Skip to main content

The Bible as Socialist Tract

Recently Richard Beck observed that
for John [the Baptist], repentance is fundamentally about economics or, more precisely, getting right with money and our possessions. Preparing our hearts for the Lord begins with sharing, fairness, and contentment. That is, if someone is seeking a closer or better relationship with Jesus it seems the the first bit of advice John would give is pretty simple: Start with sharing your material possessions. That's the quickest way to Jesus.
Which to me makes perfect sense, but then I had the priviledge of being raised in a moderately left wing Christian family.  As a very general, and rapidly going out of date, rule non-conformists Christians in England (Methodists, Baptists, etc) have tended to be more red than blue. I know in America the assumption is usually the opposite, that evangelicals are right wing.  And I have been surprised to discover in NZ that the American model is followed pretty closely.  Something about colonies seems to turn non-conformists into capitalists. 

What I hear from people like Glenn Beck is that socialism is wrong because it forces people to do good instead of letting them do it off their own bats.  What Beck and his fans fail to understand is that although they complain that socialism is immoral wealth re-distribution from the rich to the poor capitalism is immoral redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.  All property is theft, those who live in the colonies should know that best of all.  Tax is at least a more even handed form of theft and is at least stealing from those who can afford to lose a little (or even a lot) and does so politely, predicatably and without offering violence (initially).  This is why our modern western society works best when capitalism flourishes under the restraining hand of socialism.  Money rises to the top rewarding those who generate wealth and work hard but imbalances are periodically readjusted so that social and economic disparity never gets so great as to divide the society or leave some of its members without hope or resources for improvement. 

It is well understood that the greater the gap between the rich and the poor the greater conflict and insecurity between the two groups.  Of course the OT law is filled with provisions to avoid this happening, not least the numerous regulations concerning the release of those in indentured servitude at regular intervals and the return of land to families.  Those sort of checks and balances, if practised (and its doubtful that they ever fully were), would enable a society to give people economic second chances.  Today our society offers the lottery and scratch cards and criminal activity as the only hope for those who are unable to make ends meet and escape the poverty trap.  But of course, giving someone a million dolars doesn't actual solve their poverty. 

Another well understood fact is that lottery winners are usually both miserable and broke with a few years of their wins.  Which is why socialism can only ever be half the solution.  Poverty is as much a social/cultural legacy as it is a financial one.  Which is why true social justice is not just a matter of the redistribution of wealth, but also of the redistribution of the gospel, that well kept secret of the transforming power of God to radically change communities, families, and lives.  And that is something no government can do, that is the job of a much larger and more powerful organisation, the church. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

That one time Jesus got the Bible wrong

It's so typical isn't it? You are preaching all day long, training your disciples, sparring with the Pharisees, encouraging the poor and down trodden, healing the sick and casting out demons, all day, day after day, and even when you go up a mountain to get a rest the crowds hunt you down and follow you up, and then the one time you get a bit muddled up with some of the details of a biblical text . . . that is the one they write down in the first gospel - verbatim. At least Matthew and Luke had the good sense to do some editing. But Mark, he always had his eye on giving the public the "historical Jesus" whoever that is supposed to be . . . warts and all. Thanks a lot Mark!

Some think I made the mistake on purpose, just to show the Pharisees up.

For some there is no mistake worth mentioning, only a slightly ambiguous turn of phrase.

Others think I am doing something tricky with Abiathar's name, getting him to figuratively stand in for the priesthood.

It really has…

Thor Ragnarok and Parihaka: Postcolonial Apocalypse

Thor: Ragnarok is a riot of colour, sound, violence, humour, sci-fi and fantasy. As a piece of entertainment it is the best Marvel has produced so far. As in many of Taika Waititi's films the plot often seems secondary to the humour and a number of quirky moments seemed only to serve for a quick giggle. I left the theatre overwhelmed by the sensory experience, but ultimately unimpressed by any deeper meaning.

It wasn't until the second morning after my trip to the movies that I woke to the realisation that the movie could function as a profound postcolonial metaphor (I do some of my best thinking while alseep, also it can take me a while for the penny to drop). Unfortunately a quick google showed me that I was neither the first, nor the second to have this thought.

[Spoiler Alert!]

It's easy to miss with all the other stuff going on but Thor undergoes a postcolonial awakening during the film as he slowly realises that his beloved Asgard and its dominion of the nine realms …

Dale Martin does Mark

Dale Martin is an important and frequently controversial NT scholar. Those of us who can't make it to Yale to hear him teach can access some of his lectures, in fact his entire introduction to the NT course, through the magic of the internet.

Here he is holding forth on Mark . . .