The Selfishness Of Socialism

The primary election season has begun. Of course the string of Republican presidential candidate debates brought politics to the surface last year, but now the interest in the question, who will oppose President Obama, has ramped up the media coverage and public awareness.

What troubles me is that some Christians, along with other conservatives, talk as if the chief end of the 2012 election is to defeat the President. Consequently, the most important quality in a candidate is “electability,” another way of saying, any Republican is better than President Obama.

Again, I’m troubled by this line of thinking, on several fronts, not the least being that so many look at our President as not just wrong, but evil, as if he is intentionally choosing paths that will bankrupt our nation, literally and morally.

I don’t believe for one second that President Obama is doing anything but what he thinks is right, even good. Is it evil to want health care for every citizen in the nation? Is it evil to want the income to fund programs for the poor? Is it evil to want an end of armed conflict in Iraq? Is it evil to want justice and fairness for every person?

While I don’t believe President Obama is acting with evil motives, I can agree that he may be wrong in the way he’s going about achieving some of the things I think he’s right about, specifically things involving the economy.

As I see it, his approach is to increase the socialism that already exists in the US, and I think that’s wrong. Biblically wrong.

The government, in the socialist view, is the all wise and knowing dispenser of goods and services to those who are in need. To pay for the programs, taxes must be increased, and those most able to pay should bear the brunt of the burden.

The problem with this position is multifaceted, but the worst part is not the “class warfare” that President Obama’s detractors decry. Rather it is the undermining of God’s command for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That statement will surprise anyone who views socialism as a more Biblical way of living than capitalism. The Christians in the first church held all their belongings in common and gave to whoever had a need. Socialism, right?

Actually not.

The church was not acting as a government. The church did not mandate giving or sharing of possessions. Peter made this very clear when he addressed Ananias who withheld some of the money he made from selling his house:

“While it [your land] remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4)

Rather than socialism, the communal property of the early church was a reflection of believers living out what they understood the Christian life to be — that of caring for one another’s needs.

Here in America, that value of caring for those in need has been passed down from generation to generation. Besides Christian underpinnings, perhaps the necessity of depending on neighbors in a wilderness environment also had something to do with the eager and generous response to those in need.

The point is, socialism undermines the idea that individuals should do something to help the person down the block who is less fortunate. Instead, we are fostering an “I gave at the office” mentality:

    My tax dollars are already going for their food stamps; why should I give more?

    Help the homeless? Why doesn’t he just go to the local shelter?

The responsibility for caring for our neighbors is not-so-slowly shifting from individual citizens to the shoulders of the government. In other words, we no longer have to love our neighbors because the government will take care of them.

Unlike the Good Samaritan, we don’t have to stop when we see someone lying in the middle of the road. We may not quite be at the place where we will cross the road and pass on the other side, but we are at the place where we think we’ve done our duty if we call 9-1-1.

Socialism lets us off the hook. It’s a way of saying, Love your neighbors as yourself? Not needed. The government will do it for you.

Somehow, I don’t think Jesus would agree.

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