Political Socialism and the Church

Socialism: the radical idea of sharing

An oversimplification? Maybe, but it really does boil down to that basic lesson our parents taught us at a young age.

While I am often political in the broad sense of how people live together, I don’t typically weigh in on specifics of how I think government could best govern. I need to weigh in with support for Ben Corey’s article “We’re Not Actually Socialist”. Here’s the centre of his discussion:

“That’s the Church’s job” I’m frequently told. And, I totally agree– caring for the poor and vulnerable is the Church’s job.

Unfortunately, the Church doesn’t do it– and that’s why so many of us either passively or actively support government programs to accomplish this. Not because we think government is the best or most effective solution, but because until the Church steps up, it’s the only solution on the table.

Exactly. If Christians could barely feed their families because they were caring for the poor and vulnerable so much, I might take the argument seriously that the government isn’t needed. But most Christians aren’t – the numbers in Canada are similar to the ones Ben discusses in the U.S. where a small minority are giving enough of their time and money to make a significant systemic difference.

Yes, the most important message here is that if you’re a Christian, you should be following Jesus in caring for the poor and vulnerable. That could look like different things, but unless you are yourself the poor and vulnerable, it definitely should include giving up a substantial portion of your time and income. Regardless of how you vote, this is part of the Christian package.

With that said, the reason I tend to vote somewhere left to centre on the political spectrum is because I want to see as many people as possible get on board with this radical way of living that cares for the weakest among us. Whether a capitalist or a socialist government gets elected, I’m going to keep my hope where it belongs: in Jesus, with myself and the Church acting as his hands and feet in very practical ways. That doesn’t change. But if a socialist-leaning government gets elected, I’m not going to yell, “No! Only Christians are allowed to help the poor and vulnerable!”

It would be different if higher taxes went to excessive military, or corruption, or something like that. But let’s be honest: our left-wing parties may be a bit less warmongering than the right in Canada, but those budgets basically stay the same no matter who’s in power. The big difference in our tax rates is how much is going to social services. Therefore, while it most definitely does not excuse the Church from our job – and especially considering it is a job that we are often not even trying to do – I’m happy for all the help we can get.

The sadly-necessary addendum because of the ridiculously-divided world we live in will surely lead somebody to attack me as idolizing the left (even though I’ve already said otherwise): of course no political party or political system is perfect. Every party has some ways it lines up with Jesus’ priorities and some ways it doesn’t. When it comes to economics, I definitely think the left wing – when voluntarily entered into by a democratic majority – is a lot closer to what Jesus had in mind when he talked about money. There may be some other areas where I tend to agree with right-wing parties more, but at the very least I acknowledge they are all fallible humans usually doing what they genuinely think is best for their country. Any time we see one party as Jesus-incarnate or another as completely evil, we run right back into placing our hope in the wrong place. An election may help or hinder the enacting of certain Jesus-values, but it always His Kingdom, not any nation’s, party’s, or ideology’s.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.