Thursday, March 21, 2019

ANS -- Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes

Doug Muder has read the 73 page manifesto from the New Zealand terrorist.  If you want to know how the terrorist was thinking and what made him do it, read this summary by Mr. Muder.  

Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes

The Christchurch shooter's manifesto is a Rosetta Stone for multiple strains of crazy.

I don't usually recommend that you read something I totally disagree with, but this week I'll make an exception: If you have the time, look at the the 73-page manifesto posted by Brenton Tarrant, who apparently killed 50 worshipers Friday at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you don't have quite that much time, just look at the Introduction on pages 3 and 4.

Manifestos of terrorist murderers are usually described in the press as the incoherent ramblings of diseased minds. And perhaps sometimes they are; I haven't read that many of them. But reading this one struck me the opposite way: The ideas fit together, and once you accept a fairly small number of baseless notions and false facts, everything else spins out logically. What's more: this ideology links a large number of right-wing notions that we on the left usually imagine as separate pathologies, and either ignore as absurd or argue against in a whack-a-mole fashion.

So I think it's worth trying to understand.

The assumption in the background. One idea seems so obvious to Tarrant, and presumably to his target readers, that it goes without mentioning until fairly deep in the text: Races are real things. So there is a White race, and its members are united by something far greater than a tendency to sunburn. Whites are a "people" who have a culture. [1] Whiteness is an identity, an Us that exists in an eternal evolutionary war with all the Thems out there.

To Tarrant, there is some essential nature to all the races and peoples.

Racial differences exist between peoples and they have a great impact on the way we shape our societies. … A Moroccan may never be an Estonian much the same as an Estonian may never be a Moroccan. There are cultural, ethnic, and RACIAL differences that makes interchanging one ethnic group with another an impossibility. Europe is only Europe because if its combined genetic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. When non-Europeans are considered Europe, then there is no Europe at all. [2]

Birthrates. There's a worldwide phenomenon that is fairly well understood: When a society becomes wealthy, educates its women, and gives them opportunities in addition to motherhood, birth rates go down. A woman who has a shot at being a CEO or a cancer researcher may or may not decide to have children, but she almost certainly won't have 7 or 8 of them. That's why educating women is seen as a possible long-term solution to the population explosion.

There's nothing about this phenomenon that is specifically white — it applies equally well to Japan, for example, and countries in Africa have seen the same effect among their educated classes — but European countries (and countries like the US and Australia that were largely settled by European colonists) do tend to be wealthy and relatively feminist. So birthrates are down across Europe. And in the US, recent immigrants of non-European ancestry have higher birthrates than whites.

So largely as a result of their own economic success, majority-white countries tend to have birthrates below replacement level. As economic growth continues, opportunities open up for immigrants, who retain their higher birthrates for a generation or two after they arrive. All over the world, then, majority-white countries are becoming less and less white, with the possibility that whites themselves might eventually become a minority.

One recent estimate has the United States becoming a minority-white country by 2045. As I pointed out in August, we're-losing-our-country is an old story in the US: Once the US was majority-English, until German immigrants (and Africans brought here by force) made the English a minority. For a while longer, it was majority-Anglo-Saxon, until a wave of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants put an end to that. Each time, alarmists claimed that the nation was losing its soul — Ben Franklin worried about the arrival of the Pennsylvania Dutch — but somehow America continued to be America.

But now combine the diminishing white population with the conviction that race really means something. Sure, 21st-century Americans can laugh at Franklin's fear of people who put hex signs on their barns and make all those buttery pies. But now we're talking about a whole different race. This was a white country, and now it's being taken over by other races! Other peoples are taking what's ours, but they're doing it through demographics rather than warfare.

We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. [3] Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally, invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labor, new consumers, and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive. … Mass immigration will disenfranchise us, subvert our nations, destroy our communities, destroy our ethnic bonds, destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples — long before low fertility rates ever could. Thus, before we deal with the fertility rates, we must deal with both the invaders within our lands and the invaders that seek to enter our lands. We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil. It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.

Tarrant presents demographic estimates of what will happen:

In 2100, despite the ongoing effect of sub-replacement fertility, the population figures show that the population does not decrease in line with these sub-replacement fertility levels, but actually maintains, and, even in many White nations, rapidly increases. All through immigration. This is ethnic replacement. This is cultural replacement.


