Joshua Fauver, a frequent IPR contributor, is a Louisianan political activist who was formerly a member of the Constitution and Libertarian parties. He now describes himself as an unaffiliated democratic socialist. He recently started a blog called Bayou State Socialist.
Posted on July 8, 2014 on the Bayou State Socialist blog:
Most people will in all likelihood read the title of this piece and shudder. To most the words “Christian” and “Socialist” will seem wholly incompatible. Many are of the opinion that socialism is a word that means “Godless liberal”. In my own experience, however, what I have found is that the contrary is true. It is, in fact, my deeply held belief in God, in the teachings of the Bible, the teachings of the Gospels, and the sense of morality they have developed in me that have led me to embrace socialism. Allow me to explain.
The Bible has a lot to say about the poor. Specifically it has a lot to say about taking care of the poor. For example: “If there is any poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” (Deuteronomy 15:7) But this isn’t a scripture you’ll often hear quoted by most Christians involved in politics. In fact, the only teachings of the Bible that seem to be brought up by Christians involved in politics today is marriage and abortion. When it comes to taking care of the poor Christian politicians take the capitalistic approach, it should be left to private charity and not government. (Only to turn around and preach about the previous mentioned issues of marriage and abortion, claiming this is a nation based on Christian principles and therefore it must be the role of government to act on these issues.)
The Christians of today seem to have forgotten all that the Bible says about the poor, and the commission we were given to take care of them. Let’s look at some of what the Bible has to say about this, shall we?
“There will always be poor in the land. Therefore I command you to be orphaned toward your brothers and toward the poor and the needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)
“Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.” (Deuteronomy 24:14)
“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31)
“If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he to will cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)
“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Proverbs 29:7)
“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)
“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
Are we hearing this kind of talk from any of the Christian politicians in office today? I certainly am not. What we are hearing from Christian office holders today is “We can’t raise the minimum wage! We shouldn’t even have one.” We’re hearing, “Cut the unemployment benefits that help the poorest Americans make ends meet.” We’re hearing “Cut funding to WIC programs that help single mothers to take care of themselves and their children.” That’s what we are hearing from Christian politicians today. But there is something else they are saying too. “We must give tax breaks to the richest 1% in America.” “We must give subsidies to the billion dollar oil companies.” “We must bail out big banks and big businesses that hijacked and wrecked the American economy.” “We must spend $600 billion to fund our bloated military so we can wage war across the globe.” I find this wholly incompatible with what the Bible teaches us.
The participation of Christians in the upholding of the capitalist system in place in America runs counter to the belief system that they claim to have. I find capitalism, namely the way it approaches solving poverty, to run counter to the teachings of the Bible. Let’s take a look at something that Pope Francis just recently wrote, “Some people continue to defend trickle down economic theories which assume that growth, encouraged by a free-market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile the excluded are still waiting. “
The capitalist approach to solving poverty is, not just go address it only via private charity, to let the rich get richer in “hope” that the wealth will just trickle down. While the theory should be apparently laughable just on the face of it, the facts over time have shown this theory to be just plain wrong. But, again, I turn back to the Bible. Christians should have never embraced a system that addressed poverty this way. What does the Bible teach us?
“Now this was the sin of your sister in Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)
“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” (Ezekiel 22:29)
“This is what the Lord says: “For three sin of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample of the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed….”(Amos 2:6-7)
The Bible is very clear on this matter. God is not pleased when the rich oppress the poor for their own gain. God is not pleased when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The Bible teaches that this is wrong, that we are to help the poor. That we are to come to the defense of those who are oppressed. That we should be a voice to the voiceless. That we should be of help to the needy. In fact, we are even taught that doing so is what it is to know God. (Jeremiah 22:16) But it seems to me that the Christian politicians today are advocating for the exact opposite! They are advocating for the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer. Pope Francis had something to say about this quite recently as well, “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”
He really hit that one out of the park, didn’t he? After all, what are the arguments we are given by Christian politicians against things like renewing unemployment benefits, against expanding medicaid, against universal healthcare, etc. etc. “Why should I have to pay for someone else’s (insert necessary good or service here)” That seems to be what it always boil down to! (Though, again, I would like to point out, they don’t mind others being forced to pay for a corporation’s subsidy or for another oil company’s war in the middle east.)That is the very definition of an economy that lacks a truly human purpose. It’s a economy that is being ran by and for the super wealthy. An economy that ignores the needs of the vast majority, of the working class, and of the very poor. I believe that Jesus had something to say about this in the gospel of Saint Matthew:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Then He will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They will also answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for on of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
When I step back and look at the entirety of this, when I look at what it is the Bible teaches, what it is that Christ teaches, and then I look at what our capitalist economic situation is doing, how it treating the wealthy versus how it is treating the poor, I cannot escape this conclusion. I cannot escape the conclusion that a capitalistic economic system is contrary to the teachings of the Bible whereas a socialist one embodies them.
That is why I am proudly a Christian Socialist.