Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Christian Socialist Is An Oxymoron

Some of you may not know what the word Oxymoron means, so let me start with that.

Dictionary.com gives this definition...
a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous,seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.”
I will also offer my own definition of Christian here:
A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Only Begotten Son of God after the flesh.  And who is attempting to follow the teachings of Christ as they are found in the scriptures.
Again, Dictionary.com, when using Christian as a noun (as I am here) says that a Christian is:

A person who believes in Jesus Christadherent of Christianity. A person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ
Now, we need to define Socialism.  Again, Dictionary.com is helpful:

1.
a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole
2.
procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
3.
(in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of asociety to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.
George Bernard Shaw, the noted Fabian Socialist, said that:
"Socialism, reduced to its simplest legal and practical expression, means the complete discarding of the institution of private property by transforming it into public property and the division of the resultant income equally and indiscriminately among the entire population." (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 ed., Vol. 20, p. 895.)
In short, Socialism drives toward the ultimate end of private ownership of anything and everything.  In practice, it is characterized by using the coercive powers of government to take resources from those who are producing them and redistribute those resources to those who merely consume them.  This coercive redistribution is called taxes.  It is coercive because, if you don't pay your taxes the government can take your money, your business, your home and even your freedom.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't an anti-taxation rant.  Nor am I advocating that we don't pay our taxes.  I am simply making the point unmistakably clear that taxation is not a voluntary program.

Now that we understand the meaning of the words in my title, we can fully understand what I mean to say by stating that "Christian Socialist Is An Oxymoron."  I am saying that you cannot genuinely and totally believe in Jesus Christ AND be trying to follow his teachings AND embrace the political and economic tenets of socialism.

Please note, I am being very exact in my words here.  When I say you "totally believe in Jesus Christ" it means that you don't pick and choose what to believe from among the things he teaches.  You either believe everything he said, or you believe none of it.  Because, either he was the Son of God, or he was a liar.

I believe totally in Jesus Christ.  AND I do my best to follow his teachings.  I am nowhere near perfect in this effort, as those closest to me can attest.  But, I am trying.

I know that there are many folks who will disagree with my bold statement that Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable foes.  But it is true.

First, let me give you some of the ammunition those who disagree will use.  Then, I will show you how they are really firing blanks.

In the New Testament the second chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles appears to describe how the adherents of early Christianity were embracing a form of socialism.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And again in Chapter 4 we read:
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 
 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
 And from the Book of Mormon we get this about the Christians who were living in ancient America after the resurrected Jesus appeared to them, let them feel the wounds in his hands and feet and taught them, it appears they embraced socialism:
 19 And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another. 20 And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them.
3 Nephi 26
And this:
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
4 Nephi 1
In our own times, sometime in 1838 (note that the Communist Manifesto was written in 1848), Joseph Smith, Jr. the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced to the Saints something called "The United Order."

For brevity, I will summarize here what happened in The United Order.  Members of the Church who desired to enter this Order handed over all their worldly goods to their Bishop (their religious leader).  The Bishop then put these into a 'storehouse' to be used by the Saints.  Then, the Bishop gave to each member in the Order from the storehouse according to their needs and abilities.  To be clear, he deeded these things back to them for their use.  Then, they were expected to pay a tithe (10%) on the gains they made from what he deeded to them.

According to LDS teachings, this United Order is what was being referred to in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.  I accept that, and will address this as fact.  I will, from this point forward, refer to the United Order as what Christians practiced in this context.

From all of this, it appears that every devout Christian should be signing away their worldly goods to their church and then living off of what the church gives back to them.  Proponents of Socialism use these evidences to support their stance that Christ was saying we should give up private ownership and give to the poor so that we will have "no poor among [us]."

Before we buy in to this view, let's look a little deeper at the differences between Socialism and the United Order.  And let's start by looking at what happened to one specific man and his wife when they sought to join the United Order while keeping back some of their property for their own discretionary use.

Acts Chapter 5 tells us the cautionary story of Ananias and his wife Saphira.


 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
The key point I want to make from this is not about how dangerous it is to lie to God.  Rather, I want to emphasize what Peter said, "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" The rights of this couple to have private property were not looked down on by Peter, rather they were affirmed by him.  And, their entry into the United Order was voluntary.  No one was being forced to sell their goods and join the Order.  

So, the first essential difference between Christianity and Socialism is that Christianity is entirely voluntary.  And, within the broad ground of Christian practice, providing assistance to the poor is considered a Christian duty.  But the fulfillment of that duty, as every Christian knows, is between the individual and God, and the accounting comes at the Final Judgment.

In contrast, Socialism is a compulsory system from start to finish.  Socialism uses the gun to ensure that everyone within their reach gives up their private property, whether they embrace Socialism or not.  Further, their objective is not to eliminate poverty, rather it is to destroy prosperity.

