Do Marxism And Christianity Have Anything In Common?
“The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.” – Karl Marx
Recently I was privileged to speak before a ladies book club. Midway through, a former English professor announced with an assurance only an academic could accomplish that “Jesus was a communist. That is just a fact.”
A similar notion was recently advanced by a Forbes contributor, Richard Salsman. Salsman holds a negative view of Christian values, considers sacrifice a “vice,” and even begrudges honoring our war dead. But what similarities do Marxism and Christianity share?
Frederick Engels, Karl Marx’s sidekick and benefactor, eulogized that Marx’s greatest insight was, “men must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before they can pursue politics, science, art, religion and the like.”
Jesus asserted the opposite disavowing that faith is predicated on bodily well-being, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Biblically, body and soul are distinct. The vibrant Christianity seen throughout history even as believers endured deprivation or persecution irrefutably contradicts the Marxian materialist stance. Tertullian pronounced, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The prodigal son didn’t return with his belly full.
Marxists require secular, materialist explanations for everything, but there is no scriptural basis for these severe restrictions on permissible avenues of thought. From this irreconcilable beginning, biblical doctrine and Marxist theory diverge still further.
Marx sought to replace the Christian worldview with a vile substitute. His rejection ran deeper than the oft quoted jibe, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
He admitted, “My object in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.” He thought Christianity reflected a palliative used by the rich to constrain workers so they wouldn’t revolt. To Marx, church and family presented obstacles to Utopia. The hierarchical society affirmed by Scripture prevented the rise of the proletariat.
Marx’s writings reveal undeniable, but antithetical parallels with Scripture, a deliberate replacement meant to expunge Christianity from society. To wit, Marx even employed religious themed legerdemain. Atheism, whether Marxist or Objectivist, relies on faith too, it just requires drastically different metaphysical assumptions.
The Marxist dialectic redefines good and evil. Sin changed from rebellion against God into striving for individual ends as opposed to the collective. The institution of property rights represented original sin.
Communism supplanted the Garden of Eden with a Rousseauian primitive man at harmony with nature, the genesis of environmental worship’s close ties to Marxism today. Marx even incorporated a millenarian view of history as an evolving class struggle finally solved by the coming victory of the proletariat. Utopia represents Heaven, ultimately created on Earth – by man. The collectivist state becomes god.
This man centered worldview was absorbed by the academy, media, entertainment industries and much of government. They now distill cultural Marxism, aka political correctness, to credulous Americans who thought we won the Cold War.
It’s not just that our perspectives are diametrically opposite, but Bible believing Christians and Marxists also seek fundamentally different goals. God’s judgment shows no favoritism. Everyone is equal in His sight, but God is no egalitarian. The word liberty appears sixteen times in the New Testament. Equality among men but twice: Matthew 20:12, pertaining to salvation in a parable which defends property rights; and 2 Corinthians 8:14.
The latter alludes to God sustaining Israel in the wilderness with manna. Paul instructs those of us more fortunate to voluntarily help others requiring assistance. Exodus highlights God’s view on public property: use only what you need. Don’t unnecessarily impose upon your neighbors. Worldly governments showering favored constituents with handouts lack the divine enforcement mechanism of making hoarded manna quickly rot.
Biblically, society is inhabited by unique, sovereign individuals made in God’s image and personally accountable to Him. Equality under the law stems from equality before God which always and everywhere negates equality of results. God is no respecter of persons. Nor should justice favor particular segments even if their cause is politically correct. Justice is measured by precision to God’s standards, not by the shifting goals of secular academics.
Moses said, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute” (Exodus 23:2-3). Not very proletarian.
Nowhere does Scripture task government with equalizing wealth. Not only is redistributing private property for political purposes immoral, it also undermines the God ordered notion of accountability. Without freedom to do either right or wrong, the moral basis dissolves. Dr. Ronald Nash observes, “Passages that oblige believers to use their resources for God’s purposes presuppose the legitimacy of private ownership.”
The Bible requires work, frugal living and honest dealings. It mandates impartial justice, sound money and property rights; plus endorses liberty and limited government – all essential elements of capitalism. Christ even used free market principles repeatedly in his teaching. Jesus clearly appreciated price signals and the role of incentives.
The parables of the talents and minas offer sage investment advice. It is prudent to entrust resources to those multiplying them and extract resources from those squandering them. This counters the Marxist principle of progressive taxation taking from the most productive to subsidize those wasting scarce resources. But Jesus used these essential lessons to illustrate spiritual truths, not finance.
Market based economics appear consistent with Christ’s teachings, however it is inappropriate to usurp divine authority by transforming Jesus into Adam Smith. The Bible unequivocally endorses certain elements of capitalism. And never does it disavow capitalism, only its impure application by corrupt participants; unless one equates free markets with Social Darwinism as do Marxists. But theirs is clearly neither a biblical perspective nor an accurate depiction.
Economics is not a Zero Sum Game. One’s gain does not necessitate another’s loss. Innovation, efficient profitable production and savings expand the pie. Consumption, malinvestment and waste shrink it.
Likewise, taking several verses describing a voluntary, communal living arrangement out of context to prescribe secular socialism defies logic. Those passages in Acts were descriptive more than prescriptive. Taking them otherwise throws out virtually everything else in Scripture. Frederick Engels saw this clearly, “If some few passages of the Bible may be favorable to communism, the general spirit of its doctrines is, nevertheless, totally opposed to it.”
The early church welcomed Jews and proselytes from the Diaspora back at Pentecost. These travelers pooled their possessions in loving fellowship fearing Jerusalem’s imminent destruction. There is no evidence this communal arrangement spread beyond Jerusalem or persisted long. None of the epistles indicates communal living.
Privately entrusting resources to St. Peter, in subservience to God, differs greatly from “robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul” through a distant bureaucratic apparatus inspired by the humanist god of power. The Bible never endorses involuntary socialism administered by secular governments.
American settlement sometimes involved religious communities experimenting with communal living. One famous example, the Mayflower Compact, was instituted at the insistence of their English sponsors. The Puritans rapidly abandoned communalism – “that conceit of Plato’s” – in favor of vigorous free enterprise, which proved both consistent with their strong religious sentiments, and a rapid path to prosperity.
To function, economic formulas must acknowledge man’s fallen nature. Here Marxists blunder badly. We aren’t lucky blobs of otherwise inert matter malleable to the state’s machinations. Man is inherently selfish going back to Adam, who had everything, yet still wanted more. Genesis reflects the earliest commentary on our nature and it reveals what remains today: a greedy, violent bunch prone to jealousy, sloth and vice.
Communism fails except as augmented by fear (and ultimately there too), because forging “New Socialist Man” remains forever beyond the state’s grasp. Only God can change men’s hearts. Our base instincts betray us. When we see someone slacking and still taking – we produce less. When we see others taking beyond their share – we take more too. Without private property and opportunities for profit through honest toil, living standards stagnate.
Any movement must deal with realities and thus superficial similarities with other systems will materialize, but properly understood, Marxism is the absolute denial of Christianity – precisely as Marx intended. Where Marxists seize power, Christians are always persecuted and atheism is enforced, usually at a steep cost.
I tried summarizing this for the ladies and would probably still be prattling on but the soft spoken women sitting next to the one pronouncing Jesus a communist simply said, “I lived in Communist Romania for thirty-one years. Don’t tell me about Communism . . . Communism is death.”
She defended freedom better than a hundred articles. If pictures are worth a thousand words, experience is worth millions.
Click here for part one – Sorry, But Christ Wasn’t A Communist