Did Jesus Teach Socialism? – Part 2January 7, 2012
An imaginary (and a bit over-the-top) dialogue between Jesus and His disciples through the lens of “Jesus believed in socialism.”
by Pastor Kenny Burchard email me here
In a previous post 2 years ago, I tried to push back agains the increasingly popular idea that “Jesus was a socialist.” The original article has had thousands of hits, is #2 on the google-search results for the question “Did Jesus teach Socialism,” is read by an average of two people every day on the daily-stats page of my blog, and has been referenced in the work of others as they have tried to deal with the issue as well.
I was thinking last night that it might be helpful to try to put socialism “into the mouth” of Jesus (since advocates of the idea that Jesus was a socialist can imagine him talking like one), and get him to talk like a socialist in a mock-dialogue with his disciples to see if socialistic ideas fit what we know about Jesus in the gospels.
In my previous post about this, I differentiated between generosity, benevolence, charity and Socialism. I concluded that Jesus never taught that the primary way to care for the poor was through confiscatory taxation and arbitrary wealth re-distribution by a secular government bureaucracy. But, what if he had taught that? What if that really was how Jesus believed? What if Jesus really was a socialist? What kinds of statements would we hear him making in the gospels?
Some will say… “This is a losing battle, Kenny. Jesus said we should feed the poor, and care for the sick. That’s socialism.” But wait, that is not all socialism says. There is a fundamental WAY of caring for the poor and caring for the sick in socialism. Our question is – did Jesus embrace the same way in his teaching, or was it different? If Jesus really was a socialist, we wouldn’t just hear Jesus talking about caring for people. He would also provide the mechanics for doing that, as Socialism does. In other words, Jesus would not only say “Feed the hungry, care for the sick,” but he would also say… “And here’s how you do that.” This post imagines Jesus giving some of the socialist mechanics as the means by which we do what he commands us to do.
Beginning with Scripture
Of course, we need to find Jesus having a value for caring for others, and hear his heart of compassion for the poor and marginalized before we insert our own words into Jesus’ mouth. So let’s do that first.
The Gospel of Luke is probably the most vivid window into the heart of Jesus for hurting people. In that Gospel, there are more recorded healings than in any of the other gospels, and there seems to be an intentional effort on Luke’s part to give us an image of Jesus as a compassionate savior who cares for the marginalized, lifts up the lowly, feeds the hungry, touches the leper and the “unclean” in society, and confronts selfishness in those who will not share their food and their money with people who have nothing. Are these the core-values of socialism? Is this where socialism comes from? When we see what is happening (or what has happened) in entire nations that embraced socialism, do we see a repeat of the ministry of Jesus happening in the lives of people under those systems?
In Luke 9:10-18, one of the greatest miracles in the ministry of Jesus takes place when he supernaturally feeds a crowd of 5,000 men (some believe that by only counting the men, there may have been as many as 10 or even 20 thousand people in the crowd when factoring in women and children). Here’s where the narrative begins and scripture ends…
Disciples: Jesus, look at all these people. We need to send them into town for the night so they can rest and get some food.
Jesus: Why don’t you feed them yourselves?
Disciples: What, you want us to go buy food for thousands and thousands of people? Or maybe we could give them our food. Let’s see, what do we have here… 2 fish and 5 pieces of bread… Do you think that’ll be enough, Jesus?
Jesus: You’re right. It’s not enough. Okay. Here’s the plan. Instead of sending them into town, or me praying over your food to multiply it we’re going to do something radical. Stick with me now…
First we will need to build the loyalty of the people so that we can amass an army of the people, head to Rome, and take over the current government system and set up our own. We’ll call it a “Socialist Republic.” I will use my miracle power and my capacity to captivate the masses to sway the people to be loyal to our cause, and allay their fears of a push-back from Rome. With my power, no one will be able to stand against us.
Disciples: We knew it! You ARE here to set up an earthly governmental system where we are in charge! Awesome! So, who among we twelve will get the best positions in the new government you’re setting up?
Jesus: We’ll have to work on that as we go. In the meantime, let’s talk about the structure of my new Socialist government. It has been given to you to know the mysteries of my plan to install an earthly governmental structure called socialism into the fabric of all humanity. In fact, in 2000 years, people will actually call me a socialist because of what we are about to do. They will look at what I started, and they will exclaim… “Why, that is pure socialism. Jesus was a socialist!”
Disciples: Great! We’re in, Jesus. It’s all that we ever hoped for, and more! We are willing to go all the way with you. We completely understand why you have come. That’s why we decided to follow you in the first place.
