The great counterfeit- Socialism stole from the early church. A capitalist church ignored it.
Earlier today I saw a meme of a young kid asking his father a question:
"So if the Bible says we should help the poor, heal the sick, respect and love others, welcome the foreigner, not steal, and not lie, then why do we support capitalism?"
The father replied, "Oh Billy, we don't actually practice these things, we only preach them".
We live In a time where most Christians have very seldom knowledge of their history beyond what they learn at church. We've inherited hierarchal systems and man made dogmas based on personal interpretation. We have trusted that the generations before us kept us in their best interest and willfully denied any space for self exploration of our roots. We've continued business as usual without ever questioning why we do things the way we do and how our systems impact those around us.
Trying something over and over again expecting a different result is the textbook definition of Insanity, and we have been defying those limits for generations when it comes to how governments and churches are run.
We've become so far left and right and in the chaos of it all, none of us have bothered to go forward.
We currently live in a capitalist country where things are sold to the highest bidder, where everything, even life itself, is a commodity. People with the influence, fame, or the biggest bank account get the liver transplant first. A system that without restraints and constant monitoring, will devour anyone or anything in the way of the potential for profit. A place where modern day slavery is disguised as banks and loan agencies keeping people financially bound while making profits. According to the New York Times, US banks took 11.6 billion dollars from North Americans in 2019 from overdraft fees, literally taking money from people without it. The American Dream morphed into a Materialistic Race. Here we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. We've replaced healthy ambition for dangerous greed, and somehow many churches have approved a "prosperity gospel" that says the more money and things you have, the more God loves and approves of what you're doing. Is it crazy to believe some things shouldn't be sold like an auction?
Parallel to that, just south of the border, we have countries that have been torn apart by socialist and communist regimes. Places where you are incarcerated, tortured, and murdered for expressing opinions against the dictators. In 2018 in my hometown of Nicaragua, the government killed many of my friends with snipers and tortured many for peacefully protesting and believing that better is possible. Even though the government provides terrible free healthcare and manipulated free education as a tool to indoctrinate young minds, what is the meaning of these commodities without freedom of conscience?
In Cuba, an educated doctor earns an average salary of $30-$40 dollars per month. This is nowhere near enough money to survive even in Cuba, much less to provide for a family. This is the reason why Cuba has the most educated cab drivers because they can make a little more money with driving tourists than with a job they earned with their free education. The same education that was funded at the cost of eliminating the private business sector for the benefit of the rulers of the land. We must understand that the term "Government Funded" is in fact a fallacy. There is only "Taxpayer Funded", and those numbers are a lot scarier when it targets you personally and not Jeff Bezos.
Truth is, standing for hours in bread lines hoping you have enough for your family means you have free limited commodities without humanity.
There's a reason no one has escaped capitalism and fled to a socialist regime.
Both capitalism and Socialism make the grand mistake of replacing the roles of God and the church in our lives. Socialism places God aside (Built on Atheism) and sets itself as the savior, provider, protector, and sole leader of a people by force (revolutions). It feeds on people's complete dependence and faith while failing to fulfill those promises every single time.
Capitalism, on the other hand, places the role of the church and God on self, with an approval stamp of the church. Capitalism says that if you aren't rich, you must be lazy. It takes dependence away from faith and God and says that you can do whatever you desire to do if you work hard enough to accomplish it, even if that means slaving away at work and leaving family and community at second.
We've made the grand mistake of thinking socialism is the only answer to the rigged game of capitalism. As if life only deals two incompetent hands for us to play. The reality is that both are broken systems with different flaws that target persons of different classes. The church must wake of its slumber, and begin to fill the void of social justice and equality this generation is desperate for.
Let's dive into some history
Jesus was neither a capitalist nor a socialist
He was a radical arbiter for truth, economic justice, and freedom. A truth that meant that some things weren't sold to the highest bidder (Capitalism), and that sharing with those in need would happen from a deep conviction of loving thy neighbor as thyself, not by a forced policy of high taxation and redistribution of wealth (Socialism).
What intrigues me the most is that Jesus and his followers were also advocates for racial equality, and part of his accomplishment and mission was to completely tear down the walls of racism.
Jesus and the disciples were some of the most notorious political activists against the Roman Empire.
They were neither afraid to denounce their corruption nor sterile in their actions against the powers and structures of the era. From the lens of the context of his time, every action in Jesus's ministry was anti-imperial and counter-cultural. The feeding of the 5000 was a slap in the face to a Roman Empire that controlled the rations and distribution of food. He refused to participate in the use of Roman currency that glorified Caesar as the son of God in the coin inscription. He elevated the status of marginalized women to an equal place with men, even breaking the Sabbath tradition to heal a woman (Luke 13:15-16). Don't forget it was also a woman who first preached the message of the resurrection; not a man, not a coincidence.
The blueprint of the early church is that of non violent resistance, radical hospitality, extravagant generosity, political activism, and the establishment of an alternative lifestyle to the day and age that didn't play by the government's handbook.
Thanks to cheesy Hollywood films and "politically correct" sermons, we've built an image of Jesus as meek, mild, and blonde with blue eyes, yet we forget that His message was so revolutionary that he was crucified for it (and he definitely wasn't white).
