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.

11 Comments

  1. Great points. It’s kind of saddening, really, that many people are willing to put the kind of faith in government that should be reserved for God.

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  2. Matt, I couldn’t agree with you more. People are looking for a Savior, and some think government is it. No wonder there’s so much disillusionment with government. I mean, the more we expect, the more we will be let down when it can’t fulfill the role it was never meant to have.

    That’s also why it’s so important that the Church acts the way God intends us to act.

    Becky

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  3. Greetings, Miss Miller,

    Very well said about the church not being a government and their motives in meeting each others’ needs. As a historian, I have to wonder why Socialism is still attractive; it looks altruistic on paper but history has shown that the system doesn’t work. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, private organizations did a better job of meeting needs than FEMA.

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  4. I agree in spirit that it’s wrong to think that *anyone* is better than Obama, but sometimes it comes down to the lesser evil if it comes down to your vote bringing any improvement to the current situation. That said, I’m disappointed in the GOP running pack this time. I do like the Newt’s so far, though.

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  5. It seems that the more socialized a nation is, the less happy are its people. This relates to your statement about not feeling a need to care for your fellow man. A government can’t dispense happiness.

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  6. I’m playing devil’s advocate here. What about socialist countries like Sweden who have less poverty and violence than we do? I’m sure many are happy in that country, although they have lack of sunlight and harsh winters working against them.

    I think what we’ve developed in this country is potentially more dangerous to individuals than Swedish style democracy-socialism. We have big corp and the ruling political elite in bed together, making sweet deals with each other so that both become richer and richer while the rest of us have little political or financial power to do anything but gape at a stalled economy and impotent Congress.

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  7. Becky, I think God, the Father, sent Jesus partly for hands-on training, to rule everything in time–Heaven and earth and everything in -between. Jesus Aced the course because of the Heavenly attribute of compassion. I know, the popular thing is to say that Jesus performed miracles to show that He was God, but as far as I can see, although that was one result, the Bible doesn’t say that was the motivation for miracles. It does say that Jesus was moved by “compassion” right before He healed the multitudes.
    My point? Compassion is harder to grow in a hot-house, requiring an up close and personal look at someone else’s pain, through our own peace, prosperity and well-being.It is the Golden Rule School.

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  8. The result of one study I found said: “the most important determinant of happiness (for a country) is the extent to which people have free choice in how to live their lives.” I think that favors a capitalist economy. Socialism levies a heavy tax for government chosen benefits, costing its citizens the choice for their own decisions.

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  9. But the church is government (just because you don’t like the word doesn’t make it so), and the masses are not Christian. If we want everyone to live a Christian “do unto others” way, why do we not want our government to follow the same, and how can that be construed as unChristian for a government to behave that way?

    Oh, the alternative is so much better- CAPITALISM. He who has the most toys wins. Everything is turned into a greedy pursuit of profits. Survival of the fittest. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and die because they can’t afford to live in the world we’ve created. The government would only fuel this injustice, while radical “Christians” claim that’s the way it should be. They earned their own money and the government can’t have it to help all those lazy unemployed people… Because they are not really Christians. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. It’s “The American Way”.

    “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?”

    “Christians” have been saying these things as long as I’ve been alive. It’s always someone else’s problem, and very few will stand up and do anything about it. Socialism would not make it any worse, but to the contrary would provide more dependable assistance when people have need.

    Anything can be spun to say “I’m right and your wrong”- another American tradition. But that doesn’t make it so.

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  10. It almost sounds like you are saying socialism would make a world where no one has any needs that are not being met, and that would only be bad because there would be no good deeds left to do. For someone being so against Socialism that sounds like a very idealistic view of it- a utopia (except for Christians being deprived of means of being generous other than paying their taxes). Everyone has needs, and regardless of the governments we live under we should live Christianly- loving our neighbors. No government program can give the life changing relationships that Christians have to offer.

    But Government shouldn’t do what you believe Christians (the minority) should be doing? Let’s cut all the programs that are currently helping people in need? Because you can provide counseling services to the abused, the violent, the addicted? You are going to go into the streets and provide medical care yourself to those who can’t afford it? Scrap the public school system too while we are at it? Everyone will homeschool?

    Christians already are not meeting the needs, and increasing need- increasing the suffering in the world- is not going to motivate people to give more or do more. That will only put everyone in self-preservation mode- to horde what they need for themselves.

    Will Heaven be a bad place because no one will have any needs?

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  11. Andy, you said,

    As a historian, I have to wonder why Socialism is still attractive; it looks altruistic on paper but history has shown that the system doesn’t work.

    That’s a great point. Because it sounds altruistic, I’m not inclined to ascribe evil motives to someone advocating it. I don’t think it’s been well thought out, however.

    Government can’t love; only people can. And we the Church need to do that, no matter what the government does. But it’s a lot easier to see the need when we’re the last line of defense, not a competing line of defense with government. If the church does things right, we would be teaching men how to fish, not handing out fish. But in our society of enablement, that too often runs counter to what people are looking for.

    In other words, there are many problems with socialism, but one I don’t think too many people have talked about is this issue of Christians shirking our God given command to love our neighbor — we’ve bought into the lie that taking care of the less advantaged is the government’s job.

    Becky

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