I’m not a socialist, nor do I claim to be an expert on what it is. Full disclosure, I know very little about it from experience or study, and my hunch is, YOU DON’T EITHER.
I find it disturbing how many Evangelicals talk about socialism as if it’s inherently evil and satanic. It seems that there is a “group think” going on with people regarding it.
“I’m not sure why it’s bad, but my pastor and most of my friends say it’s bad – so yea, BOOOOOO socialism!!!”
The irony of how Christians have approached this issue is that throughout scripture we find evidence of a way of living together that is characterized by sharing, not competition. Roman imperialism introduced a society where the rich and powerful benefited while the poor and weak suffered. Meanwhile, the writers of scripture condemned the practice of not caring for the widow and the orphan.
Widows and orphans were the most vulnerable in society. The early centuries were overwhelmingly patriarchal, so a child without a father or a woman without a husband were severely susceptible to poverty, slavery, or death. God’s instructions, according to Bible writers, were for the society as a whole to remember and care for the poor. From the first writings of Biblical text to the last, people who believed in the Jewish God were adamant that we should take care of those who can’t provide for themselves. They advocated for the sharing of goods, food, shelter, and whatever else a person needed without grumbling about whether that person should be able to do for themselves.
One of the more well-known examples of how followers of Jesus shared is found in the book of Acts. The writer tells us that the first followers of Jesus sold their possessions and lived together. At one point in the story of the early Christians, we read:
“No one among them was poor since those who owned lands or houses sold them and turned over the proceeds” Acts 4:34 CJB
In the following chapter of Acts, a man and his wife are struck dead, presumably by God, after withholding some of the proceeds from the sale of their property. There is no indication from the scriptures that anyone was forced to contribute, but it seems that these first century Christians were pretty serious about sharing their goods with each other for the benefit of the whole community. So it strikes me as odd that so many modern Christians are hostile to the idea of socialism.
The hostility towards socialism has lead to scathing critiques and unnecessary mischaracterization and hatred of people who support the idea. It bugs me every time I see a new meme belittling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who seems to be a good young woman contending for a better society.
We shouldn’t have to agree with her politics to avoid disparaging her intelligence. Human beings should be able to discuss the flaws and merits of both capitalism and socialism without one person leaving the talk as the intelligent victor and the other the stupid loser. But perhaps that’s a by-product of a society built on competition. There always has to be a loser.
Am I suggesting that America should adopt socialism over capitalism? Not at all. As I said already, I’m not an expert. I am suggesting that Christians especially should ease up on the bashing of people who advocate for a system of government that helps us better take care of the poor. Who knows if socialism would work in America now or in the future. That’s beside the point. We should be open to all possibilities that can help make our communities more just.
We’ve just seen a glaring example of how a society built on competition can lead to people with wealth, power and privilege to rigging the system in their favor.
Yet, many people demonize socialism because of poor people who will take advantage of the system. Americans take advantage of capitalism every day. We have a culture that rewards people’s status and high-born birthrights. Meanwhile, that same culture leaves people with poor heritage and lineage to scratch and claw for the little they can reach. Yes, some Americans have made meteoric rises from the most impoverished parts of the country to achieve massive wealth and notoriety. That doesn’t mean the system is working.
Again, I am by no means an expert on politics. I’m not a political columnist, nor am I a supporter of one party over another. I believe that we need to be smarter about how we talk about our world. We need to be more compassionate about how we talk about other people, and we need to be more open-minded when we consider the complexities of a blended society.