With Pastor Matt, I affirm I’m not an economist. I’m a priest. That said, it is part of my vocation to bring the witness of Scripture to bear in regards to what a healthy society looks like and the place of material wealth in that society.
So, I have been doing my best to carefully consider the biblical witness in relationship to a lot of emotionally-charged rhetoric around so-called “socialistic” and “Marxist” public policies–things like universal healthcare, more funding for public education at all levels, more taxes on the rich, and so on.
I have been thinking about these things because they have been presented to me often as de-facto morally reprehensible because of an alleged connection to the economic/social philosophies listed above. However I’ve not seen a similar skepticism of the American version of “Capitalism” and its associated policies. So often, this has been presented as the “obviously Christian” option–mostly because it emphasizes a kind of non-coerciveness, I think, in the minimalist approach to regulation. There’s certainly something to that.
Nevertheless, the post below is a great reminder that no economic/social/governing philosophy is wholly biblical, and careful discernment along with a counter-cultural, faithful witness is needed no matter what system we find ourselves in.
Some thoughts on ‘Marxism/Socialism’, Capitalism, and USA Christianity:
- Marxism isn’t an enemy to Christianity - any more than Capitalism is an enemy to Christianity- which is to say
- Both economic systems have a logic and telos contrary to parts of our Chrisitan story and yet
- I know Socialist Christians. And Capitalist ones.
- All that to say: here’s some things that aren’t socialist but seem like they are to USA Christians:
- Collectivism: Every single culture represented in the Bible was collectivistic; we misread and misapply to our own peril when we individualize Scriptures. Biblical collectivistic assumptions aren’t Marxist, they’re Christian. Christians are told to live with a collectivist ethic in Scripture.
- Critiques of meritocracy: It strikes us as unfair and criminal that people would get what they don’t deserve and yet the politic and economy of the Kingdom of God is scandalously un-meritocratic. To critique and dismantle meritocracy isn’t Marxist, it’s Christian.
- Taking corporate responsibility for history/societal ills: The atonement loses all meaning, the stories of judgment and deliverance make no sense, Paul’s logic of jew/gentile unravels unless one holds to the notion of corporate responsibility. To be complicit and culpable in systems/structures of evil and have a responsibility to reckon with that isn’t Marxist. It’s Christian.
- Suggest that wealth redistribution to the poor is morally superior to wealth redistribution to the rich: USA has billions of dollars in govt handouts to the wealthy, corporations, and rural middle class. Wealth redistribution is a central part of our economy. To advocate for wealth redistribution to the poor isn’t Marxist, it’s commanded over and over in Scripture (OT and NT, both individuals and governments). Wealth redistribution isn’t Marxist, it’s Christian. Wealth redistribution to the wealthy is Capitalist, not Christian.
- All these things seem Socialist (or Marxist) to USA Christians because we are good disciples of Capitalism.
- The reason Socialism seems like such a threat to us and elicits such fear in us is not because it’s incompatible with Christianity; it’s because it threatens our allegiance to Capitalism.
- I am no expert in economic theory; But I see the above dynamics playing out in articles, conversations, and books I’m reading and this is how I’m beginning to work it all out.