If you believe in this demographic invasion that is taking your people's lands, then it follows logically that there are no non-combatants. People are stealing your country simply by being here.

There are no innocents in an invasion. All people who colonize other peoples' lands share their guilt. [4]

In particular, children are not innocent. They will grow up and vote and reproduce (probably in large numbers, because "fertility rates are part of those racial differences"). So Tarrant was not worried that he might kill children. The point here is not to kill all the immigrants, but to kill enough to drive the rest out and deter future immigrants from coming.

Few parents, regardless of circumstance, will willingly risk the lives of their children, no matter the economic incentives. Therefore, once we show them the risk of bringing their offspring to our soil, they will avoid our lands. [5]

Why don't I fear losing my country? As I said, Tarrant's demographics aren't wrong, at least in the US. (White nationalists in European countries tend to overestimate how many non-whites surround them. France, for example, is still about 85% white. The prospect of whites becoming a minority there is still quite distant.) So why don't I, as a white American, feel as alarmed as he does?

And the answer is that I don't see any reason why non-whites can't be real Americans. Back in the 90s, my wife and I went to China to support our friends as they adopted a baby girl. That girl is now in her mid-20s, and I have watched her grow up, including seeing her on every Christmas morning of her life. To the best of my ability to judge such things, she is as American as I am. I do not worry in the least that some essential non-American nature is encoded in her genetic makeup, or that her presence is turning America into China. [6]

In my view, America (or Western culture, for that matter) isn't something that arises from the essential nature of the White race. America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.

So when I picture that white-minority America of 2045 (which I have a decent chance of living to see), I don't see it as a country that "my people" have lost. That's because I already see the idea of America and Western culture being shared by lots of other folks that Tarrant would see as invaders, like, say, Fareed Zakaria, Ta-Nahisi Coates, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I have faith in the continuing strength of the American idea, which I believe will continue to inspire a majority of Americans well beyond 2045. California, where whites are already less than half population, still feels like America to me.

Assimilation. Tarrant lacks faith in assimilation, because he sees race as having a direct effect on culture. This is a common belief among white nationalists, and many whites who resonate with white-nationalist concerns, even if they don't identify with the movement.

A frequent complaint on the American right, which you will hear often on Fox News, is that recent immigrants are not assimilating the way previous waves of immigrants did. The data does not bear this out, but it is believed because white-nationalist ideology makes it seem necessary: Hispanics and other non-white immigrants can't assimilate the way Italians and Poles did, because they aren't white.

In memory, we tend to forget how long it took waves of European immigrants to assimilate. Whites who can remember their grandparents speaking Hungarian at home are somehow appalled that Hispanic immigrants don't instantly learn English, or that they form ethnic enclaves (like, say, Little Italy in New York). American Catholics may feel that immigrant Muslims are changing the essential Christian nature of their country, but they forget that America once saw itself as a Protestant nation, and many felt threatened by immigrant Catholics in precisely the same way. (Catholicism was viewed as a fundamentally authoritarian religion that could never adapt to republican America.)

In fact, Catholics from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and other European countries did change America. But America also changed Catholicism. The same thing is happening with Islam.

Anti-democracy. If shared genes are what makes us a people, if immigrants by definition can't join us, and if my people are in danger of losing their land due to a demographic invasion, then democracy as it is currently practiced — where immigrants gain citizenship and become voters — is just part of the national suicide process. An invasion isn't something that can be voted on, especially if the invaders are allowed to vote.

Worse, even before the invaders become the majority, democracy has been corrupted by those who hope to gain from the invasion and the "cheap labor, new consumers, and tax base" that it brings. So Tarrant has no love of democracy.

Democracy is mob rule, and the mob itself is ruled by our own enemies.

Until now, I've relegated comparisons to American politics to the footnotes. But this is where it needs to come into the foreground. Because several important Trumpian concepts have moved onto the stage:

  • the notion of a unified corporate/government "elite" whose interests are at odds with the American people
  • a fundamental disrespect for democracy
  • the righteousness of violent action if and when the wrong side wins elections.

Trump and his allies have not come out and said openly that democracy is bad, but the notion that gerrymandering, the Electoral College, purging legal voters from voter lists, and various forms of voter suppression are undemocratic carries very little weight with them. The myth that undocumented immigrants vote in large numbers, which circulates despite an almost total lack of evidence, persists as a stand-in for an unspoken underlying concern: that immigrants become citizens and vote legally.

