so passionately rail. You find it fitting that the gov’t can mandate the use of resources I have created/earned/etc, and yet you vehimently deny the authority of Jaimie and Ecclesia to specify where/when/how you serve one Sunday morning a month? How exactly are those different to you?

You are deciding for me what the rules of my life ought to be regardless of my faith and my relationship with my Savior. That is not grace or love.

Comment by spectaprod

Yowza. I’m getting a bit lost in all the biblical references, but the both of you are more-than-well-versed in what the Bible does and does not say so I’m going to stay away from all of that.

My first comment is this:
Socialism and Communism work on paper, but most assuredly do NOT work in practice (as has been evidenced by the governments of various countries world-wide).

That said, my second comment is this:
Socialist and Communist IDEALS most certainly DO work (as evidenced by Canada, which is sort of a hybrid of democracy and socialism and yes, does function properly, but not perfectly as no government really does). And frankly, this IS demonstrated by Jesus and the early church. I find it to be the most intriguing thing about Jesus’ ministry, to say the least. And it did work for them.

My third comment is this:
I’m beginning to find that, more and more, in America, religion and politics can and should be mutually exclusive. It would be a lot different if I was muslim and living in the middle east. Because then, we’d be living in a theocracy where religion dictates politics and vice versa. Each one drives the other. But not in America. I’m a Christian. I’m a democrat. I support the right to choose. I support gun control. I’m in favor of the death penalty. None of those things really coincide, to be certain. But I dare anyone out there to tell me I’m somehow LESS of a Christian because of at least two of those things (*cough cough* democrat who supports the right to choose).

And finally, this:
To piggy-back on a comment that a good friend of mine made a few months ago, most of us out there are socialists. Chew on that for a few minutes.

If we all sit back and think really hard about what we want for ourselves, our families, the world at large, we’ll all probably find that we’re socialists. We want people to be treated fairly…women with equal pay (and if you don’t want that, I have little use for anything else you might have to say), people of color to be treated with the amount of respect the old white guys in this country have always received (which is already starting to happen, thanks to the election), we feel that it is, to some degree, our responsibility to care for the sick, wounded, widowed, orphaned…..OMG! Did I just spout the same socialist views that Jesus did?

Aaaahhhh….I see a circular argument coming on!

Comment by Micah

I am aware of these commands. Bold, italics, colorized or all caps are fun, but I already know these commands ;-). These commands are not without qualifiers. Are we as the church to care for all widows? No. They must meet certain qualifications. Are we to feed all the hungry? No. How are we to go about fulfilling the legitimate needs of some of the widows and some of the hungry.”

Touche!

I’m curious as to where the “qualifier” is regarding which widows and orphans to care for, in context?

Especially because I see *no* qualifiers in Jesus’ exhortation to Believers in Matthew 25:31-46, but simply “if you did this to the least of these, you did it unto Me. If not, I don’t know you.”

Comment by amycourts

Interesting debate. I thought I would share two thoughts.

1. So far both arguments are missing a key piece to the makeup of the Acts 2 Church….Historical Context. Yes, the early church lived in communal roles, sharing everything, but why? Did Jesus mandate it? As Brett said, absolutely not. So why did the early church members live and work together, and share everything? Frankly, they had nowhere else to go. Following Jesus meant being cut off from your family, from your inheritance, and from any social standing in the community. The Acts 2 church banded together for survival.

2. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 = I think this sums up why socialism isn’t an exact fit with Christianity.

Comment by Jason

I’m working on compiling the list of references to all such people.
Mere references won’t do. You said “commands.” Moreover, as has been pointed out, not all references to the “poor” are the fiscally poor as we know them. Moreover, many references to the poor, fatherless, widows, etc are descriptuve and are no command at all. I am interested in seeing a substantiation of the claim that the “command” to feed the hungry and care for the impoverished occurs “over 2,000 times throughout Scripture….No other message is so prominent in Scripture.”
With that I’ll consider my post successful in refuting the notion that “Christ Himself designed, sanctioned, and ordained for the Church.” I am happy with the more toned down, “At least we can agree the principle is the same and the method is in question.”
And a hearty Amen! to the church needing to step up its obligation!
Ug! I have to go back to work! I wish I had more time! Thanks for the interaction Amy!

Comment by Brett

Micah: You’ve made one of the most important arguments against socialism (and communism, capitalism, etc.) in that, while all of them look great on paper, they rarely work in reality. However, I will point you to nations like Sweden and Norway which are both as socialist as they come, and are both home to arguably the happiest, wealthiest, healthiest, most productive, and least crime-ridden cultures in the world. So…perhaps it CAN work?

Still, the principles are what matters, and how the principles are reflected both in the Church and in the government. I’m not arguing for one particular form of government over another. I’m simply saying that, in voting for Obama, I voted for a platform that reflects my biblically-based principles and values.

I’m for the separation of church and state, to ensure that the church does not become the pawn of the government (which we have become in how our values have been exploited for votes), but am adamantly opposed to the idea of politicians leaving their faith at the door when making laws. Faith *must* inform values, and values legislation. It’s inevitable and even necessary.

Comment by amycourts

Mere references won’t do. You said “commands.” Moreover, as has been pointed out, not all references to the “poor” are the fiscally poor as we know them. Moreover, many references to the poor, fatherless, widows, etc are descriptuve and are no command at all.”

I did amend to say “mentions” and still appeal to Christ’s directive in Matthew 25 as a culmination of those references. I’m not just talking about random verses that say “orphan” or “widow” but those in which there is a call (implicit or explicit) to engage. That’s the list I’m working on. 😉

Indeed, I’ll concede that perhaps “socialism” – as we know and define it – wasn’t ordained by Christ; but I do believe that the early church’s set-up reflected His heart, and that socialism (in theory) is the definition by which that picture would be set in the dictionary.

Now get back to work.

Comment by amycourts

Are you going to post Tim’s comment? I’m not seeing it up here.

As for me, I’m staying out of it. You and I have had these discussions in the past and I know that you are not looking for honest discussion but a debate to win. My friendship with you is more important than this.

