Democratic Socialism – Is it biblical? Part 1

As I prayed about, meditated on, and researched the impacts of the “democratic socialist progressive” movement on both American and Religious liberties, I was inundated with enough material to write a very serious book on the subject. However, a book on this specific topic is not something the Lord is directing me to do; therefore, I pray that you find this two part blog post adequate enough to draw, at a minimum, a black and white picture.

At issue is the growth in interest in Democratic Socialism.  To remove any ambiguity, I believe that the future of the democratic party is one where they will eventually be overcome and overwhelmed by the loud and vicious extremes of what is referred to as “the far left”, or “leftists”.  The democratic party is no longer recognizable as the party of Kennedy, or even Bill Clinton for that matter. While I do not believe that all democrats are in agreement with the leftist shift of the party, the shift is strong, with members almost becoming cannabalistic – each competing to be more extreme than the other just to remain consequential. As a sign of things to come, democratic presidential candidates that tended to be very centrist in their views are starting to drop from the race. They are not extreme, or leftist enough.

Socialism is taking over the democratic party; and this is not good news for them. The democratic party is becoming ever more aggressive in their immorality, violence, and completely ungodly and unbiblical views and policies. While this post will posit an argument against the proposed economic plans of Democratic Presidential Candidates, it does not suppose that all Democrats agree with this ideal. There are still some moderate democrats out there; nonetheless, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are dominating the public image of the democratic party, and it is not good for the American nation nor those that enjoy life as an American Christian.  Yet, there are Christian Socialists that are completely on board with the movement underway within the democratic socialist agenda.

A review of writings and opinions on both proponents and opponents of Christian Socialism, I found that both sides have scriptures that seem to support their points of views. This validates the argument that if you want to find scripture to support an argument, you will be successful. The issue of debate is the context of the scripture, the full story if you will. One must also consider the world in which the writers of the scriptures existed at that time. Democracy was non-existent and economics was one of barter, trade, and “value of the moment”. However, what they all had at their disposal was the actions of biblical moral behavior, scriptures from the old covenant, and a somewhat godly worldview (though the people of Israel were still tribal with a little theocracy and monarchy tossed in). 

Finally, scriptures that support socialism lean very heavily on those that discuss actions for the poor and love of our brothers and neighbors. In opposition, scriptures that discuss capitalism lean very heavily on talents, performance, and trade while also being very critical of those that are lazy or the husband that fails to take care of his family.   What I noticed missing, somewhat abstractly, were components of God given rights and freedom as ordained by God. When we consider biblical morality when it comes to our God given rights and freedom, the argument against Socialism becomes very clear while support for a free market economy (Capitalism) is also very clear – to me anyway. Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview and seeks to suppress all peoples in support of the state.

What almost all Christians will agree is that Christian’s must consider economic options based on a standard of biblical morality, and ask which system is more consistent with the entire Christian worldview. This does require that we consider the biblical worldview first and foremost, before we consider a political worldview. When properly considered, we find that the most obvious differences between socialism and capitalism is one of unalienable rights. The question then becomes, do you value your freedom and rights as ordained by God while respecting the same rights and freedom of others, or, are you ok with sacrificing some of your God given freedom and rights as decided on by government bodies.

The biblical worldview implies that since God is the creator of all that exists, He ultimately is the rightful owner of all that exists. Whatever possessions a human has is temporary and is ultimately accountable to God for how he uses them. The biblical worldview also contains claims about human rights and liberties. Human beings have certain natural rights inherent in their created nature and have certain moral obligations to respect the rights of others.

The possibility of human freedom is not a gift of government but a gift from God. The Old Testament tends to focus on the economic and social dimensions of freedom while the New Testament leans on a more spiritual dimension of freedom. Freedom in the New Testament is deliverance from bondage to sin and is available only to those who come to know God’s truth through Christ. Within both Testaments, freedom always has God as its ultimate ground and must always exist in relationship to law. Liberty should never be turned into license.

