by Darren Pedigo
The Red Star Journal
July 13, 2009
“Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ – who I think was the first socialist – only socialism can really create a genuine society.” – Hugo Chavez
Personally, I don’t think Jesus ever existed. I do not say this to hurt my Comrades of the Christian, Muslim, or Messianic Jewish faiths, but rather because I just haven’t seen enough evidence. I personally think Jesus was a collection of Mediterranean myths, from Horus to Zeus, culminating in St. Paul’s church. And if he did exist, I seriously have doubts about his divinity. But regardless of existence or divinity, if the quotes and records of him are accurate, he remains one of the better role models humans have strive to emulate and probably the first and most profound Socialist/Communist ever. More so in relevance and in direct content than any other religious figure or deity. Possessing a wider span of Communism than many or most Socialist thinkers.
Socialism is often associated with Atheistic tendencies, and as an Atheist-Socialist it’s ironic I have to remind people that many Socialist grassroots groups, especially originating in France, were Christian Socialists. Determined and sure that the general philosophy of Marx was the practice of the divine philosophy laid down by Jesus so many centuries ago. One only has to look in the Bible itself to reinforce such ideas:
Acts 2:42 – 45: 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Acts 4:32-37: 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 5:1-10, is perhaps the most blatant and relevant evidence that the Apostles and early Christians did not view Communism as something optional:
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
Luke 1:49-53: 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
One of Jesus’ most famous remarks regarding the wealthy can be found in Matthew 19:16-24 (the same event is also described in Mark 10:17-25 and Luke 18:18-25, and the metaphor of a camel going through the eye of a needle is common to both Matthew and Luke).
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why do you ask me about what is good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Jesus also described “money changers” (i.e. those engaged in currency exchange) as “thieves” and chased them out of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is described in Matthew 21:12-14, Mark 11:15, and John 2:14-16. The text in Matthew reads as follows:
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
People often attribute altruism to Communism & Socialism. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case as a willful contribution to the whole is in one’s own rational self-interest. But certainly Socialism is the guarantee of protecting one’s own liberty by defending everyone’s liberty, no person excluded. This reinforced in the book of Mark 12:28-31:
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Jesus gave an account of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, in which he identifies himself with the hungry, the poor and the sick, and states that good or evil done upon “the least of [God’s] brethren” will be counted as good or evil done upon God himself. It is argued that Jesus is saying that nations, rather than individuals, would be judged according to the characteristics of their societies. If that is the case, this could imply that political and economic systems were being heavily critiqued as well (an argument I happen to agree with) :
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats; 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; 36 Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.
Even in the Old Testament there are hints of such a coming critique of man’s social and economic predicament:
Leviticus 25:35-38: “If one […] becomes poor […] help him […] so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God […] You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”
So clearly there is a spiritual foundation in non Dogmatic Christianity for those striving for a Socialist world free of injustice or tyranny. Combined with the pragmatic and logical economic and sociological revelations of Karl Marx, I dare say you have the ingredients for a World Revolution. I strongly urge my Christian Comrades to take back the image of Christ as some Militant Redneck or a product to be pushed on television for the highest possible advertising buck. A stage prop for the hateful, bigoted Right Wing agenda of terror and genocide we’ve seen unleashed globally for over 500 years. But instead show Jesus, whether he be savior, prophet, or just a character, as an anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, radical, peace loving Liberal with a Revolutionary bent. It’s not much of a stretch.
It is so easy to find blatant hypocrisy in any authoritarian institution man creates, secular or otherwise, but it is also just as easy to find a commonality in a wide range ideological, political, or religious dogmas that might have small variations in their will toward one another. Yet they all share a prerequisite and need for the adherents to have the liberty to learn, grow, and find the most conducive environment for developing their own human being. We will not find such a place in the dog eat dog world Capitalism and all its form has presented with starving, competing masses and wage slaves, but rather the sane, simple, and humane methods of self-governing and self-determination that Socialism embodies. And none more so than those great minds that come once and awhile and show us just how simple, natural, and plausible the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind can be. From Jesus to Marx to Martin Luther King.
from the archives:
The Evidence for the Existence of Jesus
The Dawning: Christianity in the Roman Empire
N. T. Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? (2007)
Jesus Christ, Revolution and Socialism (subtitled)
Chávez: Capitalists Have Manipulated the Message of Christ to Exploit the Poor
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Very nice essay. I also applaud the Bibical backing and research. It’s also good to find a kindred spirit on the subject. Though we differ on Jesus as Messiah, we directly agree with his status as socialist/communist. It is unfortunate, that more people do not see these point for what they are because of so called ‘Communist & Socialist’ governments. Jesus & Marx were the ideal and actual forces of the purest truest form of Socialism/Communism. Pay witness.
I understand the argument is Jesus’s teachings can be used to forward justice in this time in our history, considering how many people read the Bible. But I think those in positions of powerare more like the pharisees. They use the relig…ion to assure voters of their piety and keep power, which is then used to prop up the rich. It’s far far from what that preacher in Palestine had in mind. But I give up trying to say christian politicians should act more christ like.