Comment by kensajolaw

Ok, once more since you asked.
1 Tim 5:3-13 is a good example where the burden is placed on the family first. Here the method of caring for the widows is not socialism but familial responsibility.
3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, [1] 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

Comment by Brett

Ah clarification:
I don’t think that politicians should leave their faith at the door when working policies. I just think that they need to be very careful that one doesn’t overly influence the other. And if we’re going to allow the Christian politicians the ability to bring their faith into politics, we have to allow that of ALL faith, religions, etc. We’re a nation of equality (or at least, we’re supposed to be) so that’s the way it has to be.

But religious politicians also need to VERY careful of bringing those two together. Because as politicians, they are in office to find the best way for all involved. That’s democracy, baby! And there are certainly plenty out there that AREN’T Christians and as I’ve stated thousands of times in thousands of discussions, we cannot hold our non-religious and non-Christian citizens to the same morals we hold ourselves to. I’m not saying that it’s a “what’s right for you is right for you” situation. I’m saying there has to be very careful discernment in situations involving things like all the issues that have been in conversation over various blogs.

It’s why I think that the two are mutually exclusive.

It’s an incredibly difficult balance…one that I do not envy our leaders.

Comment by Micah

Brett~
that’s socialism. Any person caring for and/or providing for another person is a socialist idea. Family or otherwise. A widow washing the dishes for the daughter who is housing her is socialism. The homeless man who changes the oil of the car of a businessman in exchange for dinner is socialism.

Comment by Micah

HOLY! I go to “approve comments” and there’s a slew. But it’s how I gotta roll to avoid spam.

So…here goes.
Pretty much everyone (Brett, Tim, Layne, Jason, etc) has the same qualm with the socialist viewpoint, and that is the “mandate” nature of it. And I agree with you all that giving *ought* to be a charitable decision made by an individual out of devotion to God on behalf of the least.

However.
Christ did say with absolute clarity that if we are truly Christians, we will, whether out of obedience, obligation, or desire (and I actually believe it will begin as obedience and become an act of desire as we are transformed to the likeness of Christ), feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc etc. This is the defining nature of true Believers.

I agree with most of you that a) socialism as a form of government doesn’t usually work, and that b) it’s even LESS fun to give when it’s required by the government to do so. Still, because I live in a democracy and had the opportunity to vote for someone whose policies reflect my values, I voted for him. Not for a change of government altogether, but for changes in policies which directly effect those whom we as Christians are commanded to care for as if we’re caring for Jesus Himself.

And I think I make a good point! 🙂

Comment by amycourts

Ack, why can’t I stay away! Last time I promise…for now 😉
kensajolaw, for what it’s worth, I have felt this to be an edifying exchange.
Micah, “Brett, that’s socialism ” Actually it isn’t. Look it up in any standard work on political theory. But I am not about the name game, given your redefinition of socialism, I have no problem with the concept.

Comment by Brett

Sarah: I think, given the length of the discussion (and the friendliness inherent so far) that it’s fair to say I am, actually, looking to discuss, as are the others who’ve engaged. And we’re discussing, oddly enough from the same foundational elements but with different opinions on how the elements are best exercised in a democracy. I’m not sure why you posted a comment at all if you had no intention of actually participating…weird.

Micah: I agree than NO politician of any faith (or no faith at all) should silence his or her conscience. One of the beautiful points of a democracy is that such people of all (or no) faiths are represented in legislation, the people themselves are represented. I am heard as much as Muslims and atheists are.

Brett: I’m curious if your argument against caring for all widows, in context, deals with widows in the church or those in the world. It’s a significant difference, simply because Christians are called and held to a different standard of living and providing for themselves. Christ and the NT show that one of the greatest values of true Christianity is hard work. Christians freeloaders ought not be tolerated. Hungry non-believers are a different story, and ought to be treated differently.

Tim: Whew! It’s getting heavy, eh? I’m not demanding anything of you or anyone else here. My point, in my original blog and in this one, was simply to say that as Christian who voted for Obama, I did so on the basis of my values regarding the poor and oppressed and my belief that his policies best reflect those policies. I think I’ve made plenty clear that I don’t advocate a change in regime for the United States. You are right in pointing out that I – and so many others – are adamantly opposed to forced service, in church or otherwise. I do believe it’s my personal responsibility to obey Christ through service and love to others. I also believe that it’s my personal responsibility to fight for (or, in this case, vote for) those whose principles reflect his passion for the fatherless and the widow. And finally, I sincerely hope this can stay a little more light-hearted. I’m not looking for a fight. Just – *just* – a discussion. And hopefully a passionate one. But we’re all starting from the same place, let’s keep that in mind.

Comment by amycourts

okay fair enough. but it is a socialist ideal. not necessarily socialism at it’s core. but that’s the idea that i think Amy has been trying to make since the beginning of time (more or less)…is that Jesus produced followers that lived by socialist ideals.

and again, I don’t know the Bible nearly as well as either of you, but wasn’t there a church that Paul spoke to frequently that lived in a fairly socialist society? which is officially defined by Miram-Webster as:
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

Comment by Micah

Brett, you won’t be able to abstain. I’m calling it now!

“I don’t believe I need to make an “explicit” case for this”
The quote (which I presume you agree with) is that Jesus ordained socialism for church life. The quote was not that Jesus shared his stuff with other people so we should too. The statement was that Jesus ordained socialism (and that Acts 2 is an example of it). But where is this decree? It is nowhere to be found. If there is no decree, no command, nothing explicit, then that statement is false as it stands. From the mere fact that Jesus shared his stuff and that we are to care for the poor, you can get many different forms of government and many different methods to accomplish his command and fulfill his example.

Fair enough. You’re right, and I’ll concede that Jesus didn’t ordain socialism, though I do believe He would have approved of the socialist way in which the early Church operated, as that Way reflected His highest priorities. So while socialism was not explicitly decreed, the principles of socialism – giving selflessly for the sake of all – were decreed by Christ. So it follows, I think, that the ideals of socialism are acceptable.

You’re also right that these ideals can and are reflected in any number of governmental systems. I’d argue they’re most CLOSELY reflected in socialism. 🙂 (Especially considering that those who live socialist communities/countries are free to leave as they please…their freedom and personal liberty is not hindered by the operation of the land.)

Comment by amycourts

Tim I’m compelled to respond to one of the points you made, just for clarification:

2) The only direct command to give up everything was given to the Rich Young Ruler. And even then the command was to sell everything and give it to the poor, not to give everything to Jesus so He could distribute it.

