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Was Jesus A Communist?


Neon Genesis
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Christians have traditionally associated communism with atheism mainly because the most prominent and infamous communists have been anti-religious atheists like Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin, but anti-capitalist ideas have existed long before Karl Marx and date back to at least the time of Plato. When you think about the teachings of Jesus regarding the poor, is Christianity really compatible with capitalism? Jesus spoke about how none of what we own belongs to us but everything we have belongs to God which seems more in line with communism than Ayn Rand's view of greed as a virtue that's essential to a successful capitalist society. Then you have other passages where Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions to the poor and follow him. When the woman with the alabaster jar comes to anoint Jesus, the apostles scold him for keeping the expensive jar of perfume for his own profitable gain instead of redistributing it to the people who need it. When Jesus predicts the end of the world in Matthew 25, he predicts a society where the rich who took advantage of the poor will be punished and the poor will be given what they rightly deserve. Perhaps the most explicitly communist passage in the bible is in Acts chapter four where it describes the early Christian church as a community where nobody had any possessions of their own and they all shared the wealth together. Taking these passages into account, is Christianity actually anti-capitalist and should Christians be following communist economic principles instead of the laisses faire capitalism of the Tea Party? Or is there a way where the pros of both systems could be merged together to create a superior system while discarding the flaws of both communism and capitalism which also respects the freedom of religion and basic human rights?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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I think many of Jesus' teachings and his example would be considered communistic by a majority of today's Christians.

 

I quote George Lansbury, a prominent British Christian Socialist leader (d. 1940).

 

Socialism, which means love, cooperation and brotherhood in every department of human affairs is the only outward expression of a Christian's faith. I am firmly convinced that whether they know it or not all who approve and accept competition and struggle against each other as the means whereby we gain our daily bread do indeed betray and make of no effect the "will of God."

 

True communistic living can be found in many convents, seminaries and monasteries.

 

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Perhaps we should also ask "Was Jesus a Jew?"

 

We don't know where Jesus went to school or learned what he taught; it could have been Egypt, Babylon or another advanced civilization; perhaps even more advanced in understanding than we are today in some ways. We don't know for sure if he existed but I suspect that some teacher fitting a similar description did and stories were told of his teaching and of the conflicts they caused.

 

The things we all share with each other are our humanity, the space we exist in and life force. In my understanding the Life Force is what others refer to as God. When I hear the parable of the greatest commandment and the Good Samaritan I think of the life force or God as being in us all and how all of us are one in spirit even though we are separate in physical body. I don't often quote the bible but to make a point that Jesus understood the life force as I try to. Remember this verse:

 

"I pray that they all may be one; as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

 

Substitute the word "believe" with "understand" and the lesson here seems clear that we are all one in the life force and the life force is in all of us. The prayer was that we would all come to understand that oneness as an immutable fact. When we love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves it is because the truth is we are all one in the life force of love, truth and consciousness.

 

Jesus was a Jew by nationality but not by his teachings. By his teachings and example I think he was a humanist.

Edited by Harry
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I don't think that Jesus was interested in economic or political ideologies. However, he did advocate behavior that would be compatible with communist or socialist economics.

 

Would he have disapproved of a business person (a capitalist) who treated others with respect, honesty and generosity? I don't think so.

 

George

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I don't think that Jesus was interested in economic or political ideologies. However, he did advocate behavior that would be compatible with communist or socialist economics.

 

Would he have disapproved of a business person (a capitalist) who treated others with respect, honesty and generosity? I don't think so.

 

George

 

 

I think it would depend on the business, would it be a for profit business person or not for profit business person? I think he would have rejected capitalism as an evil because he showed his disdain for worldly possessions several places, like when he said get thee behind me Satan when he was tempted with riches.

 

It is all hypothetical supposition but he didn't seem too interested in religious ideologies either, it was the 1st century writers that started Christian ideology, the Jewish ideology had already been rejected by Jesus. He understood the true meaning of humanism and broke away from traditional ideology.

 

 

Edited by Harry
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Hi Harry,

 

I have been a for profit business person for the last part of my working career which spanned 14 years. I personally found that principles of Christianity (and other religions of course) such as being honest, forgiving and treating others as i would like to be treated was instrumental in growing my capitalist business so i could retire early. I as George said do not believe Jesus would have disapproved. Of course i can only speak for my beliefs and can't speak for Jesus but my personal subjective experience tells me God was not offended by my actions in running a business for profit. Employees and others benefited from my for profit business and others are benefiting by any volunteer or charity work i may be doing now..

 

Joseph

 

PS I might add that while profits came and it has influence, it was not the focal point of my daily intent or actions. It was a joy to have my own business and customers that i appreciated and when it ceased to be that or the time was ripe, i sold it. To me, both capatalism and communism have their extremes. Perhaps there is a balance that is most humane for all.

