Lately, on the radio and social media, I have heard and been asked if socialism is bad for religion. The answer is very complicated, because the theory of socialism and its practical application historically is very different. Individuals seeking personal power have twisted the theory behind socialism.

Socialism in itself is a belief in the equal distribution of wealth. Its practical application has been distorted to that of placing complete trust in the government. Which is different than religion, where personal trust is placed in God.

While socialism sounds good on paper, history tells us a different story. Consider the Soviet Union, the world’s largest experiment with socialism. It reigned for only 80 years, a small amount of time considering the span of history. Its collective approach to farming created a disaster in the 20’s when millions of people died. And more would have died without the aid of the United States.

Since 1900 over 100 million of the citizens of communist regimes have been murdered, by Democide. Democide being the act of murder by a government. This statistic varies from researcher to researcher, some say 70 million and others as high as 110 million.

Smaller experiments in other countries have also failed, such as; Cuba, North Korea and most recently Venezuela. In each case the citizens of these countries had taken significant reductions in the quality of their lives.

So what went wrong with this idyllic type of government. It was with the flaw in its formula of assuming those who would be the rulers would not be impacted by power and greed. Despots like Lenin, Stalin, Castro, etc., took control. Socialism became for this group a way of controlling the masses, as opposed to a way of helping the masses.

The people of these regimes weren’t under socialism, but under a dictatorship controlled by those who used socialism as a guise.

Consider in our own country, the recent rise in progressive or socialist thought. Two of the recently elected and leading proponents of socialism have created LLC’s that appear to be Political Action Committees, but are really a source of personal funding. We won’t read much about these scandals, but they exist.

Socialism on paper works, so long as the following happens. Regimes are not taken over by despots. Each person works equally hard for equal distribution. The practice of free religion is allowed. Each person is given the right to speak freely and the right to vote without intimidation. Entrepreneurs are allowed to be rewarded for investments. Those who work harder are given an incentive. Citizens are allowed freedom of travel.

It hasn’t happened yet and lost in all the attempts are the average person who has been sold a false promise. Citizens around the world universally want to raise a family, pay their bills and have access to upward mobility. They want a life of freedom to express themselves and their faith. Socialism has yet to deliver these results.

There are those who say socialism will harm religious freedom and in the past it has. Almost all socialist regimes have silenced religious expressions.

Proponents of Socialism will use phrases like, “Jesus would have been a socialist.” Which isn’t true.

To know Jesus’s view on socialism, one should read the Parable of the Coins/talents. (Matthew [25:14]-30) Jesus tells the story of three people who are given money to invest. Two did wisely and were rewarded by their employer. One didn’t and was fired. (Actually he was thrown into “Utter Darkness.”) A clear statement that Jesus believed if you worked hard, you were rewarded and if you didn’t, well you know the story.

This doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t believe we should help the poor, the ill or disabled. He certainly did! Jesus’ message was that helping those in need was both a requirement and responsibility. His famous commandment of “Love thy neighbor as yourself” is a clear statement of our need to be kind and generous to all. The story of the Good Samaritan stands out as how we are to treat our neighbor. But using these verses to label Jesus a socialist is at best a stretch and at worst a pandering to those who are uninformed.

For those who believe that the world will turn to trusting government as the solution for all the problems, I reply that any victory or movement on this front will be short lived. History affirms this. For those who trust in God as a higher authority, our trust is well placed.

Over time the fad of socialism will fade, as being a Hippie in my generation did. As did the Beatniks of my father’s generation.

American’s believe in God, over 90% according to both Pew Research and Gallup. American’s don’t want a hand out, never have. American’s search and wonder, for and about God. Religious expression is essentially the same as it was in the 18th century. Maybe church attendance is down, but the personal desire to know God is the same. Socialism has not proven to be a trustworthy answer for those seeking God.

American’s want their personal freedoms and will fight to never give them up. Sure there will always be those who propose a new fad and radical way. But over time their own weaknesses will be revealed, as has been the case with two of our new progressive’s.

In God we Trust.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Samuel McGarrigle

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