by Rev. John Tamilio III, Ph.D. Candidate
The nonprofit, nonpartisan religious organization Sojourners, founded by Jim Wallis (of God’s Politics fame), circulated a bumper sticker and hosted an on-line petition during the 2004 campaign under the mantra God is not a Republican…or a Democrat. That’s true. God may be a Socialist, though — at least Jesus of Nazareth was.
First of all, Jesus was an itinerant preacher who shunned earthly possessions and sought to establish a covenantal community (a koinonia) in which all people had equal access to food, shelter, and basic care — not to mention God’s grace! Jesus’ message was one that challenged the political and religious authorities of his era by bringing those from the margins to the center of the social order.
Secondly, read the opening chapters of the Book of Acts (the second part of Luke’s Gospel). After the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon the Church (giving birth to the body of Christ on earth) we are told that “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Commenting on these verses, Robert W. Wall states that, “A fellowship of believers shares more than common beliefs and core values; they display a profound regard for one another’s spiritual and physical well-being as a community of friends.” Are these not basic civil rights? Is this not a fundamental ethical aspect of communal living in which we are all embroiled (be it in the Church, or society at large, or both)? Two chapters later, the apostolic record reiterates this point:
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.