Jesus Christ: A socialist or capitalist?
As the 2020 presidential election is approaching, we will hear both democrats and republicans beating the drum that Jesus Christ is in their corner to woo the votes of Christians.
According to the pew research center, “A preliminary analysis of the 2018 midterm elections finds, Three-quarters (75%) of white voters who describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians (a group that includes Protestants, Catholics and members of other faiths) voted for Republican House candidates in 2018.”
The two major parties, “democrats and republicans” will try to paint each other as an extreme of socialism and capitalism. The Republicans will try to paint every democrat as a socialist and compare him or her with the most notorious socialists among republicans like “Karl Marx, V Lenin, and Joseph Stalin.” Whereas, the democrats will paint each republican as a heartless capitalist, who has no heart for the poor and the middle class and only cares for the top few rich people in the republic.
According to the pew research study, “Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold positive views of both socialism and capitalism (38%). Among Republicans, A majority (68%) say they have a positive view of capitalism and a negative view of socialism – including 39% who say they have a very positive view of capitalism and a very negative view of socialism.”
The die-hard Democrats and Republicans do not see eye to eye on the issues favoring socialism and capitalism. As the polls indicate that the majority of the Christians favor Republicans, then Jesus must be considered as a capitalist among Christians supporting the republicans.
However, the polls show opposite results to it.
According to the Barna group, “The pollster asked Americans whether capitalism or socialism align better with the teachings of Jesus, socialism won 24 percent compared to 14 percent, with the rest answering” neither “or” not sure.”
Now the dilemma is: if most of the Americans believe that Jesus is a socialist, then the majority of the Christians must support the most leftist democratic candidate and firmly believe in socialism. However, the majority of the Christians opposing a socialist candidate may boggle the mind of an average person that if the majority of Americans believe that Jesus was a socialist, then why do the majority of the Christians vote against socialists? The Democratic candidates support liberal values, in contrast, the republican candidates support Christian values, but this is a topic of its own for some other time. So, let us keep our focus on if Jesus was a capitalist or socialist.
First of all, let us focus on the critical differences between Capitalism and Socialism:
Can Jesus be described as a Socialist?
The social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. Furthermore, everything that people produce is, in some sense, a social product. (Dagger, R. & Ball, T. 2019)
However, the question arises: who will manage the public ownership to enhance and promote equality in the perfect socialist society? Planning Committee elected by people in a democracy Or the managers will pay everyone according to their abilities and needs (Karl Marx theory)
The planning committee in socialism or communism promotes the common ownership of the means of production; it sounds like a good idea to promote equality. Still, the problem arises that the planning committees constitute people, and power over everything will breed corruption and manipulation.
Socialism is an economic theory that proposes to make the state supreme over the individual, rather than to allow the individual to be supreme over the state. Christianity, in terms of Baptismal service in the Book of Common Prayer, is, “To follow the example of our Saviour Christ and to be made like unto Him.” Grant, P. (1909)
Many protestant discussions of the problem of the relationship between Christianity and Socialism included long quotations from socialist classics to illustrate the antipathy of the two.
Harry Earl Montgomery, for example, gathered many quotations from socialist writers, such as Engles’ “We have simply done with God” And Marx’s “The abolition of religion as the deceptive business of the people is a necessary condition of their happiness,” concluding: “The quotations seem to indicate that the teaching of Christ and the teaching of Socialism are absolutely and irreconcilably antagonistic.” Handy, R. (1958). C.
Bertrand Thompson in The Church and the Wage Earners declared,
The truth is that Christianity and socialism are diametrically opposite in method, aims, and spirit; that the Christian minister not only can not support it consistently, but can not be in sympathy with it, and must oppose its extension for the same reason he opposes the spread of pure materialism or anything else which is entirely incompatible with the fundamental theses of his religion.
