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Biblical Communism

What Does the Bible Say About Communism & Socialism?

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One topic of discussion which comes up every so often is the connection between fervent evangelical Christianity and equally fervent anti-communism. In the minds of many Americans, atheism and communism are indelibly linked and political actions opposed to communism have long taken the form of strengthening America's public Christianity.

It was thus that the American government made “In God We Trust” the national motto and put it on all money in the 1950s. It was also for this reason that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance around the same time.

Because of all this, one gets the impression that the Bible is some sort of treatise on capitalism and Jesus an early venture capitalist. The fact that just the opposite appears to be true is thus very surprising. The book of Acts has two explicit passages depicting the very communistic nature of the early Christian community:

    All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
    (Acts 2:44-45)
    There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
    (Acts 4:34-37)

Is it possible that Marx’s famous line “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” took its inspiration directly from the New Testament? Immediately following this second passage is a very interesting story about a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property but only gave the community a portion of the proceeds, keeping some of it for themselves. When Peter confronts them with this, they both fall down and die - leaving the impression (for many people) that they were struck dead.

Killing bourgeoisie land owners who fail to give all of their money to the community? That’s not merely communism, that’s Stalinism.

Of course, in addition to the above, there are many, many statements attributed to Jesus which emphasize doing all that you can to help the poor — even to the point of him recommending that a rich man sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor if he really wishes to get into heaven. The Old Testament also indicates that something akin to communism is the preferable way to live:

    This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of persons who each of you has in his tent. And the people of Israel did so; they gathered some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat
    (Ex. 16:16-18)

It is no wonder, then, that any number of Christian groups have adopted ways of living which, while explicitly based upon biblical stories, are also expressions of communist ideals. Such groups include the Shakers, Mormons, Hutterites and more.

In summary, this isn’t so much a problem with the Bible as it is a problem with the people who claim to follow the Bible and use it as their primary guide to how they should live their lives. Some certainly take passages like the above to heart — witness the strong social ethic of many Catholics and the very communistic Liberation Theology which has developed out of Catholicism.

Most, however, simply ignore the above passages - just as they ignore so much else which is politically or morally inconvenient.

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