Trump fairly regularly either encourages violence among his supporters or hints that violent action might follow his impeachment or defeat.

All of this makes sense if you believe that democracy is only legitimate as a way for a People to govern itself, and becomes illegitimate when a system designed for a People becomes corrupted by the votes of invaders.

Sex and gender. Tarrant's manifesto is addressed almost entirely to White men, whom he urges to defend their homelands.

Weak men have created this situation and strong men are needed to fix it.

He has little to say about women, but the implications of his beliefs should be obvious: If the underlying problem is a low birthrate among whites, the ultimate fault lies with white women. Women who let their professional or creative ambitions distract them from motherhood, who practice birth control, abortion, or lesbianism — their failings aren't just matters of personal morality any more, they're threats to the survival of the race.

The closest Tarrant comes to addressing this is:

Likely a new society will need to be created with a much greater focus on family values, gender and social norms, and the value and importance of nature, culture, and race.

But it doesn't take much imagination to picture this new society: It will have fewer opportunities for women, and less acceptance of women in roles other than motherhood. It will also discourage men from abandoning their procreative roles through homosexuality, and will in general support the "traditional value" of separate and unchanging gender roles.

It is easy to see the attraction of this ideology to a variety of crazies, including incels, who have themselves at times become violent terrorists. The same opportunities that have diverted women from motherhood have likewise made them more picky about the men they choose to procreate with, with the result that some men find themselves unable to have the active sex lives they feel they deserve. Incels are already overwhelmingly white, so the attraction of a white-nationalist ideology that would restrict women's choices should be obvious.

Power and purpose. All of these positions enhance the power of groups that are already privileged: whites, the native-born, Christians, and men. They could be attractive to those groups on that cynical ground alone. But cynicism alone seldom succeeds for long, because the pure quest for power and advantage only inspires sociopaths. The rest may pursue that quest, but never without misgivings.

The charm of an ideology, though, is that it can give power-seeking a higher purpose: I seek these advantages not just for myself, but to save my people from annihilation!

The underground stream. Few American politicians openly embrace white nationalism as a label, even if their views align with it. Even Steve King disclaims the term, and Republicans who share many of his white-nationalist views have felt obligated to distance themselves from him.

At the same time, though, something is motivating them. It is hard to listen to Trump's litany of falsehoods about the border without wondering what the real justification for his Wall is. Obviously it's something he doesn't think he can get away with saying in so many words.

Similarly, it's hard to see what other ideology unifies the full right-wing agenda: anti-illegal-immigration, anti-legal-immigration, anti-democracy, anti-abortion, anti-birth-control, anti-women's-rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, anti-black, and so on.

When asked about white nationalist terrorism after the Christchurch shooting, President Trump waved off the problem, saying: "It's a small group of people."

Perhaps. Or perhaps it is the ideology that dares not announce itself: Its followers just "know" the truth of it, but can't say so because of "political correctness". More and more, white nationalism — and the demographic fear at its root — looks like the underground stream that feeds all the various insanities of the Right.

[1] I discussed and rejected this notion a couple years ago in a piece called "Should I Have White Pride?" The artificiality of "white culture" becomes obvious to me when I start trying to imagine a White Culture Festival: What food would we serve? What traditional costumes would we wear? It makes sense to hold a German Festival or a Greek Festival, but a White Festival, not so much.

[2] The evidence for this impossibility is of the we-can't-imagine-that variety. If you picture a Moroccan and an Estonian next to each other, they just seem different, at least to Tarrant and his target audience.

But of course, the same is true for any lands that are far apart, even within Europe. Italians seem different from Swedes, when you picture them, but somehow they are all white Europeans. To see if the concepts of whiteness and European-ness have any real substance, you'd want to check what happens at the boundaries. So better questions would be: Could a Greek become a Turk, or vice versa? Could a Moroccan became a Spaniard? Those transformations don't seem nearly so difficult, and in fact are easier for me to imagine than a Spaniard becoming an Estonian.