There may be numerous verses from the Bible that seem to support either socialism or capitalism, and both sides would like to quote these verses and show that Jesus Christ is approving their school of thought. However, if you would examine the life of Jesus, He did not support any particular operation of government and strived the separation of religion from the government. “Paying the Imperial Tax to Cesar” is the best example which shows the impartiality of Jesus in Matthew 22:15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God following the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)
Most socialist likes to quote Acts 4:32-35 “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”
Most socialists believe that the verse mentioned above proves the Biblical support of their hypothesis that “Jesus is a socialist.” Whereas, every other rational Christian finds it an emphasis on the Christian brotherhood and self-development through uplifting the Christian community by helping each other and sharing the blessings of the Lord with less fortunate.
There are several misquoted verses from the Bible, which has nothing to do with socialism and are entirely out of touch to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ. One can safely conclude that Jesus did not promote socialism, and the believers of His teachings never advocated socialism then and now.
Can Jesus be described as a Capitalist?
In the Wealth of Nations, which was published in 1776, Adam Smith coined the phrase “The invisible hand.” According to the theory of Adam Smith, if people would pursue the public interest, they will produce less with no or little enthusiasm, as compared to if they pursue their selfish interests, they will produce more. So, the whole notion of the bedrock principle of capitalism is based on the idea of promoting “selfish interests”. So, if we analyze the socio-economic status in the countries pursuing the “selfish interests” capitalism, wealth inequality is evident, and the huge gulf between the rich and poor can not be ignored.
Christianity defies the selfish interests and greed to advance personal goals. However, it does not condemn to pursue self-interests and to help others at the same time and not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Please note that selfish interest and self-interest are two different things and can not be measured with the same scale. Christianity does not condemn the advancement of your personal goals. However, it does condemn to pursue selfish interests to pursue your personal goals.
C.S. Lewis has best described the difference between Self-interest and selfish interest in the Problem of Pain as follows:
We are afraid that Heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal, we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. Some rewards do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by its very nature, seeks to enjoy its object.
Therefore, selfish interest would instead create wealth inequality in any given society by focusing on Adam Smith’s theory to promote selfish interests. However, pursuing self-interest and keeping other interests in mind may create a balanced community of equality by emphasizing the Christian self-interest, which involves the benefit of his fellow citizens.
I have no collection of any scripture from the Bible, where Jesus is promoting selfish interest with selfish motives. Instead, He laid down His own life as a ransom for many. Whether you live in a socialist society or a capitalist society, the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ emphasize on work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23). This golden rule of “working for the Lord, whatever you do” makes a Christian worker desirable for any economy and society.
Finally, Jesus is not a capitalist, as the seed of capitalism lies in the selfish interest of one and manipulates the average citizen in favor of few, and permeates the wealth inequality and leave behind people in the severe poverty in support of super-wealthy
The new testament has no “social” outlook in the scientific sense of the term. It is an appeal to the individual, and it proceeds upon the assumption that when all individuals do right, the world will be reformed (Bowen, C. 1913)
The teachings of Jesus Christ do not transform a person into a socialist or capitalist, it instead molds a person into an extraordinary member of the society, focused on Heavenly living on earth by providing his services to earthly masters as working for God.
The true Christian is obedient to the government, regardless of its inclination towards socialism or capitalism, and does not depend on the government to provide his daily needs. His dependence is on the Lord for his daily bread as he is working for the Lord.
On the other hand, the teachings of Christ endeavor affluent and fortunate Christians in society to serve the poor to build a harmonious nation of love and caring.
Sciupac, E. P. & Smith, A.G. (2018). How religious groups voted in the midterm election.: Pew Research Center
Hartig, H. (2019). Spark partisan division in Americans’ views of “Socialism,” and ‘Capitalism”: Pew Research Study
Bond, P. (2016). Poll: Jesus was a Socialist who would support Bernie Sanders
Pettinger, T.(2017). Capitalism Vs Socialism
Dagger, R. & Ball, T. (2019). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/socialism
Bowen, C. (1913). Jesus and the Social Revolution. The Biblical World, 42(1), 26-30. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3142585
Pettinger, T. (2017). Capitalism vs Socialism. https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/glossary/capitalism-v-socialism/
Grant, P. (1909). Socialism and Christianity. The North American Review, 190(645), 145-157. Retrieved January 12, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/25106423
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