On Christian Socialism

SDNP logoChristian Socialism is a form of religious socialism based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Many Christian Socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in greed.  Christian Socialists believe the cause of inequality is due to greed associated with capitalism (ie:  Fascist Corporatism).

Christian socialism grew into a major movement in the United Kingdom beginning in the 1960s through the Christian Socialist Movement.  Some of its major figures include ST Francis of Assisi, Wilhelm von Ketteler, Pope Leo XII, Dorothy Day, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Romero, Gustavo Gutierrez, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bisho Desmond Tutu, and Joseph Smith Jr.

Key concepts of Christian Socialism include elements from Marxism, liberation theology, human dignity, social market economy theory, neo-Calvinism, and Catholic social teaching.  Christian Socialism was formed based on elements contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

Liberation theology is a political movement in Christian theology that interprets the teachings of Christ in terms of liberation from unjust economic, political, and social conditions.  Some have described liberation theology as seeing things through the eyes of the poor and their suffering.  Opponents have called it “Christianized Marxism.”  Liberation theology began in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s.  It was a moral reaction to poverty caused by social injustice in Latin America.  The term “liberation theology” was coined in 1971 by a priest in Peru named Gustavo Gutierrez.  He wrote on of the movement’s most famous books entitled “A Theology of Liberation.”  In the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican it was not well recieved.

Liberation theology can be describd as an attempt to return to the gospel of the early church in which Christianity was politically and culturally decentralized.  It holds the view that poverty can best be fought by addressing its source which is sin.  This can be achieved by fighting poverty through social justice, anti-poverty, and human rights avenues.  It promotes seeing poverty through the eyes of the poor and the oppressed.  Many liberation theologians and supporters believe the Bible is a call to action to fight against poverty and oppression in order to bring about the mission of justice as envisioned by Christ in this world.

In his book entitled “A Theology of Liberation” published in 1971, Gustavo Gutierrez combined populist ideas with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  The book is based on the author’s understanding of history in which human beings are seen as conscious beings that are responisible for human destiny and that Christ liberated people from sin which is the root of all injustice and oppression.  Gutierrez popularized the slogan “Preferential option for the poor” which became the slogan of liberation theology and was later used to address the Pope.  Gutierrez asserted that God is revealed as having a preference for those people who are deemed “insignificant” in society or “marginalized,” “unimportant,” “needy,” “despised,” and “defenseless.”  The author argued that “Preference implies the universality of God’s Love which exclused no one!”  Further, he asserted that only in this framewok can we understand the preference of what must come first.  ( the welfare of our fellow man).

Gutierrez emphasized practice over doctrine and dogma.  In other words, he advocated action rather than mere beliefs and empty words.  Gutierrez believed that the biblical prophets condemned oppression and injustice against the poor and oppressed (Jeremiah 22:13-17).  He said that to know God is to do justice.  The current Pope Benedict known also as Cardinal Ratzinger criticized liberation theology for elevating action to the level of orthodoxy.  Gutierrez believed that the mission of the church is one of liberation.

A major player in liberation theology was CELAM, the Latin American Episcopal Conference created in 1955 to push the 2nd Vatican Council towards more a more socially oriented stance.  CELAM never supported liberation theology, however, due to the Vatican’s opposition to it.

Liberation theology advocates a radical change in social organization.  It calls for reorganization of church practice through the model of Christian base communities (CBCs).  It is a bottom up movement in practice.  It advocates interpretation of the Bible and liturgy be designed by lay believers rather than church hierarchy.  The idea of the CBCs is that they are to be base communities composed of small gatherings outside of church for discussion and study of the bible where Mass could also be said.  High value was placed on participation of lay people instead of priests.  As of 2007 estimates reflect that about 80K base communities were operating in Brazil alone.

The LDS Church (Mormons) have a movement known as the United Order of Enoch or simply as the United Order.  It was one of many movements in the church formed in the 19th century.  It was a collectivist program.  Early versions began in 1831 and attempted to implement the Law of Consecration whcih is a form of Christian communism modeled after the New Testament Church which had all things in common meaning the people shared everything as the early church did.  This was a form of cooperative prgrams also and many of those were successful.  The movement established egalitarian communities designed to achieve income equality, eliminate poverty, and increase group self sufficiency.  It sought to govern people through faith and community organization.  The LDS order was very focused on family and property.  Brook Farm and Oneida Community are two examples.  People would deed their property to the Order and the Order would then deed back a stewardship to the members so the members could control the property.  Private property, then, was a fundamental principle of this system.  At the end of the year any surplus the family produced from their stewarship was given back to the Order.  Each community in the Order was headed by a bishop.  It strongly advocated communalism, the sharing of goods.  Communalism is where Communism comes from.

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