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Deleted redundant quoted posts....JM

 

Hi Joseph,

 

I too have been part of a "for profit" business all of my career and in my own business for the past 30 years. During that time I have always tried to do as you and even though I retired early from the physical labor part, I still run my business and take care of the administrative aspects. Upon giving your and Georges ideas more thought, I agree. It is unregulated capitalism that I think Jesus would have disapproved of. As businessmen we all understand that our gifts to manage must be shared to help others learn and provide for their families. I erred in my statement. You are of course correct in saying there are extremes in both capitalism and communism. My personal opinion has changed over my life and it is now my opinion that within regulated capitalism in a republic such as we have in the USA there is a necessity for socialist programs supported by all.

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I agree Harry,

 

Yes we can't just ignore the fact that social programs, at least in this time and age, are needed. I hope that we do a better job of managing them than some of the records show we have in the past. I am presently not pleased all that much with where my tax money goes but i will leave that to those whose function it is and who are privy to more knowledge than i and have been given the power to make such changes.

 

Peace, Joseph

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is Christianity actually anti-capitalist and should Christians be following communist economic principles instead of the laisses faire capitalism of the Tea Party? Or is there a way where the pros of both systems could be merged together to create a superior system while discarding the flaws of both communism and capitalism which also respects the freedom of religion and basic human rights?

 

Wow, that's one big Matzo Ball there, Neon!

 

First, I'm not a big fan of the whole "what would Jesus do" line of thought. We don't really know that much about Jesus other than what is recorded about him in the New Testament.

 

Second, we don't really know the circumstances surrounding the passages in Acts where it is mentioned that the apostles shared everything in common. It's quite possible it was simply the prudent thing to do given the circumstances. I'm not convinced it was a moral statement.

 

Finally, there are too many examples of bad behavior with the Biblical blessing to allow me to value the scriptures as a true moral compass.

 

I think socialism (as opposed to communism) is morally superior to capitalism in the pure sense of both (all) of those terms. I don't really need the Christian scriptures to validate that position.

 

However, when considering the question you posit, I have to agree with you. If you accept and interpret the Christian scriptures as you have - and, I don't think it is unreasonable to do so - I find it puzzling that so many Christians have embraced the philosophy of someone like Ayn Rand or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin, etc.

 

When I was raised as a Christian, I was told that scripture instructed us to love others above ourselves. We were taught to "care for the poor, protect the widow and come to the aid of the defenseless" (an actual prayer we said before dinner). My parents and grandparents lived out that philosophy in their everyday lives. Although they mostly voted Republican (except for my grandmother), it was apparently a different kind of republicanism than is in vogue these days.

 

NORM

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I like this one Times article about the contradiction of the GOP embracing Ayn Rand's philosophy while at the same time claiming to be God's Only Party: http://swampland.time.com/2011/05/13/the-gops-godless-philosopher/

When George W. Bush declared in a 1999 GOP debate that his favorite political philosopher was Jesus, pundits snickered and wondered whether he actually knew any political philosophers. But the answer was politically canny, establishing Bush’s evangelical bona fides with social conservatives.

 

In contrast, the philosopher GOP leaders quote most reverently these days was vehemently anti-religion, and referred to Christian teachings as “evil” and “monstrous.” Awwwwkward. Fortunately for Republicans, most social conservatives haven’t yet made the connection.

 

Here’s just a taste of the praise GOP and other conservative leaders have for Ayn Rand:

 

Paul Ryan says Ayn Rand is the reason he entered politics and he requires all staff and interns to read her books. Says Ryan: “Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism.”

Clarence Thomas requires his law clerks to watch The Fountainhead, and has said “I tend really to be partial to Ayn Rand.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, Ryan’s GOP colleague from Wisconsin, calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundational book.”

Rush Limbaugh calls Ayn Rand “the brilliant writer and novelist.”

Fox News repeatedly promoted the recently released movie version of Atlas Shrugged, airing the trailer on several shows and interviewing cast members.

 

The conservative evangelical leader Chuck Colson has become so concerned about Rand’s booming popularity in the GOP that he recently recorded a video warning that Rand “peddles a starkly anti-Christian philosophy.” And the Christian group American Values Network, which presents itself as an alternative to organizations like the Family Research Council, has distributed a memo to congressional offices highlighting Rand’s criticisms of Christianity and some of her more controversial comments, including praise for a man who raped, murdered, and dismembered a 12-year-old girl. “Ayn Rand’s strong atheism, absolute rejection of Christ’s teachings, and goal of replacing religion with her belief system,” reads the memo, “stands in total opposition to all that which America’s faith community holds most dear.”

