by Juan Carlos Alvaro
“The Apostles were doing many miracles and signs, and everyone felt great respect for God. All of the believers were together and shared everything. They would sell their land and divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. The believers met together in the temple every day. They ate together in their homes…” (Acts 2: 43-47 NCV)
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common…..There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4: 32-35 NRSV)
Perhaps one of the biggest questions in Christianity today is with a clear Biblical example of holding property and wealth in common have so many modern Christians come to reject Socialism? How did Christianity move from Jesus’ Socialism to the Capitalist loving Christendom we see today? This phenomena is something truly strange in American Christianity no doubt. In fact, it presents a profound contradiction to the original teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. But then, so does conservatism which presents even more profound contradictions. For those who think Jesus was a conservative you need to read your Bibles. Jesus was a rebel and revolutionary. He upset the status quo and challenged the establishment of his day. He was a nonconformist. Those are not hallmarks of a conservative so why has American Christianity painted him as a conservative?
These contradictions have slipped under the radar, so to speak, of the masses of Christians in America today. Yet, many people are beginning to awaken to them and discover these contradictions in their search for a closer walk with Jesus in their lives and in their search to get back to a more original Christianity. Along with these contradictions they are also discovering that Christianity under Jesus was a Movement not a religion. In fact, Jesus’ Christianity was a movement within Judaism and it was a revolutionary and rebellious movement at that, that challenged the religious leadership and power of the day.
For many decades now religious conservatives in Christendom have proclaimed that God loves the free market (capitalism). They seem not to realize that many of the tenets of Capitalism are aligned with Social Darwinism and Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” Ironically, it is these very same Christian Conservatives who oppose Social Darwinism, Evolution, and the notion of “survival of the fittest.” That is yet another contradiction in American Christendom.
Christian Conservatives denounce Socialists even though in the two Biblical passages above taken from the Book of Acts it is clear that the Apostles and early Christians created and lived a lifestyle of SOCIALISM. They held everything in common. There was no private property. Funds were pooled together to help the many instead of the one. They were actually living the Socialist motto, “From each according to his means, to each according to his need.” And that’s what Jesus preached as well by the way.
When we read the Gospels it becomes rather clear that Jesus was not a Capitalist. Self enrichment is not as paramount as is preparing one’s soul for the afterlife in Eternity. In fact, Jesus taught that it was easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than for him to enter into heaven! He even admonished people who sought to follow him to go sell everything they owned and give it to the poor! In fact, Jesus spent a lot of time speaking about the poor and condemning the wealthy for their greed and selfishness. The Bible warns that money is the root of all evil and in rich decadent societies such as ours today it appears that the more money one has, the less faith one has because one tends to start putting their faith in money instead of God.
A basic fact of Jesus’ teachings was that the rich have no more access to heaven than do the poor or anyone else for that matter. The size of one’s bank account is NOT an automatic ticket into Paradise as some people today seem to think it is. Further, Jesus did not preach a money doctrine but what he preached about mostly was SOCIAL JUSTICE. He was constantly admonishing people to help the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, and the prisoner. Note he preached to help them, not condemn them?
Acts 2 and 4 make it clear that the Apostles and their followers employed Socialism in their way of living and being and they were taught how to live this way by none other than their movements founder, Jesus of Nazareth. A way that is contrary to what we see in American Christianity today and in much of Western Christianity as well. Since Jesus taught and the Apostles practiced a form of Socialism in their lifestyle and since Jesus did not teach Capitalism then we can say that Capitalism is “Antichrist” because it goes against what Christ taught. Capitalism is based on gross greed and the Bible teaches clearly that greed is a sin. In fact a very big sin! Again, we can therefore be pretty sure that Capitalism is Antichrist.
The believers in early Christianity were together. They did almost everything together and they held everything in common. Those are clear marks of Socialism not Capitalism. So where do Christians today get off thinking that Capitalism is the “Christian” thing to do? The early Christians didn’t claim anything as their own and they felt it their obligation to help the poor, marginalized, and prisoners. They were self-less while most Capitalists are very self-ish. Capitalism is an ideology that is contrary to what Jesus and the Apostles taught and practiced. It is, therefore, in fact an Antichrist ideology!
The descriptions of how the Apostles and early followers of Jesus lived as outlined in Acts 2 and 4 are clear examples of Socialism not Capitalism. Yet, Socialism has been demonized beyond belief and many Christians think it comes straight from the Pit. They’ve got things mixed up and they have them so because they don’t bother to read their Bibles and find out for THEMSELVES what Jesus actually taught and did not teach. Yet, ironically, many of them are on a personal quest for the “historical Jesus” searching for and desiring to return to early Christianity. Well when they find it they’ll have to abandon their Antichrist Capitalist ideas and embrace Socialism. Karl Marx proclaimed Socialism and it is probable that he got the idea right from the Gospels themselves!
Make no mistake about it. Some Capitalist Christians are very aware that the Gospels teach Socialism and more or less condemn Capitalism but when they run across passages like Acts 2 and 4 they simply dismiss them away. And they do so out of hand EVEN thought Acts 2 and 4 are the only places in the entire Bible that give SPECIFICS about Biblical Economics! Many Christians want to get back to basics. They want Biblical teachings. But they don’t want to embrace Socialism even though that’s what the Bible teaches as the proper economic system for CHRISTIANS!