First, I’m not advocating (and don’t think I ever even suggested or alluded to) “giving up everything,” but rather, being selfless with what we have. Sometimes it requires a sacrifice, other times it’s simple as giving clothes I don’t wear to those who’ll wear them. I see this value reflected in Obama’s idea of taxing the richest people in America to ensure that the poorest are cared for. And, I suspect, it won’t be *much* of a strain on the wealthy. (At least, according the very few wealthy people I know, it’s not much of a strain.) No one is asking they give up everything or even a lot; just a little more because they HAVE a little more. And I do believe that’s a biblical value.

Now, regarding commands: we are told that our eternal destiny rests on whether or not we obey Christ by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, and visiting the sick and imprisoned (Mt. 25:31-46). I think it follows that this cannot be considered optional. Not just “If we want to be counted among Believers, we will give,” but “If we want to be counted among Believers, must give. This is a warning…not a suggestion.

Comment by amycourts

First, let me say that I’m not trying to identify myself as an authority. The only economic knowledge that I have comes from high school, a few classes in college, and Wikipedia (since my college degrees are B.A.s in English and Bible). That having been said, I continue.

Based on the context (from a literal approach to scripture), I don’t interpret the passage in Acts, nor the message of Christ, to explicitly favor socialistic government for all men, Christian and non-Christian, in all societies, in all ages. That’s a stretch, and that’s the question you ask in the blog title. “Was Jesus a socialist?” No. Here’s another great question: “Was Jesus a capitalist?” No. And one more: “Was Jesus the only begotten Son of God?” Yes, and amen!

Christianity has shown that it will flourish under any governmental system, whether it be socialism, communism, capitalism, theocracy, monarchy, etc. Think of China, for example! They have a thriving underground church in an impossibly strict communist country! I take my complete rest in the fact that governments and societies of men rise and fall, but God’s kingdom will always prevail in the hearts of men. God’s people have one universal law that mandates how they live: the law of God, revealed through His Word, that dictates what is right and what is wrong. The ins and outs of man’s governmental or economic policy can’t justifiably be muddled in with God’s law. Economics is an entirely different discussion that I’m honestly not completely qualified to engage. I do believe, however, that God’s kingdom prevails over all systems devised by man.

(And when I think about the Kingdom of God, I can’t help but think of the song “We Believe” by Steve Green. Check that out if you get a chance!)

You have a great heart about you, and I admire that! I wish more Christians would abandon materialistic me-ism and pursue the heart of giving.

When it comes to a debate over socialism and capitalism, the Christian’s ultimate question is not “Is either one inherently Christian?” but rather, “How can Christians best minister in either framework, should society head that direction?” Or possibly…”Which system would best allow ministry to continue and thrive?” Because, our primary work on earth is God’s work: spreading the good news of the gospel of Christ through ministry, no matter what the circumstances are in which we minister.

Governmental preference is a personal issue, but clearly there are some that are better than others. Anarchy wouldn’t work too well I guess. I don’t think capitalism is so bad, but I think there are bad people in the capitalistic system. There are good people too, like Bill Gates. Eh, I dunno. Like I said, I’m not a student of economic structure. Guess I need to read up on it a bit more. 😀

Comment by Daniel

Daniel, thanks for posting. I am digging your comments.

Some thoughts:
“Was Jesus a socialist?” No. Here’s another great question: “Was Jesus a capitalist?” No. And one more: “Was Jesus the only begotten Son of God?” Yes, and amen!

Agreed. Christianity can and will flourish in any governmental construct, because Christi is our King and His is an immortal Kingdom. I do think His ideals are reflected best in socialism. (Though, again, I don’t believe Socialism – as it most often plays out in the hands of sinful man – is “the way to go.”)

When it comes to a debate over socialism and capitalism, the Christian’s ultimate question is not “Is either one inherently Christian?” but rather, “How can Christians best minister in either framework, should society head that direction?”

I don’t believe any governmental system is inherently Christian, but actually quite the opposite. (I could be eating my foot right now; I’m not sure. But it’s possible I may see a lot of “…but you just said…”s in my future…so bear with me as I continue to think and process out loud.) Because governments are set up to pursue power and thereby secure their nation against (weaker) others – an ideal which is diametrically opposed to Christ’s model of empowering others through selfless living – I don’t think any could be called “Christian.”

Your second question is what I attempted to answer in my last two blogs, or rather, the reason I wrote them: to explain why I voted the way I did. I voted for Obama because I believe his policies reflect biblical values of selflessness (and I believe those values are, in some ways, very socialist in form). Now, Christians under different regimes will have VERY different answers than mine. And I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea how Christians in socialist countries view their governments.

But indeed: our work is spreading the good news of the gospel of Christ through ministry, no matter what the circumstances are in which we minister

…And I believe that one way of spreading the good news is by voting for someone whose policies reflect the gospel. 🙂

Comment by amycourts

I’m really confused how you see being “selfless with what we have.” reflected in “Obama’s idea of taxing the richest…” Obama’s idea is not one of selflessness, if anything his ideas promote selfishness.

If he was about selflessness, his speeches would not have been about how “we” are going to help the “middle class”, rather his speeches would have been aimed to rally those with more resources to voluntarily reach out to those with fewer resources.

And further more, what has being selfless with what I have to do with finding value in the idea of forcing someone else to give something up, especially when I’m not going to be among those forced to give a little extra up? You say you are opposed to force and coercion, yet you voted for the candidate who proposed more forceful and coercive confiscations on a smaller group of people.

If selfless ideals was a criteria for my voting, I’d find out which candidate had given the largest % of income to the poor, and vote for that person. Not for who would promise to take the largest % of income from the rich to give to the poor.

I don’t claim you be a bad person for voting Obama, but your justification for it (his policies reflect Christ’s heart) makes little sense to me.

Comment by spectaprod

Tim
If he was about selflessness, his speeches would not have been about how “we” are going to help the “middle class”, rather his speeches would have been aimed to rally those with more resources to voluntarily reach out to those with fewer resources.

I think the difference is that while it’s the Church’s responsibility to rally those with resources to give voluntarily, it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure the majority of its citizens are taken care of.

My friend Cal, who commented on the facebook note, summed it up perfectly, to me:
“We live in a rather large country. There are countless people who need help from coast to coast. Can I help the ones locally by myself? To a certain extent. Would a government-funded program, efficiently run, be better able to make use of my tax dollars to help people out? I think so.”

