I ran across an interesting blog today by Trevor Brookins on The Socialist’s Journal. Brookins contends that socialism is the natural extension of Christianity and challenges economic conservatives “who call themselves Christian” to point out the flaws in his logic.
Brookins seems like a nice guy and I accept his challenge. His “Jesus in a socialist” claim is not uncommon and can be refuted without too much difficulty. A quick read of Brookins’ short post will provide you with the context of my argument.
Brookins quotes four Biblical passages that emphasize the emptiness of a life preoccupied with the pursuit of wealth. I don’t agree entirely with his interpretations, but his general premise is largely correct. Indeed, the love of money is the root of all forms of evil. Note that the reference to money is more broadly interpreted as material wealth. The accumulation of wealth is never challenged, only the love of it. King Solomon was definitely part of the top 1% in his day, but his wisdom is widely acclaimed today.
As with all such arguments, however, the transition from Biblical warnings about the proper place of wealth to a Marxist economic system is made without any serious critical analysis. As Brookins puts it, “Socialism as an economic philosophy safeguards against people being rewarded for their love of money and thereby disincentives a love of money.” We have now uncovered the major flaw.
Brookins is arguing that socialism actually helps Christians live out the Biblical admonitions about wealth by punishing its accumulation. Put another way, Brookins is arguing that it is morally appropriate for a government to steal from productive individuals for the express purpose of redistributing wealth to those who are less productive. This is theft pure and simple, something devoid of Biblical support.
From the Ten Commandments to the writings of the Apostle Paul, the Bible challenges us to help the less fortunate while also respecting personal property. Christians should do so voluntarily, both as individuals and as voluntary members of churches. Jesus never promoted the confiscation of wealth by a secular government as a means of achieving a more just society.
There are at least two more logical flaws as well. First, Brookins calls for socialism as a means of redistributing the wealth created by capitalism. Had his call been heeded from the founding of our nation, the U.S. would have little to redistribute anyway. Second, Marxism teaches us that those with less have a right to the personal property of others. This view is a disincentive to work and innovation, and has contributed to many of the social ills we experience today.
So how do Christianity and capitalism co-exist? Simply stated, Christianity is the glue that makes capitalism work. The teachings inherent in Christianity (with roots in Judaism) complement capitalism by encouraging believers to meet community needs government is incapable to addressing efficiently and effectively. When government is authorized to carry out this function, it fails miserably.
With this I close with best wishes to everyone for a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. And to Trevor, I wish you and your family much prosperity next year. If 2012 brings wealth your way I encourage you to spend it wisely. I won’t be campaigning for the government to pick your pocket.