The moralistic system of the Ten Commandments does not constitute the entire biblical ethic, therefore, it is important to notice other biblically relevant dimensions. Christians on the Left insist that the biblical ethic condemns individual actions and social structures that favor some at the expense of others. While in partial agreement, where the Left makes a slip is by further claiming that capitalism inevitably encourages individual actions and social structures that intentianally oppresses and harm people. On this point, they are dead wrong as the question if which system (socialism and capitalism) actually harms or helps different classes of people is an empirical and not a normative matter.  Leftists simply have their facts wrong.

Finally, an oft argued aspect of the Christian worldview is the inescapable fact of human sin and depravity. No man made economic or political system that assumes the essential goodness of human nature or holds out the dream of a utopia can possibly be consistent with the biblical worldview.

 

What is Socialism?

Socialism is a societal system in which property, natural resources, and the means of production are owned and controlled by the state rather than by individuals or private companies. A basic belief of socialism is that society as a whole should share in all goods produced, as everyone lives in cooperation with one another.  Socialism necessitates a government that is free from corruption and negates the possibility of elitism within its ranks. If history has shown anything, it is that power corrupts fallen mankind, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Socialism is wrong in teaching that a person’s identity is bound up in the work that he does. Although secular society certainly promotes this belief, the Bible says that all have equal worth because all are created in the image of the eternal God. True, intrinsic human value lies in God’s creation of us.

Socialism is not a biblical model for society. In opposition to socialism, the Bible promotes the idea of private property and issues commands to respect it: commands such as “You shall not steal” (Deut 5:19) are meaningless without private property. Unlike what we see in failed experiments in socialism, the Bible honors work and teaches that individuals are responsible to support themselves: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thess 3:10). The redistribution of wealth foundational to socialism destroys accountability and the biblical work ethic. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14–30 clearly teaches our responsibility to serve God with our (private) resources.

In the Parable of the Talents, we see that Jesus acknowledges the differences in an individual’s skill and work ethic AND that individuals are treated differently based on performance: Matt 25:14-15:  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” When the master later checked on the three, he found one had produced an additional five portions; the second, two more portions; but the third had done absolutely nothing. He rewarded the three based on what each had individually done. This is the basic tenet of a free-market system.

In Jesus’s parable, there was neither a bottom nor a top wage; each individual was rewarded “according to his own ability.”As Jesus affirmed in Matt 25:29, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

This economic principle articulated by Jesus has proven to be sound across the ages. In fact, almost two millennia later, Thomas Jefferson expressed Jesus’s principle in these words:

“To take from one because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare [give] to others, who (or whose fathers) have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association: the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry [hard work] and the fruits acquired by it.”

Reflective of her socialist beliefs and rejecting the free-market approach set forth by Jesus, she announced: “I decided that no one on my staff will make less than $52k/year. It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill.” But for high-performing staffers, she capped their salaries at $80,000, which is “well below the median pay for Hill chiefs of staff at $154,634….And it’s a fraction of what experienced staffers could make in other jobs in Washington.” 

Incidentally, while AOC insists on “wage fairness” for her employees, she does not believe in it for herself. She currently has an annual salary of $174,000, and is calling for a significant raise in her own paycheck because, as she explains, she is working so much harder than others. In socialistic systems, the elites nearly never apply to themselves the standard they demand for the rest; they regularly exempt themselves from their insistence on equality for all.

The Bible teaches us to work hard and take personal responsibility for our actions and for our families. It teaches us not to be lazy and to enjoy the work of our hands. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth is wrong, but that the love of it is. The Bible also teaches us to look after the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. It teaches us to share. It also teaches us to not judge whether we think people are deserving of our generosity or if they are truly worthy of help. It teaches us to give until it hurts and to constantly be moving toward greater generosity. The Bible also teaches that our possessions are not our own and that we are only stewards of what belongs to God. It teaches that to whom much is given, much is required. In fact, the Bible teaches Capitalism as the means of our generosity.

1. Socialism is Based on a Materialistic Worldview

According to socialists like Bernie Sanders, the greatest problem in the world is the unequal distribution of wealth. All that really exists is the material world. Karl Marx believed that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material. To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff — and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. It is assumed that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve.

This worldview contradicts Christianity, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world — and teaches that mankind’s greatest problems are spiritual. The Bible says the cause of suffering is sin. Because of sin, there will always be inequalities in wealth. As the parable of the talents shows, those with good character tend to accumulate more; those with bad character may lose everything they have. Christianity teaches that we can still have an abundant life because our quality of life is not determined by how much stuff we have, but by our relationship to Christ.