Perhaps what you’re rallying for, then, would be for the Church to organize the effort detailed above? Good idea, If only the American Church wasn’t as money- and power-hungry as the rest of the nation’s wealthy! The next best thing, to ensure that all people are taken care of, is for the government to take it on.

Again, my concern is for the least of these. We can all voluntarily give. But when our gifts won’t cover the need, something more must be done but those running the country, who have access to more opportunities, etc.

I don’t claim you be a bad person for voting Obama, but your justification for it (his policies reflect Christ’s heart) makes little sense to me.

Well thank God for that! 🙂

I do believe his policies – as a whole – reflect Christ’s heart, not just his tax policy (which happens to be the least of my concerns). His policies on health care, education, and the wars overseas also reflect Biblical values. And it made plenty sense to me. 🙂

One more thing…
You said “I’m really confused how you see being “selfless with what we have.” reflected in “Obama’s idea of taxing the richest…” Obama’s idea is not one of selflessness, if anything his ideas promote selfishness.”

I don’t think it’s necessarily in taxing the richer for the sake of the poor that we see the the Christian value of selflessness, but rather the Christian value of making the impoverished, lower-class a priority at the forefront of our minds and hearts, as a nation. But I do believe that once we, as a Church AND a nation, learn to value others above ourselves (beginning with those who are worse off), we begin to learn and act out of selflessness.

I do, admittedly, see the big stumbling block over which so many are bound to stumble, in that one of the worst ways to teach the art of sharing is by taking away what someone rightfully owns and giving it to another. BUT…just as with children…if sharing is the norm from the start, then there is no sense of “mine” or “yours” but all is “ours” and we are all equally worthy of it, by virtue of being human. (I also recognize that if we’re not careful of the slippery slope, we can land ourselves in a place where individuals don’t mater except insofar as they effect the whole…and that can be very, very bad. But I don’t think we have to go down the slippery slope…)

Comment by amycourts

Even I get confused by all the back-and-forth, here, but I’m going to try to put in my thoughts anyway. Not sure I should even be responding to the main thread, but, a thought did occur to me in regard to socialism.

If socialism promotes a “culture” where everyone is “equal,” would that make us all rich or poor? If, indeed, all men are created equal, doesn’t inequality then naturally occur with what we do after that?

Where I get hung up is not the commands or imperatives but what seems to have been Jesus fighting against the somewhat natural tide of the world (of course, my verbiage is open to interpretation and, I’m sure, much argument). What I mean is, he seemed to be out to “eliminate” poverty by, if your insinuation is correct, the redistribution of items for equality purposes, but is that even logistically possible? And how does it reward merit or talent?

I know, it sounds like I’m one of those bastard people who are blaming poor people for being poor – I’m not doing that. I’m just saying, in a redistributed system, I don’t see how equilibrium can be achieved unless everyone is of one mind, and I’m not sure that’s a positive thing or a possible thing, due to geographical and cultural constraints. The world’s just too big for “on paper” ideas to work well. Maybe it was back then, too.

Comment by Todd Newton

nater said,
Another thing to consider is this. As a believer in Jesus Christ, and as a follower of Christ, our first and foremost concern when it comes to humanitarianism is to be the eternal destination of the lost. Not their temporal circumstances. The end result always needs to point to the salvation of the lost soul, not just giving a hungry person food.

I actually disagree with this. Well, not so much disagree as think it is a misconception, or that the “mandate” nature of the “saving of souls” is commonly misconstrued. Of course, my view is definitely going against the grain here, but does it say something about the concept that I don’t feel “called” to be responsible for someone else’s soul, or does it say something about me? That’s a hangup. Makes me feel like a lazy Christian, but it’s just not in me to evangelize. Taking responsibility for someone else’s “eternal destination” just sounds too… invasive, I guess. I can’t even claim to know more about the subject than they do.

Comment by Todd Newton

Todd: Thanks for jumping in…

…he seemed to be out to “eliminate” poverty by, if your insinuation is correct, the redistribution of items for equality purposes, but is that even logistically possible? And how does it reward merit or talent?

Perhaps it is for equality purposes that wealth be distributed equally, but I don’t think for the kind of “equality” you’re alluding to. I’m talking about basic equality, where basic needs – like hunger, thirst, clothes, medicine, and shelter – are met for everyone. That leaves *plenty* of wiggle room for people who do more to earn (and keep!) more, and for those who do less to bear the consequences of it. And I don’t think getting medicine when you’re sick, an education in a properly funded and equipped school, being fed daily, or having a home ought to be counted as “rewards” for merits or talents. They ought to be considered rights by virtue of humanity.

…in a redistributed system, I don’t see how equilibrium can be achieved unless everyone is of one mind, and I’m not sure that’s a positive thing or a possible thing, due to geographical and cultural constraints.

I don’t think an absolute equilibrium can be achieved; you’re right about that. Because we all have different abilities, jobs, skill sets, and some are – plainly stated – “worth” more than others. But I do believe basic needs can – and should be – met, even if that means scraping a *tiny* percentage off the top of the wealthiest peoples’ wages if that percentage will amount to so much for everyone in need.

And that’s all I’ve been talking about so far (and I think that’s all Obama’s platform calls for): Making sure the least among us are properly cared for.

Comment by amycourts

Here’s the problem in this very long and convoluted exchange – none of us really knows what anyone else is talking about when they use the term “socialist”. The term is used in dozens of ways to mean hundreds of things. There are numerous branches of it to begin with, and of course it’s very difficult for most Americans to speak without bias on a concept that was so closely tied to fascism and our national enemies for our parents and grandparents.

Do I think Jesus was a “Socialist”? Jesus obviously didn’t associate with any earthly government. Do I think some socialist values are founded in the life and teachings of Christ? Clearly. I think you have to strain pretty hard to ignore the populist sentiments in the sermon on the mount, and in the way His early followers lived in the Acts church. But of course, Jesus and his early followers were pretty influential in a broad range of “isms”, and it would be simplistic to try to pin Him down to any one of them. Since I have the pleasure of living with the author of this blog, I know she understands this. 🙂

I’m not speaking for her, but the broader point she is getting at I think, is actually similar to a very astute comment Brett made early on – “you can get many different forms of government and many different methods to accomplish his command and fulfill his example.” Right on! And is socialism one of those possibilities? Absolutely. As with most things in life, there are plenty of wrong answers, but there are plenty of rights ones as well.

