CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIALISM — PART 1

The comments on SHOULD CHRISTIANS PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS? have gone off the rail. Instead of discussing whether Christians should participate in government, commenters want to debate whether Christians should support socialism. Since I generally appreciate comments, even those I don’t agree with, I decided to create a more appropriate post.

Subject Of The Debate

Does Christianity favor or does it oppose Socialism? That’s the question.

When he added this comment, which includes a link to his website, Mo Johnson revived a debate I thought over. In fact, he changed subject of the debate. Here, in a latter comment, he explains his own position.

Hi all, glad to see the discussion.

There’s more to address than i can. For instance, of course, Citizen Tom is quite wrong about no “socialized” country ever succeeding. The truth is that only socialized countries have succeeded. It all depends how you define the term socialized. Obviously, all successful countries in the world today are “socialized” to one degree or another. The ONLY countries that have no “socialized” aspects are failed states like Somalia and Ethiopia. I suppose perhaps those are the kind of countries Citizen Tom yearns for us to be like. They are the best examples we have of what pure capitalism and limited  government will bring us. (continued here)

Terms Of The Debate

To justify their ideology, Socialists often play word games. In particular, they play with the word justice. They call upon government to provide justice. However, government does not always have the responsibility of providing for justice.

Here is how fans of Capitalism define “social justice” and “economic justice”.

Justice, Social. Social justice is the particular virtue whose object is the common good of all human society, rather than, as with individual justice, the individual good of any member or group. It is one of the basic social virtues in the field of social morality. Social justice guides humans as social beings in creating and perfecting organized human interactions, or institutions. It is the principle for restoring moral balance and harmony in the social order.

Social justice imposes on each member of society a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development. To the extent an institution violates the human dignity of any person or group, organized acts of social justice are required to correct the defects in that institution. Actions such as “social justice tithing,” for example, recognize a personal responsibility to devote a certain amount of time toward working with others to improve the organizations and institutions in which we live and work.

Justice, Economic. Economic justice is a subset of social justice. It encompasses the moral principles that guide people in creating, maintaining and perfecting economic institutions. These institutions determine how each person earns a living, enters into contracts, exchanges goods and services with others and otherwise produces an independent material foundation for economic subsistence. The ultimate purpose of economic justice is to free each person economically to develop to the full extent of his or her potential, enabling that person to engage in the unlimited work beyond economics, the work of the mind and the spirit done for its own intrinsic value and satisfaction. (SeeWork, Leisure.) The triad of interdependent principles of economic justice that serve as the moral basis of binary economics are the principle of Participation (or Participative Justice), the principle of Distribution (or Distributive Justice), and the principle of Harmony (sometimes referred to as Social Justice).

Note that both definitions recognize that we have individual responsibilities, not social responsibilities. Society does not have a responsibility to provide social justice. Look at what just plain justice involves.

Justice. Functionally, justice is a set of universal principles that guide people in judging what is right and what is wrong, no matter what culture and society they live in. It is one of the cardinal individual virtues of classical moral philosophy, along with fortitude (courage), temperance (self-control), and prudence (effectiveness). Justice is based on the maxim of suum cuique, “to each his due,” or, “to each his own.” Justice as a moral virtue disposes one person to respect the rights of others and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity and fairness with regard to other persons and to the common good. The basis of justice is the dignity of each human person. Justice reflects the qualities of balance and equivalence. It holds that each person deserves to be rewarded for his virtues/good habits and good actions and penalized for his vices/bad habits and bad actions.

When someone monopolizes a property, if the public good requires it, we will call upon government and divest that someone of that property using eminent domain. Yet even then, justice requires just compensation.

The simple fact of poverty does not just justify theft. If a poor man steals to feed his family, we find his sin easier to forgive — we may even be tempted to applaud, but he is still stealing. Similarly just because Paul is poor, busybodies do not get to rob Peter on behalf of Paul. Busybody Robin Hoods cannot rightly use the simple fact of poverty as an excuse to create some kind of Utopia. Sneaking up on a rich merchant, threatening him with a knife to his throat, and stealing his money is robbery. Peter the Merchant may or may not be a selfish pig, but robbery is still robbery. Even when an officialized mob — government — “redistributes” the wealth, that mob steals.

If we want to help Paul, then we must each reach into our own pockets.

Previous Posts On Christianity Versus Socialism

Some time back I reviewed Nullifying Tyranny: Creating Moral Communities in an Immoral Society. That resulted in a five-part series. Here is the last post, WHAT DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO DO WITH GOVERNMENT? — PART 5.

In addition, I have written a six-part series that examines the moral choice between capitalism and socialism. Since that series refutes many of the arguments offered by advocates for Christian Socialism, they may wish to prepare by doing a little opposition research.  Here is the last post in that series, THE MORAL CHOICE BETWEEN CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM– PART 6.

REMAINING POSTS IN THIS SERIES

20 thoughts on “CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIALISM — PART 1

  1. Mo Johnson – I apologize, but please don’t be too critical. I am still trying represent my own position “exactly as it is”.

