From Valentine Logar
Jesus was the very first Socialist. Got your attention with that statement, didn’t I?
Over the past several months, many of my more politically right friends and family members have grown quite bellicose during discussions about the current administration and in particular the current President. One of the most frequent slanders I have heard is, “Obama is a Socialist!” Well, as I have heard this label more than once applied to this President, to many Liberal Democrats, and to others myself included who believe there are better options than flat out capitalism I decided to look into the situation and determine for myself the following:
A) Is Obama really a Socialist?
B) Is Socialism an entirely bad economic framework?
C) What was the basis of Socialism, where did it start?
In the West, we have peculiar views of Socialism. In fact, all too often, we wrongly equate Socialism with Nazism, the Third Reich, and post WWII Russia Communism / Marxism, in truth many pundits, those talking heads where so much of our social views seem to be derived from have put horns, cloven hooves, and a tail on socialism and call it evil. Further, we wrongly connect Socialism with a political movement, which it is decidedly not. Consider the definition of Socialism, there are many however, for the purpose of this discussion I will use the following classic definition:
"Socialism". Oxford English Dictionary. "1. A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all. 2. A state of society in which things are held or used in common."
I want to go a step further and identify the historically and generally accepted forms of socialism; I believe they are applicable. During my reading, I found many different theories, different standards, and applications. I was surprised to learn how far back the theory of Socialism went, the first writings of which were by Henri de Saint-Simon in 1823. What you say, nearly 200 years ago that can’t be right; nevertheless, it is indeed the truth Utopian Socialism emerged as a economic theory in the early 19th-century laying the groundwork for modern Socialist thought.
What I found in my reading were two distinct schools of thought:
The first is the Social Democrats; this theory proposes a mixed economy with the nationalization of key industry. Social Democrats promote private ownership of property, capital, and enterprise. What appears to be the differentiators in those nations where Social Democrats hold or have held sway is market-regulation and tax funded welfare programs.
The other school of thought is the Libertarian Socialist; this theory rejects all forms of state control and private ownership reverting instead to collective ownership of production and the economy. Decision-making done via councils or workplace democracy. The Libertarian Socialist movement is more closely aligned to the original Utopian view of Socialism, which espoused communal ownership and no private property or enterprise.
Now, having established the forms of Socialism as both economic and social theories it is time to examine why I believe Jesus was the first Socialist.
Jesus was the first Socialist, this isn’t really a question, but a statement of fact based upon the New Testament Bible. In fact I find it an interesting phenomenon that those who are most vocal in their rejection of social programs to assist the poor and displaced of our society are the very same who in most cases call themselves the “Moral Majority” and espouse Christian values as the basis of their political stance.
Nevertheless, let me return to my proofs of why Jesus was the first Socialist, how I have arrived at this conclusion.
am going to start with Mark Chapter 10:21-25 21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
So here, we have a very good example of Utopian Socialism in action with Jesus telling the wealthy young man the only way to follow him and gain heaven was to give away his great wealth to the poor, in other words redistribution of personal wealth to those with great need from those with great riches. Naturally, this must be very difficult for some to swallow, notice that the young mans face ‘fell’ when told he must give away his wealth to follow Jesus. Here though is our first proof, we must have no personal wealth beyond our needs; Socialism seems to be de rigueur.
Moving on to the next area that might prove my point and which certainly has a few feathers ruffling today; that of health care or in this case Jesus Healing those in need. He certainly didn’t seem to pay much attention to the conventions of the time, like oh say working on the Sabbath, which got him into a few bits of trouble with the powers that be. Nonetheless, heal he did without concern or consideration for pre-existing conditions or whose toes he was stepping on Jesus made his way through the land casting out demons, healing leprosy, epilepsy, and other dastardly illnesses that afflicted the people, he cared not a whit for whether a person was rich or poor, of the ruling class, or the most destitute beggar before the temple he healed them. The Pharisees, although the ruling class within the temple at the time and thus in control of wealth, law, and healing could not prevent him from teaching or healing, even on the Sabbath. There are many examples of this sprinkled throughout the New Testament, here are just a few:
Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 17:14
Mark 7:31, 8:22
Now to one of the best proofs and that is found in Matthew 25:31-46: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. For those that don’t know this one the key statement is as follows:
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life”.
Finally, the teachings continued after the death of Jesus, the best example of the Utopian Socialism being the following by James found in 2:1-7:
1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
So now, we circle back around to my original questions; is the current President, Barack Obama a Socialist? I think the answer is that he is not any more a Socialist than any other American is, we simply have a difficult time recognizing ourselves or our economy for what it truly is. The fact is the current economic system has some aspects of Socialism including government regulation of certain industries, provisioning of health insurance for the elderly (Medicare), provisioning of care for the poor at a state level (Welfare, WIC, and Medicaid), taxing authority supported police, fire, and aid (911) are all examples of socialist programs. Each is generally found in countries with mixed economies, that is Socialism and Capitalism are both at work.
Thus, my first conclusion Barack Obama is not a Socialist he is not even very far left of the middle; he is a Democrat and that is all he is.
The next question I asked is easily answered, is Socialism an entirely bad economic framework? The answer is yes, it is a bad framework as a stand-alone economy it is not possible to successfully manage a country in a pure Socialist economy. Nevertheless, the mixed economy of capitalism and Social Democracy is the appropriate and moral basis of a successful nation. This is true both from an economic standpoint and from the standard of ensuring all members of a society are able to their ability to be educated, work in relevant jobs, participate in government, and be cared for when necessary. Providing for the weakest members of society should be a given rather than a fight. Just as a purely Socialist economy is not sustainable neither is a purely Capitalist driven economy as we have ample proof of today in the United States.
So I say again, Jesus was the first Socialist. Perhaps all those who shout from their pulpits and their soapboxes about their moral right to gain riches on the backs and at the cost of others should check their premise. While they are pointing fingers and calling names, perhaps they should read the book they are standing upon, yes that would be the Bible they so readily reference usually incorrectly. During their ranting and ravings, their demand that the government “keep their hands off their Medicare”; perhaps it would serve them well to review the statements and teachings of the man who is the basis of their entire belief system, maybe this would help them.>
Obama is not a Socialist. Jesus however was the first Socialist.