But in fact, such transformations happen all the time, particularly here in the United States, where we have a long history of light-skinned blacks passing as white, to the point that after a few generations the shift may be forgotten. If you have a Greek-American immigrant living on one side of you and a Turkish-American immigrant on the other, you might have a hard time telling the difference, either racially or culturally. Both would likely have dark hair and make baklava and strong coffee. Both sets of children will likely be as American as yours.

[3] President Trump agrees with Tarrant about this. On the same day as the 50 murders — and, in fact, during a public appearance that began with his statement of support for New Zealand in dealing with these attacks — Trump announced his veto of the bipartisan Congressional resolution to terminate the national emergency that he intends to use to commandeer money to build his wall. Within a few paragraphs, he went from denouncing the "monstrous terror attacks" in New Zealand to echoing the attacker's rhetoric.

People hate the word "invasion," but that's what it is. It's an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.

[4] Several people have cited this and many other of Tarrant's statements as examples of projection. Who, after all, has done more colonizing of "other peoples' lands" than Europeans? Isn't that how the US, New Zealand, and a bunch of other places became "White nations" to begin with?

Though accurate, I doubt this observation would unsettle Tarrant. "Guilt" here is a relative concept, and is not related to a universal morality. Of course peoples contest with each other for possession of lands in the evolutionary Us-against-Them struggle for survival and dominance. Of course native peoples should have regarded colonizing whites as invaders and tried to repel them.

[5] There's a strong resonance here with the Trump administration's family separation policy. Like Tarrant's attacks, it is an intentional cruelty whose purpose is to deter future immigrants by threatening their children.

[6] Iowa Congressman Steve King disagrees. He tweeted:

[Dutch nationalist leader Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies..  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

ANS -- Andrew Yang’s Basic Income is Stealth Welfare Reform

Here is another fairly short piece by Benjamin Studebaker.  It's about the candidate for president Andrew Yang, and it is about being analytical about looking at a candidate's policies.  It sounds good when they say it, but when you look harder, it doesn't sound as good as it did.  I thought the UBI of $1,000 sounded low, but Studebaker explains why.  Read it.  


Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Andrew Yang's Basic Income is Stealth Welfare Reform

by Benjamin Studebaker

When I first heard Andrew Yang was running on a UBI platform, I thought he was running to popularise universal basic income as a policy option for the future. It has become increasingly clear, however, that Yang thinks he is a real presidential candidate and that his UBI is for now, not later. The thing is, UBI is traditionally marketed as a post-work policy. The point of UBI has always been to give every citizen a large enough basic income to give them a real choice about whether or not they take a job. This levels the playing field between employers and employees, forcing employers to offer people more substantial inducements to get them to work. But it's increasingly clear that this is not what his UBI is for. Its purpose is more sinister–it is a vehicle for legitimating benefits cuts for the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

How much per year do you need to really have a choice about whether or not you go to work? A functional UBI would need to pay out something roughly equivalent to a living wage. Lately, many Democrats are arguing that $15 per hour constitutes a "living wage". If we give everyone $15 per hour for an 8 hour day with a 5 day work-week, this works out to somewhere between $29k and $31k per year, depending on whether assume a 48-week year or a 52-week year with some hours of paid leave. There are 247.8 million adults in America, so that works out to a total cost of somewhere between $7.2 and $7.7 trillion. That's between 37% and 40% of GDP. The cost goes up considerably if we were to extend the UBI to children–it could soar above $10 trillion.

Now, clearly we aren't yet at a stage where we can afford that. Our level of output simply isn't high enough, without major economic restructuring. If Yang were proposing the kind of restructuring that would permit this kind of UBI, that would be genuinely transformational, and he would be an interesting person.

That's not the policy. To make this work, Yang first reduces the UBI to just $1,000 per month. This means that instead of paying out $30k, the UBI pays out just $12k annually to each recipient. Yang excludes children, so this reduces the cost to about $3 trillion. At this payout rate, the UBI is now paying a wage that is far below what many Democrats are now deeming the "living wage". Yang's UBI pays less than $6 per hour with a 52-week year. This is lower than the already inadequate federal minimum wage. It cannot realistically liberate significant numbers of people from work, or achieve the objective of dramatically increasing the bargaining power of workers vis-a-vis their employers. This is no longer a post-work policy.

But Yang doesn't stop there. He not only waters down the total payout, he then proposes to use the UBI to replace extant welfare spending. When you got to Yang's website, it actually says this:

Andrew proposes funding UBI by consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a Value-Added Tax (VAT) of 10%. Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally – most would prefer cash with no restriction.