    Hopefully you will find the upcoming series as interesting as you anticipate and an opportunity to explain your position.

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  2. Hey, now this looks interesting. I look forward to it! By the way, I’m not sure you represent my position exactly as it is. I say we should join with God in building His kingdom in heaven — and YES, indeed on earth as well. That’s what it means to be a christian. This should be really good!

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  3. It is late. I am tired. So I don’t have the energy to respond as I would if I could. Besides, there is value in taking one’s time and methodically pulling a subject apart. So here is a rough outline of the posts to come in this series. Hopefully, those who comment here will find the topics responsive to their comments.

    Note that I do not intend this series to interest an exclusively Christian audience. Nor do I intend it to be particularly preachy. We have a Christian heritage. What our forebears believed affects what we think of both government and charity. Therefore, I think we each need to understand what the Bible has to say on this topic. In addition, we need to examine our objectives, methods, and the ethical considerations.

    Part 2 – What The Wise Say About The Connection Between Socialism and Christianity: Much has been said about the nature of government and Christianity. Before digging ourselves too deeply into a hole, we may as well review what has already been said. I hope to post this survey on Sunday. I encourage commenters to post the results of their own research here as well.
    Part 3 – Defining the Kingdom of God: Mo Johnson and others insist we should attempt to create the Kingdom of God. What does the Bible tell us about the Kingdom of God? I expect to post Part 3 by Tuesday and to post the remaining posts in a Sunday/Tuesday pattern.
    Part 4 – Would A Socialist Utopia Be Compatible With The Kingdom Of God? When we accept the notion that government has the right and the obligation to redistribute the wealth, that has consequences. Even we advocate a mixed socialist/capitalist economy,….
    Part 5 – What Is The Role Of Government In The Kingdom Of God?
    Part 6 – What Is The Role Of The Church In The Kingdom Of God?

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  4. An ironic fact about what Eric just wrote is that the states that are the most red whose (mostly pretty well off) constituents are the ones most inclined to complain about “out of control” federal spending on social programs (such as medicade, schools, food stamps, and child welfare programs) are also the states where, by far, the (least well off) citizens receive the most per capita from this specific form of federal largess, and also from other forms of federal pork. For example, Alaska (which to be honest, as in most things Alaska, is its own very unique color of “red” ) where I spend about half my time, actually receives back in federal spending far more than the total that its citizens send to Washington D.C. in the form of federal taxes. I have read studies that show that similar figures are true for much of the deep South, the rural West.

    There is a certain Karma if Eric’s 30 percent (actually, I think that is a generous amount) of the population gets their way and these social safety nets are eliminated, it will be the much poorer populations in those red states that will also suffer the most.

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    1. yes, alabama leads the way in foodstamps. one in 3 alabamians are on foodstamps. we also see this with global warming. Texas and Oklahoma are as red as red gets. (more reliant on the oil industry than any state). Fox News controls the airwaves and the people there (generally) rail against the liberal elite myth of global warming. Of course they are suffering the most from it and don’t even realize what’s going on. Oh, and Alabama and Arkansas and Tennessee and Georgia (all very red states) got smacked with the strongest tornadoes we’ve ever seen. the heat in oklahoma in july was the highest temp ever recorded in the US. ever. Texas set it’s own record for july.

      That’s the thing — conservatives can rail against whatever they want, but in the end, the truth will actually win. That is happening and will continue to happen with global warming. And, it is happening and will continue to happen with our economy. At some point we’ll reach a tipping point where too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of few and where will the poor and unemployed look for help? Will they look to capitalism? I don’t think so.

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      1. you see, the rich have it really good. but, that only continues if we have relative social tranquility. most of their wealth could evaporate very quickly. in fact, trillions has evaporated just since the tea party downgrade which of course happened because the deal that the country needed and needs was blocked because the “tea party” would not tolerate closing any loopholes for the rich. we are closer to the edge than people realize. all because of greed.

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    2. The states that would supposedly benefit the least have the greatest concern that we balance our budget. That does not puzzle you? Then why is your first response to look for stupidity and hypocrisy? How about we consider another alternative? How does the system actually work? What are the mechanics?

      You must know that red states tend to be rural, that they have a lower cost of living. Since all things are relative, that means that blue states must be urban with a relatively higher cost of living. Because urban states have lots people, they have more representatives. Because they have higher salaries to go with that higher cost of living, politicians make the urban “rich” pay more in taxes. Nonetheless, the urban “rich” still only have two senators. So what happens when the Federal Government spends lots of money on welfare programs. Because each of the small states have two senators, they get a disproportionate amount of the money and a disproportionate amount of guilt.

      Even if you think spending money on social programs is a good idea, why would you want the Federal Government spending it? In addition to the fact the Constitution gives Congress no such authority, what Congress does with such programs creates more problems than it solves. Congress is too removed from the problems it is trying to solve. Even if the people in congress wanted to do the right thing, they don’t know how to spend our money the right way.

      Instead of spinning off into nonsense intended to redicule, why don’t we focus on what actually matters? Are we do the right thing the right way? You know we are not.

      Like

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