The common protest seems to center around coercion, so I’ll address that (though I’m probably more of a Libertarian Socialist than a classic Marx/Engels socialist, so I have some built-in biases I suppose). I completely agree that any sort of coercive morality cheapens the act, and the act of coercion in itself is a basic example of power-over-love, which is one of the few ideas I am willing to call “evil” with certainty. But really, what does a “government” do that is not coercive? Why would we argue for the coercion of certain moral actions, and not others? In essence, we are spoiled living in a democratic society, and I don’t think many of us actually understand that WE are the “government”. If we did, perhaps we would stop choosing kings over God (to borrow from one of Layne’s posts on another thread).

Now, is “socialism” inherently coercive? I don’t know. Is capitalism inherently coercive? I don’t know. Both systems are ideas of man, not God, and both are susceptible to our fallen state. I do know that. This is why I don’t think either is inherently evil – but both may result in evil.

It has been frustrating these past few months to see a fairly large portion of the Christian community in America “close up” again. I wonder if we sometimes forget our own humanity and fallibility? We ought not treat these discussions as if, as one earlier post put it, this is a debate to be won. There are Christ-followers of every political and philosophical stripe, and placing judgments on their motives or wisdom isn’t particularly fruitful.

Comment by PaulK

My point in bringing the idea of socialism into the picture was simply in response to so many peoples – and especially Christians’ – fear that Obama is a socialist. And, well, when we look at Jesus’ example and that of the early Church, what we see bears a striking resemblance to socialism. If that’s the case, maybe Obama and we who voted for him aren’t actually as deluded and crazy as we were perhaps once thought.

And in the grand scheme, I think it fair to note that I don’t believe or place my hope or trust in any form of government. I enjoy the subject matter in relation to how we, as Christians living as aliens among man, should engage the culture and government in which we live. I believe if we’re given the right to vote, we ought to vote our values. Which is what I did.

Look, I was kind of concise!

Comment by amycourts

Brett said I am interested in seeing a substantiation of the claim that the “command” to feed the hungry and care for the impoverished occurs “over 2,000 times throughout Scripture….No other message is so prominent in Scripture.”

And I said I’d make you a list. But for the sake of saving space but still making the point I intended, I direct you to The Poverty & Justice Bible which highlights the 2,000+ mentions of poverty and justice in Scripture which indicate the importance of the matter to the God who gave us the Word. As Bono said, “That’s a lot of airtime.”

Comment by amycourts

One element that is woefully absent from the American/westernized Church is the concept of community. This was the bedrock of the early church. It also has worked quite well in Franciscan orders, Amish, Quaker, and to a lesser extent, Mennonite gatherings.

One of the reasons that Mother Teresa’s work has been so powerful is the community commitment. All of this was set in motion with the radical teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

One of the primary reasons it fails in an American context is that capitalism and a sense of earned independence seems to trump communal concerns at nearly every turn.

If we were to be brutally honest, we would have to admit that democratic capitalism is simply another ideology that doesn’t sync-up well with much of what Christ taught, and what the early church carried-out. That is why so much of what people understand Christianity as today is so impotent.

As Tony Campolo says, “America is the best Babylon on the planet…but it is still Babylon.” When one sees a cross on church lawns with stars and stripes draped across it, that pretty much says it all. We have allowed our country to take precedence over our commitment to sacrificial living on behalf of our Lord and those he came to redeem.

Anything I can do to separate myself more from this empire, while simultaneously trying to help those who are suffering from its excesses, I will do. And my Lord knows that I still fall way short. I continue to work at changing myself first and foremost. But it is a battle wrestling with that “old man” that wants me, my, and mine to take the lead at every turn. That’s where servant-oriented community can help keep us focused and in-tune.

As Shane Claiborne says, voting is often a matter of damage control. While I have hopes for Barak Obama, I don’t believe for one second that he or his platform is going to change things radically. However, my sense is that ultimately his governance will be less damaging that what I suspected would be another 4 years of similar patterns that have been in motion for the better part of this decade.

This thought is shaped by my commitment to being a citizen of the Family of Man as opposed to a particular nation. In my travels to 44 countries (many of them quite poor), I always have deep conversations with my hosts and other associates (most of whom are Christian) about their viewpoints of international politics, and especially how they interact with America. 100% of these people over the past 8 years have been quite confused and often saddened by the leadership of George W. Bush. They don’t understand the unilateral approach. They don’t understand why we view America as “The World Police.” They can’t comprehend how, as a born again Christian brother, that Bush has justified many of these aggressive tactics as being “for the good of freedom,” let alone being God-ordained.

In the past year, as Obama has started to come into the public eye internationally, they have been impressed by what they have read and seen (and trust me, many folks around the world are more educated about American politics than we are). I’ve communicated with some of my cohorts around the globe in the last few days, and they are pleased, and even excited about the prospects that America may enter into a season of more thoughtful partnership as opposed to dominance.

This means a lot more to me because of my “world citizenry.” I don’t expect someone who rarely gets beyond our borders, or who doesn’t have a particular concern for the 2/3 of the population of this planet (that’s 4 billion + people) that subsist on less than the equivelant of $2.00 a day to understand. But they mean something to me. And I sense that Obama understands that if we don’t do things to change these perceptions, that it will come back to bite us mightily…and perhaps much sooner than later.

So, how does this come back around to community? I feel as Christians that we need to look at how the world interacts, especially with limited natural resources, food, and water supplies. I think it’s becoming more and more apparent to us all that if there isn’t a more equitable disbursement, that there will be severe changes in the offing.

Every other empire in the history of this world has, for the most part, been blind to their own ambition. Eventually they all tumble, usually due to problems from within combined with an cavalier attitude towards those they “conquered” to maintain their control. But, what goes around comes around.

It will be interesting to see if America can buck that trend. I sense that many in the world are hoping we can, but it’s going to take a concerted effort to work cooperatively within and beyond our borders to do so. There’s much to be learned from real-life community for this to happen.

Comment by Mark Hollingsworth

The teachings of Christ certainly instruct us to think of others over ourselves, and that there will always be needs to be met. So, our giving should be constant, but not necessarily to the same recipient.

