Was Jesus a Communist? Some people believe that he was.
You might have heard about “Liberation Theology” which was popular, and very powerful in Latin America, about fifty years ago. It existed mostly in the Roman Catholic Church, although the ideas spread to other Protestant groups.
Liberation Christians tried to merge the ideas of Marxist Communism with what the Bible says about Jesus. Technically, it is impossible to call Jesus a Communist, or a political leftist.
Karl Marx, who created Communism, was born in 1818, into a Jewish family that had recently converted to Christianity. He lived many centuries after the time of Jesus, and he never seemed to promote Jesus. He promoted his new idea, atheistic Communism. There is no clear connection between Jesus and Karl Marx, or the Communists who followed him.
A Communist is an Atheist.
Before the Communists were the French revolutionaries, who met in a National Assembly, apparently on a tennis court, around the year 1789. When the Speaker of the Assembly looked out over the members, it was clear that the conservatives who sided with the King were on his right. The radicals who wanted a revolution were on the Speaker’s left. For that reason, we have terms like ‘Leftist’ and ‘Left-wing’ in modern politics. Socialists who want a new society are on the left.
So, was Jesus a Leftist? Can we say that Jesus had ideas like the Left-wing and Socialist political movements of today? Again, technically no. The French revolutionaries on the Speaker’s left in Paris didn’t have much to say about Jesus, and they lived centuries after the time of Jesus, in years like 1789.
But did Jesus find Socialist truth first? Did Leftists and Communists just find the same truth, much later?
Some people answer yes to that question:
This is important.
In the year 2010, the number of people who identified as Christians, followers of Jesus, was counted at 2.2 billion, 31 percent of the total population in the world. If present trends continue, the total number could grow to 2.9 billion by the year 2030.
Imagine if all those people were convinced to vote for socialist candidates and political parties. The support of a third of the world’s population is a huge prize. That support is an even bigger prize, when it is added to the number of people who already support Leftist – Socialist – Marxist politics.
Here is a world-beating formula: Convince the followers of Jesus that they should vote Socialist. The numbers are too big to ignore. So, tell anyone who follows Jesus, or at least admires him, that they belong to the political Left.
We might be suspicious of the motives for that idea.
There are two big problems with the idea that Jesus was ‘Comrade Jesus’ the first Communist revolutionary:
- Communists are Atheists who deny the existence of God, and Jesus directed people to God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), he taught us how to pray, and he promised to send God’s Holy Spirit to “guide us into all truth” (John 16: 13).
- Communists hold the world record for the number of people killed. The greatest number of deaths from one cause is in Communist China, and the second-highest number was in the Soviet Union. Other Communist governments have added their millions. Hitler and the Nazis have much smaller numbers.
Chairman Mao, in China, told us that power comes from the barrel of a gun. On Jesus’ side, we are told, “Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4: 7).
These things are too big to ignore.
Liberation thinking, a form of Marxism, often grows in Christian churches, but it is not really possible to convert Jesus to Comrade-Jesus. We can’t honestly go back two thousand years and convert a Rabbi in a remote place called Galilee, into a modern politician. He must be what he was.
We can see that Atheist Marxists see something to admire in that Rabbi and Liberation Theology might be more than a cynical power grab. Jesus had something to say, and his worst enemies admire what he taught, and they want to make those ideas a part of their system.
That is the lesson of Liberation Theology; Jesus is too big to ignore.
I learned that, years ago. When I started High School, my school had a Marxist cell called “The Human Survival Club.” I went to a few meetings, but then I found STATIC; “Students Teachers and Administration Together in Christ.” I don’t know who thought of that name, but it was truth in packaging. Those were the days of the Hippies who became “Jesus People” and STATIC told me about a different revolution. Jesus could make me into a different person.
I went with the second option. I still believe that “Beloved, let us love one another” is better than “Power comes from the barrel of a gun.”
We can’t go back and convert Jesus into a Communist, but it is possible to go the other way. We can move forward, and people today can follow that kind and wise Rabbi from that obscure province. Anyone can switch from admiring to believing.
That is what I did, years ago.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11: 28 and 29)
Interesting post- thanks for writing. I should mention that Karl Marx did *not* invent communism, though he did popularize it. The word itself was used in the 1700s, but the concept goes back to the first Church.
Specifically, there is this:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” Matthew 19:24
“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be [re]distributed to each as any had need.” -Acts 4:34-37
“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” Acts 4:32
GotQuestions.org mentions that (Acts 2:44-45) “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” implies that communism is found in the earliest churches, because they say that communism has at its heart a desire to eliminate poverty by spreading the wealth around. However, they warn that forcing such things is not truly Christian. (source: https://www.gotquestions.org/communism-Bible.html )
I’m guessing this is true, especially in the same sense that the Catholic dogma of “Error has no rights” was not Christian. However, the socialis encyclical was, described here:vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30121987_sollicitudo-rei-socialis.html
I would describe the encyclical of “perpetua servitus iudaeorum” as not particularly Christian, though technically, it was never revoked. That encyclical makes all Jews slaves, with the force of canonical law, and it will last until Judgement Day. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Gregory_IX ) It was authored in the Decretals of the year 1234, which famously serve as the basis for all law in the Western world. However, “perpetua servitus iudaeorum”wasn’t deemed noteworthy enough to mention in the the article on said Decretals, or to merit its own page. Martin Luther famously said “Papal Decretals are the Devil’s excretals.” – I think he may be on to something.
Dean. This guy should write his own blog, but I think I can approve his comments here. I can’t do that with my phone.
If you approve, can you click on the approved button?