 

In a similar vein, some faith communities are also upset with Paul Ryan over the budget he has been spearheading. Two Christian groups are airing a radio ad in the Catholic Ryan’s district starting this weekend, arguing that the GOP budget “abandons pro-life values.” The ad is voiced by a priest in the district, and it’s sponsored by the Catholic social justice organization NETWORK and the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

 

Richard Cizik, a former top official at the National Association of Evangelicals, says the ad is necessary to remind politicians that “being consistently pro-life requires more than caring for the unborn, it requires following the Biblical call to care for the poor and the downtrodden.” Cizik continues, “People of faith are embracing this full definition of what it means to be pro-life. If our leaders ignore the needs of the poor or favor the rich at their expense, they reject pro-life values. It’s that simple.”

 

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2011/05/13/the-gops-godless-philosopher/#ixzz1O5GYrCuW

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I think we would have to coin a term for what would be consistent with principles of Christ as they apply to Christian community, rather than try to adopt or adapt any of the existing socio/economic/political designations as we have them now in our world.

Perhaps something along the line of a "social cummunalism" or a "communal society?" I think faith based communties such as the Amish began well with this idea, though I also think they failed to incorporate an adequate system of adapting and adjusting their own society to the changes in the world around them, within which they must exist and function and with which they must interact. Their bent toward isolationism departs from the NT Christian community model also in that Jesus and His disciples and followers readily extended the social benefits of their community to those outside it...there was a more evident "social outreach" I guess you'd call it, from within the Christian community.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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In his excellent book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that cooperation and caring for each other in the early Christian community was a major factor in the growth of Christianity. The survival rate of Christians, during frequent epidemics, was greater than that of the larger pagan society. As a result, Christianity grew relative to the general population in the Greco-Roman world.

 

George

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In his excellent book, The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark argues that cooperation and caring for each other in the early Christian community was a major factor in the growth of Christianity. The survival rate of Christians, during frequent epidemics, was greater than that of the larger pagan society. As a result, Christianity grew relative to the general population in the Greco-Roman world.

 

George

 

Thanks, I'm putting the book you mention here on my 'watch list', though to be honest my 'watch list' has become something of an endlessly exponentially growing monster... ;)

 

In considering the course of development of Christianity in North America, the striking transition from the community attitudes of mutual interdependence and cooperative survival spirit of pioneer Americans when faced with sometimes insurmountable obstacles to survival for the individual/single family to the present day isolationism and selfish "me-ism" commonly mistaken for "independence", but which has actually been a shifting of dependence upon personal community to dependence upon commercial captialism and impersonal government, beaurocratic systems (some of which I have come to think of as "systems entities", the powers and principalities in high places that NT warns are our enemy) has led to very few Americans, Christians as much as any other, really being able to comprehend the idea of social community and a communal society. We suffer terribly as a society, I think, from our loss of even the idea of social capital, that is at the root of so much of the sense of anomy that pervades our present society.

 

In my experiences in the Rel Studies dept at UH, dept head Dr. Lynn Mitchell often worked these losses from early Christian culture into his presentations of the social history of Western society in general as well as the Christian ethos in specific. One kind of practice of early Christians in Greco-Roman society that contributed both directly, and indirectly by the attitudes it fostered, was that of gathering up unwanted infants abandoned to the elements as was custom in that culture, and the discarded and abandoned orphans and fatherless children (yes, gasp, bastards!), to care for and raise....who grew into particularly dedicated and loyal members of the Christian community, of course. It was as these attitudes of early Christianity changing, evolving, as they did in Europe, into an element of the culture of the wealthy and powerful that degraded and marginalized the poor, the disadvantaged, the "lower classes", that brought about the decline of Christianity in Europe. That decline can in many ways be compared to the decline of Christianity (in the sense of loss of these qualities of being loving, caring, nurturing, communal) here in the course of American religious/social development.

I remember seeing somewhere (Barna Research maybe?) statistics that reveal the rate of adoption of non-family related children among certain Christian sectors, evangelical, fundamentalist, for the most part, are signficantly lower than among the general population. I found the implications of that intriguing.

Edited by JenellYB
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Thanks, I'm putting the book you mention here on my 'watch list', though to be honest my 'watch list' has become something of an endlessly exponentially growing monster... ;)

 

 

Jenell,

 

If anyone is interested in early Christianity, this is a must read. After reading it, I bought a copy for my pastor (PCUSA). He told me it was the best book he ever read about early Christianity (he has a MA in history and a DD) and has cited it several times in sermons.

 

Stark is not a historian as such, but a sociologist. He uses sociological principles and methodology in examining early Christianity. His chapter describing a Greco-Roman city is alone worth the price of admission.

 

(Warning: This is not a book about theology. It is historical.)

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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My library has a copy of that book.

After I'm done with the book I'm currently reading (Calvin's Ideas by Paul Helm - surprisingly fascinating), I'm taking it out and reading it. As you've mentioned it several times, I'm rather curious. The last research I read of Starks was maybe 12 years ago, and it was still very rational choice-oriented. As a cultural sociologist, I hope that's changed.

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