Yang is essentially pledging to offer welfare recipients lower lump sums in exchange for surrendering their claim on more lucrative benefit packages. He makes this so obvious:

The means to pay for a Universal Basic Income will come from 4 sources:

1.  Current spending.  We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like.  This reduces the cost of Universal Basic Income because people already receiving benefits would have a choice but would be ineligible to receive the full $1,000 in addition to current benefits.

Yang is openly promising not to increase the amount which low income Americans receive, which means these people would not receive any relief from the pressure to seek employment at all. Beyond this, he is pledging to pay for the remaining cost with a VAT–this is a regressive sales tax, which hits poor and low income people disproportionately hard.  That means that low income Americans won't receive a benefits increase but will be subject to a 10% VAT. Because low income Americans consume virtually all of their income, this proposal renders them net losers. So not only does Yang hope to cut benefits for poor people, he also wants to make them pay for the program with regressive taxes. Combined, these features increase the pressure on poor people to work.

What's left-wing about manipulating poor people into taking a benefit cut and then subjecting them to new regressive taxes? Yang isn't proposing any additional progressive taxes which might on any level offset this. It's just austerity for the poor mixed with regressive taxes. National sales tax is a proposal Gary Johnson and Herman Cain campaigned on. Yang sounds like he belongs in the Republican primary, not the Democratic.

Yang's UBI is not large enough to be post-work, and it pays for itself by grinding the poor ever further into dust. He's managed to turn UBI–a legitimately interesting policy which could one day help us create a post-work society–into just another tool for eroding the welfare state and kicking the poor in the face. Rarely have I seen such a scummy sleight of hand by a politician, especially from someone calling himself a Democrat. And the thing is, he doesn't even have the political skills to be coy about it. It's right there on his website, for anyone who is curious enough to look for it.

Don't support him. Tell your friends.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ANS -- Harvard University uncovers DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration

This is a short article about a discovery of something in our "junk DNA" that may lead to being able to regenerate severed limbs or organs.  

Harvard University uncovers DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration

Sarah Knapton
The Telegraph14 March 2019
A piece of non-coding DNA may hold the key to how humans could regenerate body parts
View photos
A piece of non-coding DNA may hold the key to how humans could regenerate body parts 

Humans may one day have the ability to regrow limbs after scientists at Harvard University uncovered the DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration.

Some animals can achieve extraordinary feats of repair, such as salamanders which grow back legs, or geckos which can shed their tails to escape predators and then form new ones in just two months.

Planarian worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones go even further, actually regenerating their entire bodies after being cut in half.

Now scientists have discovered that that in worms, a section of non-coding or 'junk' DNA controls the activation of a 'master control gene' called early growth response (EGR) which acts like a power switch, turning regeneration on or off.

"We were able to decrease the activity of this gene and we found that if you don't have EGR, nothing happens," said Dr Mansi Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

Jellyfish have extraordinary powers of regeneration  - Credit: REX/Shutterstock
View photos
Jellyfish have extraordinary powers of regeneration  Credit: REX/Shutterstock 

"The animals just can't regenerate. All those downstream genes won't turn on, so the other switches don't work, and the whole house goes dark, basically."

The studies were done in three-banded panther worms. Scientists found that during regeneration the tightly-packed DNA in their cells, starts to unfold, allowing new areas to activate.

But crucially humans also carry EGR, and produce it when cells are stressed and in need of repair, yet it does not seem to trigger large scale regeneration.

Scientists now think that it master gene is wired differently in humans to animals and are now trying to find a way to tweak its circuitry to reap its regenerative benefits.

Post doctoral student Andrew Gehrke of Harvard believes the answer lies in the area of non-coding DNA controlling the gene. Non-coding or junk DNA was once believed to do nothing, but in recent years scientists have realised is having a major impact.

"Only about two percent of the genome makes things like proteins," added Mr Gehrke said. "We wanted to know: What is the other 98 percent of the genome doing during whole-body regeneration?

"I think we've only just scratched the surface. We've looked at some of these switches, but there's a whole other aspect of how the genome is interacting on a larger scale, and all of that is important for turning genes on and off."