Jesus: Good. Now… Let these words sink into your ears. The son of Man has come to take over every earthly government system with socialism. It most reflects my view of how things should work.
Disciples: What do we after we amass the army of the people, march on Rome, and wrest the power of the government from their hands by force?
Jesus: Well, once the people see that we are working for their good, and they see us take, by manipulation, by law, and even by force, all of the resources of the wealthy and distribute them amongst the people, they will be fiercely loyal to us.
Disciples: Where will we find the wealthy people?
Jesus: Easy. Start with the people who have used wealth to create more wealth. Look for people who have started their own companies, corporations, and businesses. That is where all the money really is. Those people use money to make more money. They use capital to create whole industries. But they don’t share it like they should, so we have to take it from them by force. There is no money without these people, but since we disagree with how they use it – we will force them to give it to us. We will distribute it as we see fit.
Disciples: Ah. So, we take the money from the money-makers, and we give it out as we see fit?
Jesus: Yes. In essence, we will only be able to control the money by taking it away from the people who have it now, and giving it out as we see fit. We will re-distribute what we confiscate from actual wealth-generators, and when people find out that by following us, they will receive free things that they never have to pay for, they will fight to the death to ensure that we never lose our power. If we allow them some kind of election process, they would never vote for anyone who would threaten this new way of life for them. How else will they eat? How else will some of them have a place to live? How else will they get the medical care they need? We will take over in the most basic ways. Food, Housing, Healthcare, Spending Money, Education, Industry. We will control all of it, and we will give it to whomever we wish by the ratios that we determine are necessary. The people will learn to depend on us for everything. We will crush their desire to do anything else by taking away all of their incentive to do anything but work for the collective. No more inequality. We’ll make it the law of the land!
Disciples: We agree completely. What will we call our leadership-base in the new system?
Jesus: Initially, we will call ourselves the “Vanguard Revolutionaries.” We will organize everything, inspire the people, and lead the way. We will organize the armies, and rally the people. We will sharpen our swords, and if necessary, we will overthrow Rome by force and return the power to the people of the world. Of course, we’ll be in charge of ensuring that things are run well. We are wise. We understand what really needs to happen, and how things really should be done for everyone else. AAAAAaand, of course, since we have the police and military power, the people will not rise up against us either. Why would they? We’ll feed them their daily bread, and give them a job that seems to fit best with what they are good at… or… what we need them to do. We’ll give them a nice place to live with just enough to care for the number of children we allow them to have.
Disciples: How will the people think of themselves?
Jesus: The people will see themselves as a collective. They will not work for themselves or their families. Personal initiative needs to diminish. They will work for the common good. They will not be concerned with earning enough money, because we will determine an adequate standard of living for each person, and ensure that everyone has what they need based on our projections. So, when a person goes to work – doing the job we have given him to do, he will simply do so to ensure that everyone has enough – including himself of course. But this desire to earn more, achieve more, or get more will be destroyed for once and for all. No longer will they work to earn, grow, transition, or progress. No, in our system, they will work to “use” and not to “profit.” Only to use. That should be the only purpose for working and building and creating anything. And they will use only what we know they need to use. Anything more than that would be selfish.
Disciples: Master, will we need to use the sword much? Some will go along, won’t they? Do you think there will be a huge resistance?
Jesus: I see resistance on three levels. First, I see moral resistance. Some people think that it is right to decide what to do for a living, then keep what you earn and use it as you wish. Some people think that they should control their own benevolence to their fellow-man through free-will giving and generosity. But it just won’t work. We have to enforce it. With the moral resistance, we will tell them over and over and over again how selfish they are. We will call them names for earning a good wage, creating lots of wealth, and starting wealth-generating enterprises. We will turn the lower class against them through envy. We will point out how much they have and how it is not fair, and they should be forced to give it up until we feel they have given enough. Many of them will turn to our way because they hate being thought of as selfish. They think they’re generous for starting companies, using their wealth to create jobs, and paying a percentage of what they earn to the government for infrastructure. But they are wrong.
Disciples: So, to turn this group to our way, we will pit the lower class against them by calling them names and creating and envious lower class. That’s brilliant, Jesus. What about the second group.
