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  • No, Jesus Wasn’t a Socialist


    The claim that Jesus Christ was a socialist has become a popular refrain among liberals, even from some whose Christianity is lukewarm at best. But is there any truth in it?

    That question cannot be answered without a reliable definition of socialism. A century ago, it was widely regarded as government ownership of the means of production. Jesus never once even hinted at that concept, let alone endorsed it. Yet the definition has changed over time. When the critiques of economists such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman demolished any intellectual case for the original form of socialism, and reality proved them to be devastatingly right, socialists shifted to another version: central planning of the economy.

    One can scour the New Testament and find nary a word from Jesus that calls for empowering politicians or bureaucrats to allocate resources, pick winners and losers, tell entrepreneurs how to run their businesses, impose minimum wages or maximum prices, compel workers to join unions, or even to raise taxes. When the Pharisees attempted to trick Jesus of Nazareth into endorsing tax evasion, he cleverly allowed others to decide what properly belongs to the State by responding, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.”

    Nonetheless, one of the charges that led to Jesus’s crucifixion was indeed tax evasion.

    With the reputation of central planners in the dumpster worldwide, socialists have largely moved on to a different emphasis: the welfare state. The socialism of Bernie Sanders and his young ally Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is that of the benevolent, egalitarian nanny state where rich Peter is robbed to pay poor Paul. It’s characterized by lots of “free stuff” from the government—which of course isn’t free at all. It’s quite expensive both in terms of the bureaucratic brokerage fees and the demoralizing dependency it produces among its beneficiaries. Is this what Jesus had in mind?

    Hardly. Yes, amid the holidays, it’s especially timely to think about helping the poor. It was, after all, a very important part of Jesus’s message. How helping the poor is to be done, however, is mighty important.

    Christians are commanded in Scripture to love, to pray, to be kind, to serve, to forgive, to be truthful, to worship the one God, to learn and grow in both spirit and character. All of those things are very personal. They require no politicians, police, bureaucrats, political parties, or programs.

    “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want,” says Jesus in Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7. The key words there are you can help and want to help. He didn’t say, “We’re going to make you help whether you like it or not.”

    In Luke 12:13-15, Jesus is approached with a redistribution request. “Master, speak to my brother that he divideth the inheritance with me,” a man asks. Jesus replied, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” Then he rebuked the petitioner for his envy.

    Christianity is not about passing the buck to the government when it comes to relieving the plight of the poor. Caring for them, which means helping them overcome it, not paying them to stay poor or making them dependent upon the state, has been an essential fact in the life of a true Christian for 2,000 years. Christian charity, being voluntary and heartfelt, is utterly distinct from the compulsory, impersonal mandates of the state.

    But don’t take my word for it. Consider what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    And in Jesus’s Parable of the Good Samaritan, the traveler is regarded as “good” because he personally helped the stricken man at the roadside with his own time and resources. If, instead, he had urged the helpless chap to wait for a government check to arrive, we would likely know him today as the Good-for-Nothing Samaritan.

    Jesus clearly held that compassion is a wholesome value to possess, but I know of no passage in the New Testament that suggests it’s a value he’d impose by force or gunpoint—in other words, by socialist politics.

    Socialists are fond of suggesting that Jesus disdained the rich, citing two particular moments: his driving of the money-changers from the Temple and his remark that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. In the first instance, Jesus was angry that God’s house was being misused. Indeed, he never drove a money-changer from a bank or a marketplace. In the second, he was warning that with great wealth, great temptations come, too.

    These were admonitions against misplaced priorities, not class warfare messages.

    In his Parable of the Talents, Jesus talks about a man who entrusts his wealth to three servants for a time. When the man returns, he learns that one of the servants safeguarded his share by burying it, the second put his share to work and multiplied it, and the third invested his and generated the greatest return of all. Who’s the hero in the parable? The wealth-creating third man. The first one is admonished, and his share is taken and given to the third.

    That doesn’t sound very socialist, does it?

    Likewise, in Jesus’s Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the story upholds capitalist virtues, not socialist ones. When some workers complain that others were paid more, the employer rightfully defends the right of voluntary contract, private property, and, in effect, the law of supply and demand.

    At Christmas time and throughout the year, Jesus would want each of us to be generous in helping the needy. But if you think he meant for politicians to do it with police power at twice the cost and half the effectiveness of private charity, you’re not reading the same New Testament I am.

    This article was reprinted with permission from the Washington Examiner.




    Lawrence W. Reed

    Lawrence W. Reed is President Emeritus, Humphreys Family Senior Fellow, and Ron Manners Ambassador for Global Liberty at the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also author of Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of ProgressivismFollow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • The Palmer Raids: America’s Forgotten Reign of Terror


    Exactly a hundred years ago this morning—on January 3, 1920—Americans woke up to discover just how little their own government regarded the cherished Bill of Rights. During the night, some 4,000 of their fellow citizens were rounded up and jailed for what amounted, in most cases, to no good reason at all and no due process, either.

    Welcome to the story of the Palmer Raids, named for their instigator, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Though largely forgotten today, they shouldn’t be. They constituted a horrific, shameful episode in American history, one of the lowest moments for liberty since King George III quartered troops in private homes.

    The terror during the night of January 2-3, 1920, shocked and frightened many citizens. In her 1971 book, America’s Reign of Terror: World War I, the Red Scare, and the Palmer Raids, Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht wrote:

    [T]error is not just a body count. Terror exists when a person can be sentenced to years in prison for an idle remark; when people are pulled out of their beds and arrested; when 4,000 persons are seized in a single night; and when arrests and searches are made without warrants. Moreover, for each person sent to prison for his views, many others were silenced. The author amply documents the government’s insensitivity to civil liberties during this period, its frequent brutality and callousness, and the personal grief that ensued.

    The targets of the Palmer raids were radicals and leftists deemed by the Wilson administration to be hostile to “American values.” Ironically, none of those arrested had done anywhere near as much harm to those values as the man living in the White House—Woodrow Wilson, arguably the worst of the country’s 45 presidents. More on that and the Palmer Raids after some background.

    This wasn’t the first time the government in Washington had trampled the Bill of Rights. No less than the administration of John Adams, an American founding patriot, briefly shut down newspapers and dissenting opinion with its Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and arrested thousands of political opponents in Northern states.

    The most immediate precedents for the Palmer Raids were wartime measures of the same administration just a few years before. Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on a boast that he had “kept us out of war” even as he authorized non-neutral aid for Britain and France. He then feigned surprise when Germany declared unrestricted warfare on ships carrying supplies to its enemies. It was the pretext for American entry into World War I in April 1917.

    “Wars are dirty but crusades are holy,” writes Feuerlicht, “so Wilson turned the war into a crusade.” The conflict became “the war to end all wars” and a war “to make the world safe for democracy” while the president made war on democracy at home.

    America was formally at war for only a week when Wilson created the Committee on Public Information (CPI). Its job was to convince Americans the war was right and just. A national venture in though