Marine animals, such as the moon jellyfish, are masters of regeneration and some have been found to clone themselves after death.

In 2016, a Japanese scientist reported that three months after the death of his pet jellyfish, a sea anemone-like polyp rose out of the degraded body, and then astonishingly aged backwards, reverting to a younger state.

In the 1990s, scientists in Italy discovered that the Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish switches back and forth from being a baby to an adult, resulting in its nickname, the immortal jellyfish.

Dr Srivastava added: "The question is: If humans can turn on EGR, and not only turn it on, but do it when our cells are injured, why can't we regenerate?" added Dr Srivastava.

"It's a very natural question to look at the natural world and think, if a gecko can do this why can't I?

"The answer may be that if EGR is the power switch, we think the wiring is different. What EGR is talking to in human cells may be different than what it is talking to in the three-banded panther worm."

The research was published in the journal Science.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

ANS -- Jesus Was a Socialist

This is a long one, and it's about Jesus being a socialist and uses bible quotes to show that.  If you don't care about Jesus and you don't ever argue with anyone who cares about Jesus, you don't need this, but if you do, it's a good reference -- a summary of several arguments that shows that the God of the bible intended us to take care of each other, to share the wealth, and to do it through government.  

Jesus Was a Socialist

The Laborers in the VineyardImage credit: "Icon of the laborers in the vineyard," Ted at Flickr, Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Thanks in no small part to folks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, everyone is talking about socialism these days. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to be under the impression that socialism is at odds with their faith.

Plenty of other Christians disagree, of course. For example, theologian David Bentley Hart has spoken about his democratic socialism on several occasions, and Sojourners Magazine recently published a short piece by Obery M. Hendricks Jr. on "The Biblical Values of Ocasio-Cortez's Democratic Socialism." AOC is herself a Christian, along with many other prominent democratic socialists, such as Cornel West and Martin Luther King Jr.

However, I've yet to find a systematic examination of the many things Jesus had to say on this subject. So that's what I've endeavored to put together in this article.

My apologies for the length. If I'm not mistaken, this has turned into the longest single piece I've written. But I wanted to cover as much as I reasonably could while limiting my scope primarily to Jesus' sayings in the canonical Gospels. (In practice, this has meant Matthew and Luke. Mark contains parallels to many of the passages under discussion, but little unique on this subject. And John, while in no way contradicting these themes, simply has its main focus elsewhere.)

Jesus was a socialist

It's not uncommon to hear people claim that the early church practiced a form of socialism. After all, the Book of Acts does seem to describe something along those lines:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. … Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32, 34–35; NRSV)

But Christians of a capitalist bent tend to brush this aside with a stock response. The Book of Acts, they point out, is descriptive rather than prescriptive. That is, these early believers acted voluntarily, and Acts merely records what they did, but the book stops short of actually instructing other believers to follow their example.

Fair enough. On a technicality, they are correct. The Book of Acts does not explicitly instruct its readers to follow the example of these believers who sold their possessions, held all things in common, and provided for the needy.

For some, that's enough to make this an open-and-shut case. They happily dismiss socialism and move on. However, the more curious might not be content to leave it there. We might venture to ask: Why did the early church act in this manner to begin with? Where did they come up with these radical ideas?

I believe the answer is that the early church was acting directly on the teachings of Jesus because Jesus was a socialist. That being said, I should acknowledge a few things about this claim before defending it.

First, the idea that Jesus was a socialist is obviously somewhat anachronistic. Socialism as a formal economic system did not originate until long after Jesus walked the earth. But as I will demonstrate, Jesus taught (and the early church modeled) principles very much in line with socialist thinking.

Second, socialism has always been a broad concept covering multiple variations and many different aspects. And I have little interest in debating what constitutes "true socialism." However, I do need to specify what I mean by making this claim.

When I say that Jesus was a socialist, I am not referring to the communal ownership of the means of production. This aspect of socialism is certainly consistent with Jesus' message, and one could argue that it is a logical outworking from it for an industrial society, but it is not something Jesus ever specifically addressed. However, the socialist principle that positively saturates Jesus' gospel is the idea of fair distribution of wealth, "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." And that is what I will be defending in this article.

