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Bob Dickson: Jesus Christ and Karl Marx ... who knew

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: January 1, 2009 5:31 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 4:30 a.m.

I promised myself when I signed on to contribute to this space that I wouldn't mix politics and religion because they don't belong together. I don't want to hear my pastor going on about which candidate or policy I should support, and I don't need my elected officials meddling in how I choose to worship.

But that was before I read in this very space that Jesus of Nazareth was "the greatest socialist of all time." As a conservative, I felt the urge to respond. As a Christian, I was compelled.

The point of the article to which I'm responding was this: Jesus made sacrifices for the benefit of others, so he is a socialist.

On the surface, that seems reasonable. Jesus did feed the hungry and heal the sick. For the sake of others he condescended to become a man and then made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

And then there are his words. He told his disciples to care for widows and orphans. He commanded them not to love money - to give it away.

That's why the early church is characterized in the Bible as being filled with people who sold what they had so it could be given to each according to need. Jesus called his followers (through word and deed) to a ministry of social benevolence that is socialist by today's standards.

How, then, does a believer respond to calls to political socialism such as the one that appeared here weeks ago? To quote the author, "Why don't Americans want to be more like Jesus and embrace socialism?"

The answer is we already do embrace socialism - just not the way he or his fellow Democrats would like. That is, we do our giving privately, as an act of kindness rather than compulsion.

The United States is by far the most charitable nation in the world, and the Christian church plays a huge part in that. We support charities around the globe. In fact, we establish them.

We send clothes, money, food, medicine and toys. We send our sons and daughters to build hospitals and schools.

The difference is that all of that socialism is done voluntarily. It isn't imposed by the state. Oh, we do pay taxes - this is another command Jesus gave; a good portion of what we earn and spend is already at work in the social arena (albeit not very efficiently).

But we give above and beyond.

So if the writer's contention is that Americans who call themselves Christians should embrace socialism to be more like Jesus, there's a hole in his logic. What he's really saying is we should support the government doing it for us, which in fact takes us out of the equation and deprives us of the ability to imitate our Lord.

Two final points.

First, Jesus was no politician - the arena of politics exists for humans to grapple over issues of ideology and power. Jesus has no place there. He needs no place there.

If you want to attach him to a form of government, his is a monarchy ... benevolent to those who love him and absolutely absolute.

Second, Jesus gave one caution about giving. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," he said, "that your alms may be in secret."

The author of the article I'm disputing claims that "most Americans think it's perfectly acceptable to be greedy bastards all year 'round and just throw some coins in a bucket at Christmas and/or ask God for forgiveness for their sins."

He assumes that - because he cannot see the giving - it must not be taking place.

But that's the thing about Christians. We don't blow a trumpet when we give.

We may oppose higher taxes to support what the government defines as "the greater good." Based on how poorly our government manages money, that's just good stewardship.

But we'll pay whatever tax is imposed - not because you say we should but because that's what God commands. Monarchies work that way.

Bob Dickson, a 12-year Santa Clarita resident, is an award-winning journalist and former sports writer for The Signal. As the owner of Bob's Word Factory, he writes for TV, radio, magazines and has been published in two books. Bob is also an adjunct professor of writing at The Master's College. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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