I would prefer to see more secular society where a person’s actions count more than their words or religious affiliation. And a world where it’s accepted that being an agnositc/athiest makes one a rational person, not an immoraor unfeeling person.
We all have the Golden Rule.
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one more thing : you talk about rejecting the social norm . on this i agree about Christ and Marx. this is called ”world negation ”in theosociological terms. Marx in his purest form of the Manifesto and Das Kapital does not reach ultimate world negation . the closest we get to the Jesus model is Diogenes the Cynic . both the early christians and cynics of that era have world negation in commen . the trouble is is that Diogenes offers nothing in return to world negation , and the Jesus model does –the love that is the glue of non statist communal living .
i dont see Marx rejecting the world wholesale so to speak , therefore i see him also not going far enough in the revolutionary sense.
when you state ”Jesus is a communist” . i would have phrased it this way ” true communism is a by product of the Jesus model of inner change”. this may sound semantical , but it is not .
Darren , i dont recall mentioning statism in regards to communism ..but let me take this one at a time —
1.the middle path — as i have said , there are much in commen with Marx and Christ as in regards to equality , commensiality, social justice, social injustice…etc. but .. and this is no light matter –what we see in the book of Acts is a by product of the Apostles inner change after pentacost .before pentacost , as in Mark ch10 they were arguing with each other about who would rule with Christ as a top dog in God’s Kingdom ,and Jesus has to explain to them that it does not work that way..you have to be a servant and slave to all to be great. and also , even after his alleged resurection , Peter wants to know when Jesus is gonna set up his Kingdom , as if it is some earlthy thing . they still dont get it ..UNTIL pentacost. then BAM ! then , what follows is pre-marxian true blue communism . why ? because their consciuosness has been changed, not their environment. Marx states that environment should change first before consciuosness. typical 19 century thinking. finding common ground and middle way is difficult . it comes down to action .
2. We all know how the goodnews of Jesus was co-opted by Constantine ( actually way before that in some regions ) . but as to how the followers of Jesus presenting the Christ story in the early texts of the first century ..Martin Hengel’s book ”Crucifixion ” says it all. totally unique. as much as i love pagan mythology , there was as Hengel points out nothing that compared to a poor jewish peasant crucified under the roman empire that was proclaimed as the same name as the Emphorer. …SON OF GOD. crucifixion as we know is death by shame and scandel . its not just any death . it is anti noble death . to dare proclaim that it is noble is crazy enough , but to proclaim that this was the real SON OF GOD that died was utterly unique.
now , i will grant you that there as veriuos similaritys –Mithras , Prometheus , Osiris . but these are clearly myths. and if Jesus of Nazareth is not just a composite character of great literature , but a real person than we are not dealing with myth . what counts is that a group of people went around stating that they knew the real SON OF GOD and he was not sitting on a throne in rome or stamped on a roman coin . some may not believe them … but that is what they are stating , and rome knew it , that is why they died in those arenas. pagan cults that are thematically close to the Christ story were not persecuted becuase they did not offend rome nor make the unique claim that the early followers of Jesus were making .
darren , the catholic worker movment that i have been a part of for 28 years came out of the peter marin -dorothy day france -Nyc connection is the closest model since the early Fransiscans . and i do agree with you about the 19th century . one can even go all the way back to the Carpacradian gnostics that practiced non violence christian gnositic anarchism and their influence on secular anrcho-syndacalist communitys in spain and mexico . and then there is Tolstoys p[ost conversion life.
here is my point : the communial living of the believers in Jesus from the book of Acts till today must be understoond as a BY PRODUCT of the good news of an inner change via being re-born by Jesus . to put the emphasis on the by by product and not the change of ones inner being is to miss the message of Jesus . this is where Marx and Christ part ways . Marx was a utopianist , Christ was not . that is why , though i sympathise as a socialist and a christian with your stament that Jesus is a commuinist , i think that some clarification must be made on why i think he is not .
CLINT — yeah … as a matter of fact there is . there are 3 historians : Taciitus , Suentoius, Josephus. Josephus is problematic because scholars think that when he speaks of Jesus it is interpolation . Tacitus was the most accurate roman historian of his time and he speaks of him as Christus . he cant stand them and him . but he speaks of it anyway , and he is first century . also , like him or not Paul was a well known quantity in the first century . and he just didnt make it all up . that is faulty reasoning that many make .
to understand american christianity one must see the influence of john calvin on it . the quakers are a rare and refreshing exception .
No one implied that Paul “made it up” – quite the contrary he merely institutionalized the pre-existing, common myth. Laying the organizational framework that eventually would have “editing” power of those above mentioned historians for hundreds of years.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that there is *some* evidence, though minor, for the existence of Jesus — at least a decent amount considering how long ago that was.
I always think it’s necessary for people to point out the political aspects of the Jesus story, which are (not surprisingly) repressed almost completely. He very easily fits into the socialist category, and it’s amazing that the U.S. could be so heavily Christian yet so heavily capitalist.
