There is an eternal war within Christianity, one that will never end so long as rich people want to stay rich, so long as the government exists, so long as Christianity exists. It is a war about the message of Jesus, a war with intelligent men and women on all sides, and a war I cannot fully comprehend.
Does Christianity teach socialism?
As those on my facebook are likely aware, I tripped upon Libertarian Christian Doctrine yesterday, and I simply don’t understand their reading of the Bible at a surface level. I am trying to remedy that by reading their primer. The very first thing they say, the starting point for their Christian foundations, is the war I just mentioned, whether or not Socialism was on Jesus’ radar.
To be fair, a very literal, very strict, very passive reading of Jesus’ words allows for this. Oh, you don’t think I should be using literal, strict, and passive to describe the same thing? Please allow me to justify myself.
The core of their argument rests upon whether Jesus preached mandatory or optional charity, and as all things on this topic, references Acts chapter 4 as a passage in the Bible that they consider to be misleading unless read with the correct frame of mind (as opposed to those who think God is not a God of confusion, of course). Acts 4 speaks of the early Christian Church charitably selling their possessions, a la Jonestown (negative connotations obviously intended), to support the group. They didn’t do this because they had to (as a function of a command, I suppose, as obviously they did this out of necessity), but because of the charitable spirit of Christianity.
I think the thing that people forget is that we use the term Charity far differently than they would back in the day. To them, the closest thing they could understand in our modern world to charity would likely have been a soup kitchen; aside from various religious sects, you didn’t just hand your money over to anyone and expect then that they would care for the people you wanted them to care for. At least, I have no historical knowledge of the “Save the Lepers” foundation around the turn of the first millennium, but that is obviously open to dispute by someone who knows of such a charity. The thing is, prior to Jesus, the Church was a form of government where God was merely analogous to President or Emperor, or your chosen title. God laid down laws, and while many may believe that the Ten Commandments are those laws, they have likely never read Leviticus or Deuteronomy. Those two books have laws so strict and so in violation of the idea of liberty that I can’t believe any Libertarian ever made it through them to the New Testament (if you are of the opinion that “I should be able to drink and drive if I want, and the consequences be upon my shoulders,” I wonder if you recall how strict Jewish Law was in how drinking was performed, or what they are allowed to dress in, or how sick people are to be “handled.”).
This brings us to the next battleground, whether the Old Testament law matters at all, whether we should be talking about it. Everyone seems to agree that the Ten Commandments apply, but Leviticus and Deuteronomy are traditionally (though not historically) attributed to the same man who wrote the Ten Commandments, the person of Moses. There is some argument over the meaning and context of Matthew 5:18, for example. What does that mean, “until all is accomplished”? Well, if you take it out of context, people obviously assume that means “Until Jesus rises to heaven,” and thus done is done, all is accomplished, and we don’t have to follow the Law! Huzzah! But wait, what’s that other part in the same verse?
“Until heaven and earth pass away”? That is harder to explain away, and it seems Jesus (and certainly James his Brother), both agreed that the Old Testament should be adhered to in every tenet. Well damn, this is awkward, right? And, can you believe it, this is a line during the Sermon on the Mount. Tough to ignore that kind of gravitas.
There is a retreat of sorts used by most people who are trying to argue The Law out modern discourse, in that St Paul wrote (Romans 7:1-6), in stark, almost perfect contrast to Jesus, that we are freed from the law (Galatians 3:13). Now, I would challenge a person to find where Jesus even so much as implied this sentiment? And why we take it as Gospel truth despite literally not appearing in the Gospels? And why Paul is allowed to create doctrine that has no previous basis? In word-for-word contrast to Jesus’ teaching that the Law is to be adhered to, even so much as the Pharisees, to exceed them in Righteousness, on pain of Hell?
But this is where the intersection gets very interesting, and I could talk about this for days, for years. I can quote Jesus, and my general modern Christian opposition can quote Paul, and they are both incredibly potent quotes. The side you take depends on the baggage you bring to the table. Reading it and wanting to believe purely in the loving message of Jesus, one will obviously side with Paul. Those who are truly Christian fundamentalists should understand that the Early Christian Church practiced Jewish Tradition. These were Christians, in the earliest sense of the word, who had a schism with Jews, but still believed Jewish law was binding.
So long as the Bible is in conflict with itself, there is no end to the war, for both sides have the greatest soldier on their side, fighting the other side… The soldier of God’s word. What I want to know is how God’s word is considered a sharp, potent weapon when it cuts both ways so equally.
I’ve only gone two levels deep in this discussion, and I already have a blog length post going on here. I am going to read more into this Libertarian Christian movement, see if I can find anything more in alignment with my own interpretation of the Bible, and then post my thoughts for all both of my readers to ponder.
This is obviously not a conclusion, which means I can make a series to this effect. This should be fun! I will write more about it, because I need to lay a lot more ground work before I can write a proper conclusion, before I can touch all the points I’ve brought up with some sort of finality of explanation. I hope you don’t mind, especially since this basically means I won’t be having any one week breaks in the near future!
Anyway, see you next time.