It might ruffle some feathers, but the more I think about it, the less I understand how a “Christian Right” can exist in politics without serious cognitive dissonance. In the all the seething furor against so-called socialism in the United States, they seem to have forgotten that egalitarian values predate Marx. While I’m no theologian, excerpts from the Bible demonstrate support for equality in the teachings of Jesus himself (and in the practices of his early church).
Not Equal Giving, But Equal Sacrifice
Jesus promoted this concept in the temple, observing people bringing their offerings to the treasury. From Luke 21:1–4 (also stated nearly identically in Mark 12:41–44),
Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.New International Version, Luke 21:1–4
The widow’s gift was a much higher percentage of her cost of living than the voluminous offerings presented by the town’s wealthy. It seems to follow that the wealthy folks’ gifts would have been more valuable to Jesus had they given until they needed to do without something as opposed to skimming excess off the top; in other words, the rich should pay more.
How about this one? In Luke 18:22 (with reciprocals in Matthew 19 and Mark 10), Jesus tells another rich guy,
Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.New International Version, Luke 18:22
From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Need
The disciples took teachings like these to heart as they founded the early Christian church, as accounted in Acts 4:32-35.
No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had…from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales…and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.New International Version, Acts 4:32-35 (emphasis mine).
Talk about redistribution of wealth! Those who were better off literally turned money over to the governing body of the church for the purpose of supporting those in more need.
Wrong Side of the Aisle?
Complete, large-scale socialism would work great if it weren’t for mankind’s pesky selfishness. But as Christians, shouldn’t we be resisting that selfishness, giving freely to aid the underprivileged? It just doesn’t compute when I hear people representing the Christian Right violently opposing such basis as health care reform and social justice. If we claim to represent Christ, should we not follow his teachings? It often feels like “Christian” activists have made a mockery of my faith: If anything, there should be a Christian Left.