Yes, I find coercive “charity” repulsive. But, so is arrogantly prideful hoarding. Socialism in civil government is inappropriate, whereas socialism in personal government is mandatory (as per Christ’s commands). Don’t confuse the two and force me to be charitable because then I will be resentful. The government is not God, is not the Church, and should not be a charity.

Personal and church-based charitable social action is far more effective because it requires personal responsibility on the part of the giver as much as the receiver. When a bureaucrat manages should-be-charitable funds, there is no accountability. The giving is not effective as it rarely is efficient in producing a reformation in the recipient. Instead, a system of “free” money is created and people milk it as much as possible. Thus, the welfare state of America.

We find ourselves in this state of coercive “charity” because we have failed, as individuals, to be charitable. If we were actively making a personal effort to meet the needs of our neighbor, there would be no demand for government initiatives. So, national bankruptcy and increased poverty through inflation are the chastisements designed to illustrate our moral bankruptcy and draw us closer to Christ, the only government we need.

Comment by Dewey

Here is my one post for the day, I really can’t afford days like yesterday (which is unfortunate because there is still so much to interact on)!
I see more assertions but still no list. When I attempted to verify that number I came up far short. I searched for “widow” “orphan” “fatherless” “poor” “destitute” etc. I think the total number would be closer to 2-300 verses. And in my opinion a number of 300 is being generous. So something smells fishy about the supposed 2000 references. I believe that this was something that was arrived at in an ad hoc manner for some political or ideological purpose and does not represent a genuine study of scripture. I am interested in an actual verse list (or sampling thereof) by which I could examine their methodology. I expect that I could apply the same method and come up with even more in different topics.

Comment by Brett

Brett: I am interested in an actual verse list (or sampling thereof) by which I could examine their methodology. I expect that I could apply the same method and come up with even more in different topics.

Fair enough. I shall compile…you may have to wait a couple days.

Comment by amycourts

[…] 7 11 2008 There’s been considerable discussion on Amy Courts’s blog regarding socialism, which has become a popular buzzword as of late. My thoughts were […]

Pingback by Socialism « Rob in Gallup

My comments got too long for a blog comment, so to further complicate and confuse things, I’m posting them on my blog instead.

http://robingallup.com/2008/11/07/socialism/

Comment by Rob in Gallup

Amy, I think I know you well enough that I suspect you’re trying to push buttons by using the term “socialist.” If you really believe socialism is a friend of Christianity in any way, shape or form, I think you’re naive about politics. Socialism consistently contradicts Scripture and certainly results in more suffering and poverty than capitalist systems. That’s why charitable giving is common in countries that are closer to a free market, and why socialist and communist countries need aid. When the more socialist Jimmy Carter left office and was replaced by Ronald Reagan and his tax cuts, charitable giving increased, African-Americans climbed into the middle class in record numbers, and life improved for most Americans.

Micah,

I was singing your praises on the first point about communism not working, but then you wrote:

Socialist and Communist IDEALS most certainly DO work (as evidenced by Canada, which is sort of a hybrid of democracy and socialism and yes, does function properly, but not perfectly as no government really does)

I’m from Canada,and it’s a mess in many ways, especially where it’s most socialistic. Canadian doctors take their families to the U.S. because socialized medicine is such a disaster. My cousin with cancer had to wait MONTHS for surgery and almost died. Most of my Canadian friends and relatives look longingly over the border to the USA while lamenting the socialism of their country. That’s one reason I’ve never moved back.

Jesus was no socialist by any stretch of the imagination, and socialistic countries consistently repress Christianity. The Bible defends private property which people can then willingly give to others as we see modeled in Scripture. Free markets reduce poverty–central planning destroys wealth and trickles poverty down on everyone.

I’m saddened that you support the right to choose. I wouldn’t call you less of a Christian because I’m not into name-calling, but I don’t think you’re thinking through the issue carefully. I assume you draw the line somewhere before the mother takes her baby home from the hospital, but at some point a baby is murdered. There’s no way around that, since that’s the whole point of abortion. I don’t see how a Christian can defend slaughter of the innocent, but I’d be curious to see how you work through that.

Comment by Randy Brandt

Randy – While I wasn’t trying to push buttons for the sake of it (and was actually just responding to so many Christians who screamed “Socialist!” at Obama, trying to say, “Hey, he may not have been too far from Jesus…”), I think I made clear that I don’t believe Jesus would “endorse” socialism. But I do stand by my first assertion that the Acts 2 church (which implicitly operated the way Christ would want, since they, I assume, were just continuing to do as He did among them) looks a lot more like socialism at work than, say, capitalism or a dictatorship. Sure, they had their “own property” but they didn’t live as if it was theirs to hoard over others, but rather to share with others.

Regarding Micah’s (and many other Christians’) defense of the right to choose, I think it’s important to distinguish between defending “slaughter of the innocent” and defending the individual’s right to make – and be held accountable – for their own moral decisions. While I’m most certainly not pro-choice, I think I get that, for so many, it’s a matter of mandating morality. And while, to us who believe beyond doubt according to Scripture life starts at conception, until the scientific community catches up and is finally able to prove it, the debate about “when life starts” and thus “whose life matters more” will continue.

I also think, for the sake of argument (and splitting hairs), it’s interesting to note that this argument of supposed “innocence” is faulty, unless you’re willing to admit – along with so many pro-choicers – that “human” life doesn’t start until a baby draws it’s first breath…or, even, until that baby commits it’s first sin. If life indeed starts at conception, and Scripture is true that all are sinners, then the baby’s not innocent. Indeed, the most *vulnerable* and innocent of harming others deliberately…but not innocent. 🙂

Comment by amycourts

Sure, they had their “own property” but they didn’t live as if it was theirs to hoard over others, but rather to share with others.

Socialism is coercive and denies private property. I’d say “redeemed free enterprise” would be far superior and result in less poverty and injustice. The early church was not socialist or communist.

I think it’s important to distinguish between defending “slaughter of the innocent” and defending the individual’s right to make – and be held accountable – for their own moral decisions. While I’m most certainly not pro-choice, I think I get that, for so many, it’s a matter of mandating morality.