Third, in the interest of full disclosure, I am myself a democratic socialist and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. I advocate this variety of socialism in no small part because I see it as being so well aligned with what Jesus taught. However, democratic socialism is an ideology particular to our time and culture, and I do not presume it to be exactly one and the same as Jesus' teachings. Jesus was a socialist in principle, but he left all manner of room for us to figure out the specifics of applying that principle today.

The kingdom of God

To lay the foundation for this discussion, we first need to consider the kingdom of God (also called the "kingdom of heaven" in Matthew). Jesus framed all of his teachings within this concept. The gospel itself—the good news that Jesus preached—is explicitly about this kingdom (Mark 1:14; Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16).

The kingdom is the reign or rule or influence of God in the world. This should not be understood as a theocracy where Christians take over and impose their beliefs on others, but as the spread of Jesus' love-based ethic in all areas of life. So what does that look like? As Jesus began teaching, he provided a sort of mission statement for his ministry. Composed mostly of quotes from Isaiah, it summarizes Jesus' gospel of the kingdom:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18–19, NRSV)

Of note, that last bit about "the year of the Lord's favor" is probably a reference to the year of jubilee, described in Leviticus 25. Every 50 years there was to be a release from all debts, a restoration of property that had been sold, and a pause on farming to allow the land to recover. This would indeed have been good news for the poor and the oppressed. It would have prevented anyone from acquiring excessive wealth, and it would have ensured that everyone received their fair share.

We hear echoes of similar themes in portions of Mary's "Magnificat," her song of praise to God for having chosen her to bear Jesus:

"He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:52–53, NRSV)

And these same reversals of power to care for the poor can be found among the blessings and woes Jesus pronounced:

"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled. …

"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry." (Luke 6:20–21, 24–25, NRSV)

At its most basic level, the kingdom of God means justice—for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the outcast—and such justice demands that the rich and the powerful be brought low enough that everyone else can have enough.

Jesus taught that the kingdom is in our midst (Luke 17:21), but that it is also like a mustard seed—starting small but growing ever greater (Matt. 13:31). Therefore he taught his disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come," which means "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

And yet the kingdom is not something we can simply pray about and then wait for God to accomplish. We're meant to partner with God to bring about these kingdom purposes:

And in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28, REB)

When we say that "Jesus is Lord," we are proclaiming him to be the head of God's kingdom, and we are pledging our service to the spread of that kingdom. We are responsible to work for the changes that advance God's kingdom within the kingdoms of this world, until we can one day say, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah" (Rev. 11:15).

So let's look a little closer at some examples of Jesus' teachings about this kingdom.

The rich ruler & Zacchaeus

We'll start with the story of the "rich ruler." It's found in Mark, Matthew, and Luke, but we'll quote the latter for now:

A certain ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.'" He replied, "I have kept all these since my youth." When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:18–25, NRSV)

In all three accounts, the basic story is the same. The rich ruler had lived by the letter of the law, but he had failed the spirit thereof by accumulating so much wealth that should have been used to help others. So Jesus told him that he must distribute his wealth to the poor if he wanted to enter the kingdom of God.

At this point, capitalist Christians are quick to point out that while Jesus gave this instruction to a specific individual, he did not make it a universal mandate. As with the story of the early church in Acts, they are again correct on that technicality. However, Jesus did follow it up with a universal statement about how hard it is for such wealthy people to enter the kingdom of God. Per the comparison of a camel going through the eye of a needle, it's impossible. There is no place for excessive wealth in God's kingdom.

Of course we must use wisdom to discern the point at which wealth becomes excessive. The next chapter (Luke 19) contains the story of Zacchaeus, and the placement of these two stories in such close proximity is probably no coincidence. Jesus had just said that the rich ruler must sell all of his possessions. But for Zacchaeus—who was rich, but likely not quite as wealthy as the ruler—a slightly different solution would suffice:

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." (Luke 19:8–10, NRSV)

In both cases, what is clear is that excessive wealth has no place in the kingdom of God. As for how much is too much, we can't say exactly how much either had in the first place, but the principle at work is something Jesus said earlier in Luke:

"Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given." (Luke 12:48, TEV)

God & wealth

Jesus elsewhere put it simply, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" (Matt. 6:19). This warning is found in his "Sermon on the Mount." And from start to finish, this famous sermon is all about what life should look like in the kingdom of God. While it covers a wide array of ethical teachings, Jesus' views on wealth sit right at the center of it all. A few verses after the above statement, Jesus goes on to say the following:

"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:24–33, NRSV)

I've always heard this passaged explained to mean that we should put our efforts into our spiritual life with God, and that God would then take care of our physical needs. The extreme "prosperity gospel" version would have us donate our every last cent to megachurch pastors with the promise of God's blessings in return, while a more moderate version would view this as less of an absolute promise than a general principle. In either case, it's a transactional understanding of how God's blessings work.