Now, some of my good LDS friends, and even some family, mistakenly believe that Socialism and the United Order are the same girl, just wearing a more chaste dress.  For them, and everyone else, I offer this link to a talk that was given in a General Conference of the Church, at the express request of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The talk is titled, "Socialism and the United Order Compared."  The talk was given in April 1966 by Marion G Romney, who was at that time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Allow me to quote a couple of key passages here:
No, brethren, socialism is not the United Order. However, notwithstanding my abhorrence of it, I am persuaded that socialism is the wave of the present and of the foreseeable future. It has already taken over or is contending for control in most nations.
We here in the United States, in converting our government into a social welfare state, have ourselves adopted much of socialism. Specifically, we have to an alarming degree adopted the use of the power of the state in the control and distribution of the fruits of industry. We are on notice, according to the words of the President, that we are going much further, for he is quoted as saying:
"We're going to take all the money we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the 'haves' and give it to the 'have nots.'" (1964 Congressional Record, p. 6142, Remarks of the President to a Group of Leaders of Organizations of Senior Citizens in the Fish Room, March 24, 1964.)
Socialism takes: United Order gives
That is the spirit of socialism: We're going to take. The spirit of the United Order is: We're going to give.
The President of the United States (POTUS) that Romney was quoting was Lyndon Baines Johnson, the man who initiated "the war on poverty" and it was the means for waging this war that he was referring to in this quotes.

Please note that President Johnson is saying that un-elected US Government bureaucrats will decide how much money we need by deeming part of our spending unnecessary.  They will then, "take" and "give" according to their judgment, and whatever policies their superiors have put in place dictate that judgment.

To put this in perspective, consider the money you need to go visit your ailing parent, child, sibling or friend.  A government worker can say, "That trip is unnecessary.  Your child/parent/sibling/friend will live or die regardless of your visit.  I am taking the money you saved for that trip away from you.  I will take a portion of the money to pay for my time, and then, I will give the remainder to someone who believes that they deserve this money more than you."

Now, there are some who will say that this is just semantics.  Or that we are arguing over tomato or tomatoe.  That is a glib lie.  And I will illustrate the lie very easily.

Picture this:  You see a man taking money out of his wallet and handing it over to a homeless person.

That seems a lovely picture, doesn't it.  It warms the heart.

Now, let's complete the picture.  There is another man in the picture, he is holding a gun on the first man.

What's the difference? Tomato or tomatoe?

The first picture is what we call charity.  It is a voluntary act of sacrifice by one party to aid another.  We call it being a good Christian, giving back, and being charitable.  We universally consider it a virtue.

The second picture is what we call robbery.  It is the forcible redistribution of property and it is universally considered a crime, unless we give it the imprimatur of government and call it taxes and welfare.

Some might argue that when Marion G Romney decried the differences between the United Order and Socialism, he was going astray from the intentions of Joseph Smith, who was the source of the original revelation on that program.  Let's see what Brother Joseph had to say about property rights.  In 1835 he stated:


 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
Doctrine and Covenants, Section 134 

So, Joseph Smith asserted that the right and control of property ranks right up there with protecting freedom of conscience and protection of life as primary duties of governments to their constituents.

Some will read this and still wave their hands in dismissal and say, "The end of the matter is to help the poor as Jesus said we should.  So what does it matter if we do it through governmental or private means, as long as the end objective is met?"

This line of reasoning is that the end will justify the means.  A premise espoused by Nicolo Machiavelli in his book on effective leadership titled, "The Prince."

While the world may buy in to this reasoning, Christians should know better.  You cannot simply make the world be filled with righteous people by killing all the folks you think are sinners.  That is what led to the Spanish Inquisition, a notorious chapter in the history of churches.  It has also led to numerous wars that were initiated with the public objective of ridding the world of the unbelievers.  Even Islam, probably the most successful at spreading religion by force, has suffered the ill effects of using bad means while attempting to gain good ends.

When the armies of Islam swept across North Africa and Eastward across Persia and into India, the story was always the same in every conquered town.  "People of the Book", Christians and Jews or Infidels, were separated from everyone else, who were labeled Pagans.  The Pagans were given the choice, accept Allah as god and Muhammed as his prophet, or be killed on the spot.  Those with the courage of their convictions were killed.  Everyone else joined up, whether or not they actually believed.  The result was a Caliphate that was filled with Muslims, who believed whatever they wanted and did what they wanted, as long as they manifested the outward signs of belief.

Of course the Infidels were given a choice too.  They could accept Allah and Mohammed, or they could be forced to pay for the privilege of remaining alive, every single year.

Forced conversion, whether it be Islam, Christianity, or any other, does not produce converts.  It ends up with a church or religion that is torn apart by sects and division as members go their own ways based on their own ideas of what being a good member means.  In Islam, we see this today in the violence between Sunni and Shi'a.  In Christianity it was seen most clearly in our days in the 'Troubles' of Northern Ireland where Protestants were pitted against Catholics.

The ultimate purpose of religions is to get us to believe and behave in a moral manner because we believe it is in our own long-term (eternal) best interests.  When anyone attempts to enforce moral beliefs on others, the force destroys the morality.  When government, and the coercive power of taxation, are used to achieve moral ends, morality is destroyed, not enshrined, because belief and willing action are both irrelevant and rendered null.

Belief and willing action are the heart and soul of true religion.  They are the heart and soul of what Jesus Christ and his Apostles teach.

Not only is Socialism at odds with Christianity, it is at odds with every religion that embraces the notion that each individual must freely choose to accept or reject God on the grounds established by that religion.

My conclusion in all this matter is this:

  1. Christians have a moral obligation to help the poor and needy.
  2. Forcing people to give to the poor and needy is immoral and results in very bad ends instead of the good ends that are being sought.
  3. Government as the means of administering charity is the same thing as trying to force people to do something good.  It will have very bad outcomes for everyone involved.

Because the use of force to get people to believe and behave in a moral manner is in total conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ, no one call legitimately call themselves a Christian and say they support Socialism.

Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein.

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