Every law mandates morality. Should rapists have the right to choose? After all, they should have the right to make – and be held accountable for – their own moral decisions. Right? Let’s be consistent. Of course, an even better parallel is this: do we defend the right of men to kill their wives and be held accountable for their own moral decisions?

until the scientific community catches up and is finally able to prove it, the debate about “when life starts” and thus “whose life matters more” will continue.

So even if we make it a beating heart (week 5) or brain waves, Obama still supports abortion at nine months, and most pro-choicers don’t draw the line at the first trimester. Science long ago proved that life begins before a baby takes a breath of air. Just check out the in utero photos and ultrasounds that are possible nowadays.

Princeton ethicist Peter Singer says personhood begins with “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness” and therefore “killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person.” Yes, that’s post-birth, and that’s where the slippery slope ends up, just as Francis Schaeffer predicted three decades ago.

it’s interesting to note that this argument of supposed “innocence” is faulty, unless you’re willing to admit – along with so many pro-choicers – that “human” life doesn’t start until a baby draws it’s first breath…or, even, until that baby commits it’s first sin. If life indeed starts at conception, and Scripture is true that all are sinners, then the baby’s not innocent. Indeed, the most *vulnerable* and innocent of harming others deliberately…but not innocent

You know that I believe no human other than Jesus is innocent in the sense of being free of sin, but surely we can agree that “innocence” can also refer to someone who is not aware of their sin, whether unborn, too young, or mentally handicapped. No one advocates abortion to punish babies for their inate sinfulness so a soteriological lack of innocence is no justification for killing the kid. Besides, we’re speaking in terms of execution. A murderer is guilty and therefore subject to capital punishment. A baby is innocent of capital crimes and therefore should not be subject to execution.

Comment by Randy Brandt

Randy – Whatever you want to call it, there are certainly elements of socialist ideals evident in the early church. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to acknowledge unless you’re one who believes socialism is absolutely evil and void of any good. And if that’s the case…well, ok. I suppose we could say the same thing of ALL forms of government.

Now, regarding abortion: Yes, let’s be consistent. Why do we defend state sanctioned execution of criminals (and trust the human ability to supposedly judge rightly when life is on the line) if we call ourselves “Pro-Life”? I had no intention of going there in this blog, but there it is. I’ve personally adopted a total pro-life stance which acknowledges that NO human, no matter how righteous or unrighteous, innocent or guilty, ought to be at the mercy of another (sinful) human being’s ultimate judgement. So why are we so quick to defend a nation’s choice to go to war (when it “benefits” national security…) or capital punishment (“for the sake of justice”), but actively condemn a woman who chooses to abort one pregnancy to save her own life and protect her other born children who depend on her? When we boil it down, outlawing abortion would do just that: put a woman who must choose between the life of her unborn child and her own health (and the lives of any children she already has) out of the running altogether.

My point is simple: the inconsistency is blatant on both sides of the argument.

Comment by amycourts

there are certainly elements of socialist ideals evident in the early church. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to acknowledge unless you’re one who believes socialism is absolutely evil and void of any good. And if that’s the case…well, ok. I suppose we could say the same thing of ALL forms of government.

Not all forms of gov’t are as evil as socialism, but I can’t say the early church was socialist because they respected private property and there wasn’t coercive central control. Their sharing fit compassionate capitalism much better than socialism. What do you think was socialist about the early Christians, other than the famine in Jerusalem?

Why do we defend state sanctioned execution of criminals (and trust the human ability to supposedly judge rightly when life is on the line) if we call ourselves “Pro-Life”?

Very simply–because recognizing the imago dei, the image of God in mankind as taught in the Bible, demands a right to life for babies and the death penalty for convicted murderers. God sets the rules, not us, and He said that murderers were to be executed precisely because they do not respect human life.

Genesis 9:6 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

NO human, no matter how righteous or unrighteous, innocent or guilty, ought to be at the mercy of another (sinful) human being’s ultimate judgement.

So how do you deal with Genesis 9:6?

So why are we so quick to defend a nation’s choice to go to war (when it “benefits” national security…) or capital punishment (”for the sake of justice”), but actively condemn a woman who chooses to abort one pregnancy to save her own life

Who does that? My church hasn’t rushed to support war (although I certainly believe much good has been accomplished in Iraq along with the problems) and no one I know condemns a woman for abortion (I’ve had friends who had them), especially if it’s in self-defense, rare as that is. I abhor it as birth control, because you’re killing one human to convenience another. That’s terrible.

My point is simple: the inconsistency is blatant on both sides of the argument.

I think anyone who takes the Bible at face value has to be anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment. Genesis 9:6 is not part of the Mosaic law, and it’s consistent with Romans 13.

The bottom line on abortion is simple–how does one justify killing a baby? That’s what abortion is. If the mother’s life is at risk, you can justify it, but you’re still killing a baby for the greater good. When a mom decides she doesn’t want a baby, is that reason enough to kill her child? And as I said earlier, the logic of allowing people to make choices can’t exclude rape or murder of others, so better defenses need to be attempted.

Comment by Randy Brandt

Methinks this’ll be my last post on this topic…

Regarding socialism, I don’t think there’s a way to find any common ground on this. I see the sharing of all things equally, the having all things in common, the living under a centralized Idea (or rather, the person of Christ) as very socialist in nature. And I can’t go any further on it, because I’m one who believes Capitalism, at it’s heart, is more evil than socialism could ever be, simply because it praises the love of and quest for money…and, as a by-product, power. And, as it plays out in humanity (as we see in our country), it’s decidedly ANTI-christian because it serves those with the most and empowers them to get more, while ignoring those without.

Regarding abortion, pro-life, etc: First, no one – NO ONE – here is justifying killing babies. And I think I’ve made plenty clear that I don’t buy the “you can’t mandate morality” argument with abortion. I just see how – and why – it’s made in a democratic society in which not everyone is Christian and thus opinions differ on the value and sanctity of life. And you can’t mandate THAT kind of morality (or rather, you can’t mandate values), no matter how much you try. In our culture, it’s the public who decides whether we value a woman’s right to her own body more or less than an unborn baby. I’m on the latter end of that; but I can’t force everyone to be. And there are simply too many variables to mandate it my way. When you’re dealing with rape, it’s a lot more “obvious” because there’s no discussion of who’s alive and who’s not. It’s lame, and it sucks. But that’s how it is. And until we solve ALL the problems surrounding abortion, we can’t just outlaw it.