2. Socialism Punishes Virtue

Socialists want to distribute wealth to individuals according to their need, regardless of virtue. Karl Marx said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Whenever any institution provides aid, it runs the risk of removing God-designed rewards and consequences. It can punish those who are industrious by making them pay for those who are not, and, it rewards those who aren’t industrious by giving them the fruits of another man’s labor. This is precisely what socialism does.

The Bible teaches that aid should be tied to responsibility. First, anyone who refuses to work should be refused aid. As 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The Apostle Paul said that a man who fails to provide for his family is “worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8)

3. Socialism Indirectly Endorses Theft

Barack Obama once defended his socialist policies to a little girl by saying, “We’ve got to make sure that people who have more money help the people who have less money.”  Sounds Christian, right? However, Obama wasn’t endorsing people voluntarily sharing their wealth with others; he was endorsing the government forcibly taking a piece of the pie from one person and giving it to someone else. That’s not Christian; that’s stealing!

Socialists don’t believe in private property while some Christian socialists actually assert that the Bible doesn’t either. That’s preposterous. Both the Old Testament and New Testament unequivocally affirm private property. We can’t even obey the eighth commandment to not steal, unless we accept the notion of private ownership. Nor, can we steward our money as the Bible commands if the state owns our money.

4. Socialism Encourages Envy and Class Warfare

Socialists demonize the rich, blaming all of society’s problems on them. Bernie Sanders once posted to Facebook: “Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”

Sanders is mimicking Karl Marx, who viewed history as a series of class struggles between the rich and the poor — and advocated overthrowing the ruling class.

Scripture strongly warns the rich and powerful not to oppress the poor. In fact, Proverbs 14:31 says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for his maker . . .” But, Sanders — and other Leftists, including Hillary Clinton — go far beyond decrying specific acts of injustice. They basically condemn an entire class of people simply for possessing wealth. And, they encourage those who are poor to overthrow them. In fact, Clinton once said the U.S. economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1%.  There will always be a top 1%, even in a socialist culture where the socialist planners and elitists reside.

The rich are not causing all the problems in American society. People like Bill Gates are not acquiring wealth by stealing from the masses. They’re creating products, which produce wealth, and provide jobs. Nowhere does Scripture support the have-nots demanding money from the haves. Instead, it teaches that we should not covet (Exodus 20:17) and should be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).

5. Socialism Seeks to Destroy Marriage & Family

A little known fact about socialism is that, from its beginning, it has sought to destroy marriage and family. Grove City Professor Paul Kengor explains that socialism seeks for the state to replace the family. That way, it can indoctrinate children and remove from them any notions of God and religion.

Friedrich Engels, co-author with Marx of the “The Communist Manifesto,” referenced a society where “the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.”

Similarly today, Bernie Sanders calls for a “revolution” in childcare and for the government to provide early childhood education beginning with children as young as six-weeks-old, and, he’s a proud supporter of gay marriage — what Kengor calls “communism’s Trojan Horse” to secure the final takedown of traditional marriage.

There’s nothing Christian about socialism — and there’s absolutely no way Jesus would ever support it.

 

In Part 2, I will close with “What is the rub?”, and a concluding argument about the violence of socialism as compared to the non-violence of Capitalism.
 

References:

  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ocasio-cortez-its-immoral-for-a-system-to-allow-billionaires-amid-such-poverty-2019-01-22, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1099133711986163713, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-call-living-wage-starts-office, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. http://money.com/money/5636654/aoc-living-wage-staff-52000-white-house/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1105968192889982976, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  1. Thomas Jefferson, “To Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816,” The Founders’ Constitution, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch15s64.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  2. https://www.summit.org/resources/articles/socialism-capitalism-and-the-bible/, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  3. https://www.hungryforlife.org/blog/does-the-bible-support-capitalism-or-socialism, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  4. https://www.gotquestions.org/socialism-Christian.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019
  5. https://www.christianpost.com/news/5-reasons-socialism-is-not-christian-opinion.html, accessed 26 Aug 2019