Socialism and the Gospel
|Here are a few understandings of socialism gleaned from a variety of online sources including Wikipedia and Webster's:|
[It] refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.
Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
[It is] 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.
Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods or 2 a system of society or group living in which there is no private property.
I've been thinking a lot about this subject lately, perhaps in part because of the political races. Recently I decided to reread Karl Barth's lecture "Jesus Christ and the Movement for Social Justice" which was published in December of 1911. [Sorry, I was unable to find an online link.]
Barth, best known for his commentary on Romans is probably the most influential theologian of the last 100 years. He defines socialism this way:
Socialism is a movement from below to above. [It] is the movement of the economically dependent, of those who earn wages working for someone else, for a stranger; the movement of the proletariat, as literature calls it.
In his lecture he talks a lot about private property, something one could find hard to square with Jesus' New Testament teachings. Barth also notes how Jesus invested his life personally in the poor, choosing to live amongst them, holding this out as a model for us to try and emulate.
For another take, try this on from the "On Faith" pages of Newsweek, it is from Anthony M. Stevens Arroyo. The entire article can be found here.
I was driving home when I heard on my car radio a minister say that "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was a Looney-tune idea. I don't make a habit of speaking back to the radio, but I couldn't help but scream, "It's in the Bible!" Acts 2: 44-45 reads: "And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."
Arroyo writes that Catholics should be pretty comfortable with chosen socialism, as opposed to forced.
For me, I am trying to square what I see as a pretty strong biblical call towards socialism and an almost knee jerk reaction against it here in the United States. Perhaps it is because what we have seen as socialism globally are terrible attempts at living it out in a Gospel way.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.