Second, I “deal” with Genesis 9:6 by looking at the rest of Scripture, and most specifically the New Testament, in which Christ taught us a new, VERY different way, in which Christians live under and are the carriers of mercy as a means of justice. I “deal” with it by seeing it in its own context and deciphering whether or not it can be applied in the context of the life Christ taught us to live, under the new Covenant. I’d think you of all people would know the significance of context, Law, etc…unless you are among those who insist Tattoos are sinful, etc.

I think anyone who takes the Bible at face value has to be anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment. Genesis 9:6 is not part of the Mosaic law, and it’s consistent with Romans 13.

We disagree here. No, Genesis 9:6 is not part of the Mosaic Law, but neither is it part of Christ’s new Covenant and Way, in which we’re taught to turn the other cheek, to love mercy, to seek and support reconciliation and redemption at all costs, to the end. Not end life, for any reason. I think it’s significant that the only justified execution we see in the New Testament is that of Jesus Himself.

Furthermore, from what I can tell, the only way Capital Punishment is consistent with Romans 13 is if the government you’re living under supports Capital Punishment. Maybe I’m daft, but I don’t get how that applies universally.

Bottom line: we disagree, except for on your thrid-to-last paragraph (though I could give you example after example of Church’s who have LOUDLY supported these wars and others, and have actively condemned women for abortions, and taught their youth to plant pipe bombs, etc. At least we can agree that abortion as birth control is indeed evil.)

But we differ in that I see LIFE as valuable across the board. I see ONE judge – and no more – capable of making the ultimate decision about someone else’s value to humanity, and of deciding whether or not someone ought to live. I see, throughout Scripture, justice being enacted with mercy in hand. I see it especially in the New Testament and in the Way of Christ.

And because I’m fairly passionate about that one, I need to duck out now.

Comment by amycourts

Okay, I suppose this will be my last as well.

Regarding socialism, I don’t think there’s a way to find any common ground on this. I see the sharing of all things equally, the having all things in common, the living under a centralized Idea (or rather, the person of Christ) as very socialist in nature.

Yep, I think common ground is out. I see all the positives you admire as being more possible under capitalism, but never happening under socialism because of the coercion and concentrated power it requires. Socialism has never worked in any culture at any time in history. The only long-term communities I know that work, like JPUSA, are voluntary rather than coerced.

You haven’t given me one example of an ideal that doesn’t work better under capitalism than socialism in reality. Sharing? Can’t really do it if you don’t own anything. Generosity is out the window, along with the incentive to work hard.

I’m one who believes Capitalism, at it’s heart, is more evil than socialism could ever be

Amy, I know you know your history better than that. Capitalism at its heart is about private property and individual freedom. Socialism is about power-tripping despots who often end up slaughtering the masses a la Stalin’s millions. Remember National Socialism? It was big in Germany a few decades ago. The Jews still remember. Socialism and its offspring communism have murdered more people than any other system in the history of mankind, so I’m not sure how you judge evil. If you mean the United States, which has given more money to charity, foreign missions and foreign aid than any other country in history despite the ever-increasing gov’t interfence, well, we have very different ideas of evil.

it praises the love of and quest for money…and, as a by-product, power.

Sinful people can distort it, yes, but those problems are not inherent to the capitalist system. Freedom is the key, not greed.

And, as it plays out in humanity (as we see in our country), it’s decidedly ANTI-christian because it serves those with the most and empowers them to get more, while ignoring those without.

Again, sin is a problem, but let’s not forget the millions Americans give every year to disaster relief, missions, etc. Is it better for everyone to be in poverty except for the elite like the USSR experienced for so long?

The capitalist says it’s okay for someone to have $10 while someone else has $5, but the socialist would rather see everyone have $2. A capitalist says a rising tide floats all boats. A socialist would rather sink everyone’s boat just to keep it “fair.”

no one – NO ONE – here is justifying killing babies

It’s hard to tip-toe between that and saying it’s okay for someone else to decide to kill their baby, and to think tax dollars should support killing babies, like Obama’s view.

you can’t mandate values), no matter how much you try.

That I agree with. But of course we mandate morality in cases like spousal and child abuse, etc, all the time.

Second, I “deal” with Genesis 9:6 by looking at the rest of Scripture, and most specifically the New Testament, in which Christ taught us a new, VERY different way, in which Christians live under and are the carriers of mercy as a means of justice. I “deal” with it by seeing it in its own context and deciphering whether or not it can be applied in the context of the life Christ taught us to live, under the new Covenant. I’d think you of all people would know the significance of context, Law, etc…unless you are among those who insist Tattoos are sinful, etc.

I think context is vital, and the fact that Genesis 9:6 predates the Mosaic Law is significant. It’s tied to the Noahic rainbow covenant, and we’re still seeing rainbows.

No, Genesis 9:6 is not part of the Mosaic Law, but neither is it part of Christ’s new Covenant and Way, in which we’re taught to turn the other cheek, to love mercy, to seek and support reconciliation and redemption at all costs, to the end. Not end life, for any reason.

I think personal behavior and gov’t responsibility are separate.

I think it’s significant that the only justified execution we see in the New Testament is that of Jesus Himself.

Good point. I like it.

Furthermore, from what I can tell, the only way Capital Punishment is consistent with Romans 13 is if the government you’re living under supports Capital Punishment. Maybe I’m daft, but I don’t get how that applies universally.

Except that gov’t who don’t have capital punishment seem to be reneging on their Biblical responsibility to bear the sword and punish evildoers.

I could give you example after example of Church’s who have…taught their youth to plant pipe bombs

Must be a Southern thing. Not much of that up here.

But we differ in that I see LIFE as valuable across the board.

I do, too. That’s why I agree with Genesis 9:6. All life is valuable, but when you murder someone’s precious life, you forfeit yours.

I agree that mercy is huge, but a society that protects murderers and murders babies usually slides downhill rapidly.

And because I’m fairly passionate about that one, I need to duck out now.

At least I know you’re no threat to kill me! 😉

Comment by Randy Brandt

I thought of one other thing last night, so if you’ll humor me, Amy, I’ll also point out that you have a very nice free enterprise capitalist website over at AmyCourts.com. No gov’t bureaucrat is telling you that you can sell your merch, how to price it, or what to do with the proceeds. None of that happens under socialism.

Comment by Randy Brandt




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