Jesus Christ Supersocialist

A commenter on my post, “The Socialist Capital Of Missouri: Joplin,” wrote:

I would submit the idea that Christ would be in favor of socialism!

It so happens that Gregory Paul, who knows a little something about sociological research, wrote a piece for The Washington Post a few days ago that addressed the Jesus-as-socialist idea.

In fact, Paul went further and questioned “a set of profound contradictions” that “have developed within modern conservative Christianity.” If that critique sounds familiar to readers of this blog, it is because I, a former conservative, evangelical Christian, have offered the same criticisms.

Paul wrote:

Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christian capitalists are ardent followers of Ayn Rand, who was one of – and many of whose followers are — the most hard-line anti-Christian atheist/s you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinistic strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism!

He then goes on to discuss chapters 2 and 4 of the book of Acts in the New Testament, especially:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Paul comments:

Now folks, that’s outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx—who likely got the general idea from the gospels.

The pro-capitalist Christians who are aware of these passages wave them away even though it is the only explicit description of Christian economics in the Bible.

Mr. Paul also comments on the odd affection that a lot of Bible-toting evangelicals and fundamentalists have for the rabid atheist Ayn Rand:

…many influential conservative Christians have embraced her expressly atheistic theory of Objectivism that in her books such as The Virtue of Selfishness, they propose that government must be shrunk to a bare minimum so socially Darwinist that it dances with anarchy. Only then can entrepreneurial greed have the free run that liberty demands…

In the Randian hyper-materialistic world those who are on the financial make are the exalted makers, the impoverished that accept tax payer assistance are parasitic takers who need to fend for themselves. A radical modernist ideology in greater antithesis to the traditional scriptural favoring of the poor over the rich can hardly be imagined. Yet the economics of the plutocratic Republican Party that embraces the Christian, anti-Darwinist creationist right are essentially those of the uberatheist, anti-creationist, Darwin-adoring Christianity-loathing Ayn Rand. So we have Christian creationists like Jay Richards writing books titled Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem. Can a stranger amalgam of opposing opinions be devised?

Can a stranger amalgam of opposing opinions be devised?” No.  And I experienced that strange amalgam first-hand here in Joplin at the April Tea Party rally.  A state legislator from Springfield, Eric Burlison, spoke to those gathered and mentioned his enthusiasm for Ayn Rand. I wrote at the time:

I can’t be the only one who finds irony in the fact that a man like Eric Burlison—a “pro-life” Christian who advertises that he gives back to the community by “serving” and “volunteering“—is behind a podium at a Tea Party event extolling the philosophy of a godless “baby-killer,” who would openly ridicule and scorn Mr. Burlison’s work on behalf of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Ronald McDonald House.

I can’t be the only one.”  No, as it turns out.

And thank God for that.

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13 Comments

  1. KCChieffan

     /  August 15, 2011

    There are more and more individuals and groups who are recognizing the hypocrisy of the far-right regarding religious matters. I have challenged these rightists on Facebook, in letters, and in person to show me where, in the Bible, Jesus tells the wealthy among them to “fill their coffers” or to take from the poor and give to the wealthy. Not one person has provided me with scripture from the New Testament to support the positions of Bachmann, Palin, Rick Perry, Cantor, McConnell, Boehner, and others.

    I also heard on the Thom Hartmann show that Representative Paul Ryan requires his staff to read Ayn Rand. Did the works of Rand inspire Ryan’s budget proposal? It is loaded with anti-Christian policies that favor the wealthy over the poor, and wants the wealthy to help support the poor by revamping Social Security and Medicare so that the wealthy can have more and more. It rings of pure hypocrisy by our Republican leaders, some Democratic leaders, the tea party, and greedy individuals like the Koch Brothers. Do these people really think their worsening the plight of the middle class and poor will get them into the kingdom of Heaven? Or are they really atheists like Rand who are pulling off a real con game?

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    • I urge you to keep challenging these folks because in so doing you are defending your own principles. As Bastiat said long ago,

      “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.”

      Duane

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  2. Thanks Duane.
    Also, how handy, I’ve been looking for a good book.

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    • Damn. I just got home and read the whole post. I was Hoping Mr. Paul had written a book, not just an article.
      My bad. Short attention span, ya know.

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  3. You seek rationality in vain my friend. As you know, that ‘Jesus joined with capitalism and the up by your bootstraps philosophy’ is heard at the very hightest levels of national life. The lady in your pix is amusing; but the national voices saying the same thing (and not being laughed off the stage) suggest to me that what’s actually happening is the creation of an entirely new theology. Wonder when they’ll give it a new name?

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  4. I agree with Moe that the Tea Party eschews rationality. Perhaps that is a clue to explaining the strange embrace in which these diverse ideologies find themselves.

    Each is inclined to adopt its mission on faith. Conservative Christians do so on an olio of myth, fable and anonymous authorship. Tea Party do so on sound bites and slogans. Both embrace zeal expressed by charismatic leaders who promote simple answers to complex problems.

    Yes, I believe I do see the similarities.

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    • Moe and Jim,

      Through the centuries, Jesus has been on both sides of nearly all controversies. He is an amazingly elastic savior, I suppose. And I agree with you both that rationality is not an ingredient in this specific mix of religion and politics that we find in most (but not all, certainly) of evangelical and fundamentalist America. Unfortunately, although not constituting a majority of Americans, these folks hold a disproportionately large amount of power in the GOP, and that dominance is something we all need to combat where and when we find it.

      Duane

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  5. If other commentators can’t agree with the socialistic Jesus, maybe they can agree that he was preaching for an egalitarian society.

    Either philosophy, being preached openly in a society like the Roman occupation, well…..that’ll get ya’ hanged!

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    • Sekan,

      I’m afraid the egalitarian argument would fall on deaf ears, too. Folks too often read into the scripture what they want (eisegesis) and fail to actually understand what the text is really saying (exegesis). It’s a failing we all tend to have on many levels, not just biblical interpretation, but there is a mountain of scriptural exegesis and scholarship that would tend to side with you on this one. The problem is that scholarship outside their narrow eisegetical circle doesn’t much appeal to these folks.

      Duane

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  6. The enthusiasm for Rand among conservative Christians, at least says to me they haven’t actually read her books. I don’t think you can miss the ardent atheism unless your blind.

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    • Bruce,

      You are correct, sir. Most of them haven’t really read her overt philosophical works, especially the collection of essays in “The Virtue of Selfishness,” which obliterates altrusim and its associated morality, a morality at the heart of Christianity.

      Duane

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  1. Jesus Christ Supersocialist (via The Erstwhile Conservative) | KANSAS MEDIOCRITY
  2. How Did Jesus Go From Being a Socialist in the New Testament to a Selfish Ayn Rand Anarcho-capitalist? « The Fifth Column

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