The folks at Sojourners have been pushing socialism in the name of Jesus and the Bible for decades. Claiming that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s economic policies are “biblical” is the height of absurdity. She does not know anything about economics. Her claim that a $3 billion tax break can be spent is prima facie evidence of her ignorance.
Here’s the latest incarnation of Democratic Socialism. The sad thing is, the Bible is being used to support it. The following is from Dr. Obery Hendricks who teaches Religion and African American Studies at Columbia University:
Virtually from the day she assumed office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her avowed democratic socialism have been under attack. Much of the condemnation is from the same crowd that so vigorously insists that America is and always has been a “Christian nation.” This is quite ironic, because democratic socialism and the Bible share a strikingly similar vision of what constitutes a fair and just society. Capitalism, however, does not share that vision.
Democratic Socialism is theft by popular vote, by the majority. If the majority can determine what to do with other people’s property, then the majority can determine what to do with people. How about Democratic Abortion, Democratic Slavery, Democratic Limits on Speech and Assembly?
By the way, Columbia University has an endowment of nearly $11 billion. The majority of that money came from people with money—money they can afford to give away. Columbia most likely owns stock in companies that are worth billions of dollars.
To support his position, Dr. Hendricks makes the following arguments (followed by my responses):
- Health care for all
Jesus modeled universal health care by healing everyone who asked, regardless of their gender, nationality or ability to pay. “Great multitudes followed him,” mostly poor peasants, “and he healed them all” (Matthew 12:15).
Response: When the government can turn stones into bread and heal people by touch, then I’ll be for it. Jesus never outlined a government healthcare program. Jesus didn’t say, “Follow my example and call on Rome to establish a national healthcare program.” When non-miracle workers are mentioned, it’s the Good Samaritan who comes to mind. He used his own money to care for the man who was nearly beaten to death (Luke 10:25-37). That’s not Socialism, that’s private charity. Over the centuries, hospitals and charitable organizations have been named Good Samaritan in honor of the unnamed benefactor.
- A fair wage
Prophets consistently excoriated those exploiting their employees. For example, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages” (Jeremiah 22:13, 17).
Response: The above passage doesn’t say anything about a government-imposed “fair wage.” The employer and employee agreed on a wage and the employer did not pay him. Notice that it says “makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages.” The employer was stealing. When employees and employers agree on a wage and the work to be done, the employer is required to pay the worker in full: “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields which has been withheld by you, cries out; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts” (James 5:4) and “You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning” (Lev. 19:13). Who gets to define “fair wage”? It is the private agreement between the parties, not the government.
- A minimum income for everyone
The book of Leviticus is clear: “There should be no poor among you … if any of your neighbors become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them … so they can continue to live among you” (Leviticus 25:35-36).
Response: Once again, there’s nothing in this passage that mandates wealth confiscation and redistribution by the government. The goal is to help the person out of their temporary condition. Money should be lent to him or her at no interest (v. 36). This is a far cry from empowering the State to create a massive bureaucratic welfare system that often keeps people in poverty and dependent on the State.
- Fair treatment of workers
The Book of Deuteronomy declares, “you shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the immigrants who are in your land …” (Deuteronomy 24:14).
Response: Once again, this passage is dealing with unethical behavior: “you shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy.” Paying a person an agreed-upon wage in a timely fashion is not oppression. On the contrary, it is oppression to coerce and control other people’s wealth through the State.
Dr. Hendricks quotes three passages from the Old Testament and does not find a single passage calling for wealth confiscation and redistribution. This is a solid indictment of so-called “Christian Socialism.”
Others have pushed Socialism in the name of the Bible. Dr. Hendricks is not the first. In the Foreword to Tony Campolo’s book Red Letter Christians, Jim Wallis tells a story about a secular Jewish country-music songwriter and disk jockey who told him that a new social movement was being birthed as a result of Wallis’ book God’s Politics and other “social-conscience” books. Here’s how Wallis tells it:
“I love your stuff and have been following your book tour.” Then he told me he believed we were starting a new movement, but he noticed we hadn’t come up with a name for it yet. “I’ve got an idea for you,” he said. “I think you should call yourselves ‘The Red Letter Christians.’ You know those Bibles that highlight the words of Jesus in red letters? I love the red-letter stuff. The rest I could do without.”1
Wallis continues by telling how he shared this story with Campolo, whom he calls “the ‘godfather’ of Red Letter Christians” and how excited Tony got when he heard it.
Campolo declared “that there are more than 2,000 verses of Scripture that call us to express love and justice for those who are poor and oppressed.”2 What Campolo, Wallis, and the folks at Sojourners need to find in these 2,000 verses, however, is one verse that gives authority to the State to redistribute wealth.
Campolo takes verses that are directed at individuals and turns them on their head by giving them a political twist. Here’s a representative example:
Most important, when we reflect on all Jesus had to say about caring for the poor and oppressed, committing ourselves to His red-letter message just might drive us to see what we can do politically to help those he called, ‘the least of these’ (see Matt. 25:31–46).3
Campolo sees a political solution in these verses when Jesus is addressing what individuals have or have not done. By “politically” Campolo means government intervention and wealth redistribution.
To base government programs like welfare, food stamps, and social security on Matthew 25:31–46 is without foundation. The division in Matthew 25 is between sheep and goats, that is, individuals within nations.
Nations don’t visit people in prison; private citizens do. Governments put people in prison; private citizens do not. Civil governments are the biggest hindrance to helping the poor, and it’s not because they don’t tax enough and redistribute wealth efficiently. High taxes and control of the money supply (inflation/deflation) enable civil governments to control people and their property.
Wealth redistribution policies, with all their good intentions, have the effect of hurting the poor and making them dependent on civil government—forever.
Liberals love the Bible when they think they have found something in it that supports their concocted moral, social, and political theories. Even some conservatives fail to recognize that the Bible does not support an expansive tax-and-spend centralized government no matter how beneficent the cause is said to be.
For a fuller examination and response to “Red Letter Christianity” and “Christian Socialism,” see our resource, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.