Collectivism is a central core teaching of the Bible. Collectivism is a Socialist tenet, not a Capitalist one. It’s ironic too that the Bible itself give the first example of Socialism in human history! Surely if it were not the way God wanted us to run our economics the Bible would have condemned it. And surely the Apostles and the believers would not have been practicing it. But, the FACT was that they WERE practicing SOCIALISM not Capitalism. Of course many Capitalist Christians claim that this collectivism/socialism in Acts was “voluntary” but the Bible says nothing about that at all. In fact, from the people having to sell their land or homes it appears that it was NOT voluntary at all but was a requirement for being among the Believers. Acts chapter 5 details how a member of the early church failed to turn over all of his property to the church and as a result “he fell down and died.” After that his wife did the same thing and she too fell down and died! It goes on to say that after that “Great fear” seized the whole church. I guess God let it be known at that point that collectivism was NOT voluntary as Capitalist Christians claim it is today!
From these passages we can be sure that selfless collectivism is what God desires of the True Believers and selfish Capitalism is not. In fact it appears that as far as God is concerned those who refuse to be a part of this Socialist Collectivism are worthy only of death. One things becomes VERY apparent when one reads the Bible and that is that the claim that Jesus hated Socialism is a blatant LIE! And just for good measure I might add that NOWHERE in the Bible is Capitalism encouraged.
So how did Christians come to believe Socialism was from the Pit? The answer is found when we look at both the formation of the Roman Catholic Church in the 3rd Century and the Protestant Reformation later. The early “church fathers” and the leaders of the Protestant Reformation wanted God to approve of what they did and were doing. At lease they wanted to believe God approved of what they were doing and had done. They became selective in the Biblical passages they used as many Christians today do. And they selected passages that made it appear that what they were doing was just what God wanted them to do. You can use Biblical passages to justify just about anything as long as you remove them from their context. But, when you read them in their full context it’s an entirely different story! They chose what they wanted from the Bible and ignored the rest. That’s what some Church leaders do today as well and many in their Congregations don’t know it because the fact is MOST Christians do NOT read the Bible. They wait for their pastors to tell them what it says and if the pastor says the Bible says whatever then it must be so. But, it is NOT always so at all, in fact.
The Puritans were a strange lot and part of what made them strange was that they believed that only a few were destined for Heaven while the many were going to Hell. They believed that those few destined for Heaven were the only people entitled to enjoy the world’s wealth. They also believed that poverty was a sure sign one was on his or her way to the gates of Hell itself and that wealth was sure sign one was going to Heaven. I guess those Puritans didn’t bother to read their Bibles either.
Following WWI Christianity began to change. Amy McPherson began preaching and promoting what has become known as the “Prosperity Doctrine” that is still proclaimed today by many Christian Church leaders. You know, “God wants you to be rich!”. Following WW2 the foundations between Capitalism and God were laid by none other than Catholic William Buckley who contrived ideologies to make it appear that God Himself was a Capitalist. Buckley worked overtime trying to transform faithful church people into consumer machines and he had amazing success. Why? Because they didn’t know what the Bible actually said and did not say.
In the 1800’s it was Herbert Spencer who came up with the phrase “survival of the fittest” not Charles Darwin. Spencer took Darwin’s theory of evolution and transformed it into Social Darwinism which promoted the idea that only the strongest survive while the weakest die. Christians came to believe that liberty and capitalism go hand in hand and you can’t have one without the other. The myth of the American Dream was born and, sadly, chased by millions who never attained anywhere near it.
Claiming you can’t have liberty without capitalism is a hypocrisy. Claiming that God was a Conservative and Capitalist is a hypocrisy. Claiming to help the poor and marginalized while loading up riches upon riches for yourself is hypocrisy. Thinking that Jesus was a “go with the flow guy” that didn’t make any waves is even more a hypocrisy. NONE of these hypocrisies are taught in the Bible! In fact, just the opposite of all of them IS taught in the Bible! Sadly, we live in a world of contradictions and opposites and I’ve frequently found that when it comes to TRUTH that the TRUTH is usually just the opposite of what the world proclaims as truth.
Socialism is about sharing everything in common, collectivism. It’s about equality. And Democratic Socialism is about democracy. Real democracy not this pretense we see in the US today that is really Fascist Corporatism! I’m sure many Christians reading this will dismiss it out of hand as they do with most other things that challenge or question what they have been told by others. That’s fine but I REALLY wish they’d read their ENTIRE Bibles so that THEY themselves would know just what it says and just what it doesn’t say.
Sorry to burst your bubbles but BIBLICALLY Jesus was a revolutionary and rebel. God is a SOCIALIST not a Capitalist, BIBLICALLY SPEAKING. If you really want to find the authentic and historical Jesus and/or return to the ways of early Christianity then you’ll have to just embrace these TRUTHS. Otherwise, you can keep believing the Capitalist myth about Jesus and the First Believers.