Jesus: The second group will not be as easy. They will use the law to their favor, and will not give up on the basis of our new version of equality. So, we will have to change the laws about how much money a person can make. As people find ways to create more money, we will need to find ways to take it away from them and give it to those whom we deem worthy of it. We will create a tax-system that essentially drains the upper crust through steep taxes, and funnels that money into our government. We will use the tax revenue to build our governmental infrastructure, create lots of government jobs, build huge government buildings, and pay the salaries of all the people working in our system. SO, in short… we’ll do it through taxation. It will be the law of the land.
Disciples: What kind of government jobs are we talking about here?
Jesus: Well, let’s start with this crowd, for instance. They’re hungry, right? In our new system, here’s what we will do to feed them. First, we’ll confiscate the wealth of the wealth-creators. Then, in every city we will build a large office building with part of that money. We’ll fully furnish it with the latest technology and office equipment. We’ll air-condition it, carpet it, and make it a nice place to work. Then we’ll create an army of workers who interview everyone in the crowd here and create an entire filing system for each one of them. Once we have a file, then we’ll send them to a case-worker who keeps track of them. Of course, these people will need direction, so we’ll have varying levels of managers and directors to make sure it all gets done. The workers will need health benefits and retirement too, after 20 years or so, and so another portion of the money will go for that. Then, once we have these buildings and these armies of well-paid, insured, and vested workers – we’ll take what is left over and give it to the poor. Great, huh? That, my friends, is how we’ll feed the poor in my kingdom. And if we run out of money to give the poor because we pay our people so much, we’ll find some more capitalists to shake down, and get more. The poor need to be fed, and it’s up to us to see that it gets done. It’s the right thing to do.
Disciples: So, to feed the poor, we won’t just have people decide what to do on their own?
Jesus: That’s right. They might not give enough, and we’ll need to get more from them. When you leave it up to people to give freely, and without compulsion, it can’t work. You have to force the issue. The poor need to be fed.
Disciples: So, to feed this multitude of around 5000 men, plus all the women and children, you’re saying we should create a huge and mammoth system filled with government employees who make more money than the average person who does not have a government job, as well as ensuring that they have good healthcare and retirement too, and then – once we’ve taken care of our employees, we have them give what’s left over to the poor?
Jesus: That’s it. I’m a socialist. That’s how you do it my kingdom.
Disciples: And you’re saying if there is still not enough – because it might be expensive to have so many employees who don’t actually create more wealth, we will just get more from the people who actually do create wealth?
Jesus: Right. Our people are not going to be generating wealth. They will be receiving wealth through their paychecks, and paying taxes too – but without the wealth-generators, we would run out. Our jobs don’t actually make things. We just process the function of our system. That’s it.
Disciples: And you’re saying that we’ll make it both immoral and illegal not to pay our government the amount that we see fit?
Jesus: You guys are really catching on. This is why the son of Man has come into the world. To be a socialist. Everyone will know that I am a socialist. In fact, if people don’t see that, they are blind. Clearly, what I have just laid out is my plan for world-wide socialism. It’s the “Jesus way.” History will show that this why I have come.
Disciples: It is amazing, Jesus. Now. What will we do if they refuse to contribute based on class-warfare and taxation? What if they simply don’t pay their taxes? What if they revolt? What if they turn against us for trying to take all that they have built and worked for so that we can turn it over to whomever we see fit?
Jesus: (brandishing a sword) – We will use the full power of our authority to compel them. We will send in our paid government officials and soldiers to take their property by force. We will raid their bank accounts, and we will send them to jail if they fail to comply. Yes! We will manipulate them through class warfare. Yes! We will legislate taxation to confiscate their wealth through a tax system. And, yes! We will forcibly extract their money from them if the first two don’t work. For this reason was the son of Man born into the world. I, Jesus, am a socialist, and this is how things should be done.
This could go on and on, and we could cover a lot more ground, but you get the idea.
Socialism is not about feeding the hungry and caring for the poor. It is a fundamental way of enforcing through (1) manipulation (class warfare), (2) law (confiscatory taxation), and (3) force (confiscation by force) the flow of power and money in a society. Saying “Jesus cared for the poor, so Jesus was a socialist” cannot work. There is a WAY to make socialism work, and this WAY (i.e., the actual mechanics of how to create a socialist government where one does not currently exist) cannot be found in the teaching of Jesus.
Again, if this is what you believe Jesus did during his earthly ministry, and if this is what you believe his teachings inspire, I would like to have your verses. It’s one thing to say that Jesus taught and modeled generosity, care for the poor and the sick, and love for one another. It’s another thing to say that what he really advocated was an earthly governmental system that would force this upon the human race in what we would now call “socialism.”
The socialist Jesus is not the Jesus of the New Testament.
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