The religious left refers to their ideology as “progressive Christianity,” even though their economic ideas regress to the middle ages and most deny the fundamental truths of Christianity that Jesus is God and he rose from the dead. Still, the left covets the power that the name “Jesus” holds on real Christians and wants to use it to lure them into their socialist dark web.
A recent venture in the tradition issues from an Anabaptist blogging as the Hippie Heretic. Anabaptists tried to create a communist city during the early 16th century in the Netherlands, another example of regression.
The obvious flaw with the article is that it battles straw men and doesn’t try to treat opponents fairly. Clearly the point is to stir up the troops and not to reason well. That aside, few capitalists would disagree with him that Jesus wants us to give to the poor. In fact the Christian right, who tend to favor capitalism, gave nearly four times more dollars per year, on average, than secularists and volunteered more than twice as often according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute.
The other major flaw is the Grand Canyon size leap in logic from giving to the poor to the demand for socialism. All of the New Testament is directed toward individuals or churches, not governments. Jesus was not a policy wonk. He never told the state what it should do. For Jesus’ views on government you have to go to the Hebrew Bible, or what Christians call the Old Testament, because Jesus is also the God of the Old Testament.
The hippie insists that Jesus dictates government policy in the prophecy of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 because he used the word “nations.” Jesus said that when he judges the “nations” he will do so based on whether they fed the hungry, gave hospitality to strangers, clothed the poor and visited prisoners. The hippie wrote, “One way or another, you can’t remove the national element from this parable.”
If we accept that Matthew meant a political entity by the word derived from the Greek ethnos in Matthew 25, then we must be consistent and conclude that he had the same idea in mind the other times he used the word. But that would be silly in Matthew 28 where he instructs the Apostles to disciple and baptize all “nations.” How do you baptize a government? The English word “ethnic” comes from the Greek ethnos and carries the ancient meaning of “ethnic groups” better than does the translation “nations.”
The hippie destroys the meaning of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, as well. In that parable, the vineyard owner hires workers at different hours of the day so some work all day and some a few hours, but he pays all of them the same. He commented, “Even though some of these laborers worked much harder than others, it did not entitle them to greater pay. Rather, the landowner was concerned that they all receive ‘whatever is right,’ which came to a normal daily wage for everyone.”
The hippie wants to twist the parable and make it about limiting wealth, but Jesus’ point is obvious - the owner has the right to pay whatever he thinks is fair and the workers have no right to demand more. And Jesus is really talking about salvation, not actual wages. People get the same salvation no matter how much time they put in.
The hippie should pay close attention to verse 15 of that parable when the owner responds to worker complaints by saying, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” “Evil eye” is a well-known term in the Middle East today. It means envy. The owner accuses the complaining workers of being consumed with envy. All socialists should worry about that charge because envy fuels socialism.
When the hippie switches to economics, he advertises greater ignorance. He wrote, “Justice demands that the rich and the powerful be brought low enough that everyone else can have enough.” Behind this statement lies the assumption that one group can grow rich only at the expense of others. That’s medieval economics. Since the advent of capitalism, most people have gained their wealth by creating it, not by taking it from the poor.
And he wrote, “...we do have the resources to eradicate poverty.”
In one respect we have eradicated poverty. In the Western world even the poorest are 30 times wealthier than their ancestors in 1800. In the last generation, free markets have lifted over 500 million people from starvation poverty according to the World Bank. But socialists have redefined poverty to mean the lowest fifth of the population, making it mathematically impossible to eliminate poverty.
Socialists don’t want to eradicate poverty; they want absolute equality of wealth and income. They think they could achieve that by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Again, socialists reveal their medieval economics. Rich people today don’t hold their wealth in land or gold as they did in the middle ages. It’s tied up in bonds and stock portfolios. People can’t eat those; they would have to sell them, but to whom would they sell? No one would have the money to buy them.
Imagine that God created US dollars out of nothing, as the Federal Reserve often does, and bought all of that redistributed wealth. Would the poor be better off? No, because sound monetary theory teaches us that more cash chasing the same amount of goods causes price inflation. So if the poor had more cash and no more goods were made, the price inflation would erode the value of the money to the point that the poor would be no better off.
So how can we really help the poor? The poor must get their income the same way millions of Chinese and Indians did: they must produce more. But that is another article. Twisting the words of Jesus to force him into the mold of a socialist and resurrecting medieval economics will never help the poor.