Why socialism is attractive
So many millennials today are drawn towards some ideologies of socialism.
The main concepts that draw the masses are the Redistribution of wealth, free healthcare, social justice, and the welcoming of strangers. However, these ideas were stolen from the early church. These ideas will fail under forced mandates that were made to be practiced only by spiritual convictions. I grew up in Nicaragua, a country destroyed by communism and social democratic policies that have robbed people of free speech, economic freedom, and indoctrinated their schools.
Millennials today are passionate about social justice, economic reforms, racial equality, and community transformation. These are the very things the early church was an advocate for! This means that if the church actually stood for what it was created to be, millennials and people thirsty for righteousness would flood through our doors. When people begin to see that we stand for them not just when we are trying to convert them to our beliefs, but also as humans who love those who think and act differently than us, we will break the walls of unbelief. However most millennials today don't want anything to do with the church. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 4 out of 10 Millennials today say they've proudly left the church and aren't coming back. Socialism wouldn't sound so revolutionary if only the church practiced the very things it was built on.
The first followers of Jesus shook the balance of power and economics by creating an alternate system that worked for the people instead of supporting the chains of commerce that enslaved them. As a result, Christianity grew massively, bringing together people from all races and social statuses with the common purpose of participating in a beloved community and worshipping Jesus.
The early church didn't leave their cities, they didn't vote blue or red, they just refused to partake of the systems in place. They stopped buying meat from the markets because they were offered to Idols, they refused to use the local currency that had the image of Caesar with an inscription saying that he was "The son of God", and they began to share their belongings and looked out for each other so that everyone was provided for.
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." Acts 4:32-35 NIV
The message here is that when the church comes together for the sole purpose of community and love for one another, everyone has enough.
"A community where everyone is provided for shouldn't be called socialism, it should be called Church" -Robin Myers in "The Underground Church".
First things first- Socialism has failed every single time.
Socialism has been great at making sure everyone in society is equally poor while maintaining the ones In power incredibly rich. It's no surprise Fidel Castro died with a net worth of 900 Million US dollars while he continually blamed American intervention for the starvation in every Cuban street. Socialist leader Hugo Chavez enslaved Venezuela and robbed it of its oil and resources, died with a net worth of 1 Billion Dollars, and hypocritically denounced American capitalism as the issue and said "Being rich is bad".
The socialist and communist dictator's hand-picked government and military seats are filled with corrupt officials benefiting from a colossal payroll that ensures the mindless proles keep business as usual and stay away from revolting.
Socialism and Capitalism are both guilty.
When you support socialism you fundamentally break 3 of the 10 commandments, as well as countless other teachings of Jesus.
1.You approve of stealing (Taking from others who have).
2. You covet (an unhealthy practice or desire for what others have or have accomplished that turns into stealing and jealousy)
3. you make the government into your God. (Your provider, protector, and savior)
Breaking news- The official state ideology of socialism and Marxist Leninist theory is Atheism. Socialism cannot work when people believe in a higher authority. Ever wonder why Communist China and Iran persecute Christians and kill them for their beliefs?
In the words of German socialist mastermind Karl Marx,
"Die Religion ist das Opium des Volkes" which translates to "Religion is the opium of the people".
In other words, you can't identify yourself as a follower of God and also attach your identity to a corrupt political system that takes God out of the picture.
When you support capitalism you fundamentally break 3 of the 10 commandments, as well as countless other teachings of Jesus.
You place other gods before God (Work, Status, Material possessions, sports)
You support Murder (We've learned to mourn the loss of American lives yet we are called to protect all lives, even the lives of our enemies and their children)
You Covet (an unhealthy practice or desire for what others have or have accomplished that turns into stealing and jealousy. We call this "The American Dream")
How can we say we believe in healing the sick and not fight for better healthcare for everyone? Why do we condone wars overseas that kill countless innocent lives when are called to love and not to murder? How can we be against helping foreigners and illegal immigrants when in fact Jesus was a refugee? Aren't we called to welcome the alien? How can we be calling ourselves children of God if we support industries that pollute the environment and are robbing future generations of healthy ecosystems and clean air?
If only we began to read the Bible and applied what it actually called us to do- the world would have a genuinely good example to follow.
The biggest issue with both current systems is that we end up harming the very neighbors we are called to love. Jesus summed every commandment in the simple act of loving God and loving thy neighbor. We can't make exceptions when it comes to loving people, even when it is inconvenient or threatens our finances.
Who is my neighbor?
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29 GNT)
Most American Christians today unfortunately have taken the stance of the lawyer in this parable of the Good Samaritan. We have swallowed the illusion that loving those who look like us and vote like us is enough. We try to uphold the ways of the Bible while drawing lines and building borders against those who are different. We conduct ourselves and make exceptions as to "who is my neighbor", only to find out that Jesus's reply is always, "everyone".
Yes, your immigrant, communist, gay, Latino, black, republican, democrat, Muslim, Buddhist neighbor. No exceptions.
When the church begins to do what it is called to do, it does not matter which wing is in power. Our responsibility to love others, to care for people, to share and to be generous, to be kind, and to instruct people in a better way isn't limited by who occupies the White House, but rather who occupies our hearts.
Let's stop moving left and right and let's begin moving forward.