You are wrong,with all respect. I only pray and hope you will ever once have a personal supernatural experience like I had with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.A year ago.
Yes, Jesus lives. He is in you, if you allow Him in. There are some technical aspects to find Him.Unfortunately there is work involved….you must want Him and search for Him.He created earth and heaven in 6 days…do you know of anyone else who has done that? He knows all hearts and organs and will show up to persons He considers worthwhile…..you can trust me….I was a very very luke Christian before this happened to me.
And I was also sure He was not for real. My cup runneth over…and my spiritual eye has opened up…do not give up hope to find the Lord. He is there for EVERY human on earth.
God bless you.
everything talked about concerning the christian / marxist matrix was done from 1974 to 1987 in latin american catholic intellectuals like gustave guitaraz and leonardo boff called liberation theology . this is complex stuff. have you seen the movie ”ROMERO”? he found the golden mean between the extremes of imperialism and marxism and showed what it was like to truly be a follower of Jesus .
Here’s the film: https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/romero-1989-chomsky-on-oscar-romero-massacre-during-romeros-funeral/
Liberation Theology is certainly the most widely known as it is still prominent in Latin America, a revolutionary “hot spot”.
But you’re disregarding one of the most radical and widespread forms of Christian Communism, some of which predates Marx. That is 19th Century France, most notably Étienne Cabet, who famously said, “Communism is Christianity […] it is pure Christianity, before it was corrupted by Catholicism”.
Darren , i sympathise with your article , but …… first off :
1. There is a real difference bewteen socialism and communism .
2.The Jesus story is completely unique in the ancient world . Osoris rose from the dead but never got from the underground . the early christians claimed that jesus of nazareth did. in the pantheon of 30 thousand gods only the rag tag followers of jesus gave him the same name as the emperor –SON OF GOD. that is why they were persecuted. that is the scandal .
3. communist use violence like capitalist do. Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies.
4. Marx said ”it is not the consciousness of human beings which determines their being , but on the contrary , their social being which determine their consciousness ”. Jesus said the opposite was true , and that is that it is the transformation of our consciousness that determines our being . he spoke of being re-born in john ch 3.
Jesus sent out his disciples to be dependent on communities saying ”take nothing for your journey ”, as opposed to Diogenes disciple who sent them out to be self reliant with staff , provisions , etc for their journeys . yes, the christians did promote ”commensiality ” … not to be confused with governmental communism . this is dealt with in the book –Jesus : a revolutionary bio- by john dominic crossan . an excellent book on the fact that Jesus is THE most radical leader in human history . it will make your jaw drop . and Crossan does not even believe in the supernatural . but i do . i do have evidence –he changed my life 35 years ago . now that is a revolution .
Thank you for the thoughtful reply Rocket.
1 and 3, I feel these two were connected. As I think you’re blurring the lines between “means” and “ends”. One could argue whether or not Socialism is simply a means to Communism but regardless the means to either are not set in stone. I think you’re prescribing a strong “Leninist” form of Revolution to Communism or Marxism. Which though Revolutionary, Lenin was also a STATIST, and the state always requires force to protect its hierarchy, whether or not that hierarchy considers itself “revolutionary” or not. And as you pointed out, Jesus too was a revolutionary but also much, much more of a pacifist (perhaps though advocating the right to self defense?). So one does not have to advocate violence to be anti-authoritarian or even Revolutionary. Karl Marx himself said that it is impossible for a civilization to consider itself civil if it executes or kills human beings, so by no means does violent revolutionaries hold any true sway to Communist ideals, perhaps they even pervert such ideals. Either way their means does not represent the theoretical ends anymore than a non-violent revolutionary does.
2 – I don’t like to play “thought” police over someones religion. So rather than the philosophical merits of your point I will argue the historical merits as I see them. Jesus is often portrayed in drawings as the “sun”, the rays of light, the whole deal. The educated theocratic class up until about 500 years ago essentially interpreted the astrological events as the divine. So an event like “the North Star heralding the birth of the son/sun” correlates with the Winter Solstice and the return major sun god/son of god. Which culminated in the resurrection, return of life in Easter or spring. This was Astrotheology characterized into parables. Most noted for making the Christian Church the powerhouse it is today, Constantine, was a sun worshipper who merely utilized a sun cult to coincide with his new found political authority.
There were many, many cults of the Mediterranean in Jesus’ time. Someone calling themselves the son of God I imagine wouldn’t be so uncommon… what resulted in Jesus demise was the money changers. There’s an old saying, and forgive me is it’s crude but “money talks, BS walks”. One could make any such claim as he liked back then (and today) so long as he’s poor and generally alienated from society. But try a forceful overthrow of someone lucrative monetary exchange and heads roll. As was in Jesus’ case and such a parable in relation to the Marxist struggle against Capital draws an IMMEDIATE parallel to me that is too large to ignore.
4 – Couldn’t the truth be somewhere in the middle? Weren’t both in essence rejecting the social norm or quo in order to REFORM such social structures?
Again you equate Statism with Communism. I never asserted that the economics of the USSR were related to Marx, let alone Jesus.