Can we be honest for a moment? Can we admit that this just isn't true? Can we accept that it doesn't work this way? Can we own up to the fact that the devoutness of one's spiritual life has no effect on whether or not they are physically provided for?

Millions of people around the world do not have access to the basic necessities of life, and some of the most sincere Christians are among them. The last thing they need is to be shamed into believing that their lack of faithfulness is the cause of their suffering.

Not only is the traditional interpretation of this passage absurd on the face of it, but it is also contradicted by Jesus' own words from a few verses earlier. He taught that God, far from transactionally giving or withholding provisions, blesses all people equally, "for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). And yet it remains an indisputable fact that people go without.

So what did Jesus mean in this passage? Why did he say that we have no need to worry? Was Jesus wrong? Or could it be that we've missed the context for his statements?

I would again suggest that the necessary context is that of the kingdom of God. Inasmuch as the kingdom of God is in effect, all people will be sharing their possessions, and thus everyone will be provided for. Therefore, we must "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (better translated as "his justice") by working to bring about this reality.

It is our job to work with God to bring about the kingdom. And once God's kingdom is fully in place, then "all these things will be given to you as well." In the kingdom, where wealth is distributed fairly, we will not need to worry about our basic necessities.

The rich fool

In Luke 12, we find a parallel version of this passage from Matthew. The section on worrying is nearly identical, but in Luke's version, Jesus prefaced it by telling his parable of the "rich fool":

"The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16–21, NRSV)

Here we see exemplified the kind of excessive wealth that Jesus says has no place in the kingdom of God. The land of this man produced an abundant crop, and that's a wonderful blessing in itself! But then he stopped to consider what to do with it. And by now, the answer Jesus would give should be clear. This rich man ought to have used what he needed and given the rest to others in need. Instead, he chose to store his excess wealth in new barns, where this blessing intended to provide for many people would be of no use to anyone.

With this parable in mind, Jesus' words that follow make even more sense: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear" (Luke 12:22).

Jesus surely wasn't suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and pretend we have nothing to worry about, despite all evidence to the contrary. Freedom from worry means that we truly have nothing to worry about. That will be possible once we live under kingdom economics that ensure our most basic needs are always met. And for this to happen, the rich must stop hoarding their excess and start sharing it with the poor.

God intends for the world to work in a certain way. When the world is working as God intends, the birds of the air will always have food, the lilies of the field will always grow into their beauty, and people everywhere will always have their needs provided. The fact that so many people are currently without provision means that the world is not working as God intends. And the reason for this is that some are allowed to hoard their wealth when they should be sharing with those who need it.

For those who would see God's kingdom come, there is nothing optional about the reversal of this grave injustice.

The judgment of the nations

At this point, some of my readers will object because they believe caring for the needs of others should be up to individuals—that we shouldn't involve the government. This is essentially a libertarian position. A Christian variation would suggest that it's the church's responsibility to care for the poor.

I can understand the appeal to this position. I went through a libertarian phase myself. It sounds nice in theory, but the fact is that it doesn't work.

We've had hundreds of years of allowing individuals in a capitalist society to take care of others, and we've had thousands of years of allowing the church to do the same, and both have proven to be insufficient. I'm not saying that charity hasn't done any good at all—absolutely it has! And we should certainly, as individuals and as the church, continue doing charitable work. But it's not enough. Individual philanthropy hasn't cut it.

However, if we work together as a nation, we do have the resources to eradicate poverty. There's enough to go around for everyone. The only reason this hasn't yet happened is that we, as a nation, have allowed individuals to amass excessive wealth and thus hoard what should be communal resources—land, shelter, food, etc.

Jesus' parable of the "sheep and the goats" is often (and I believe wrongly) explained as a judgment of individuals. But Jesus spoke of nations:

"Now when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left." (Matt. 25:31–33, LEB)

A number of popular translations replace "them" (referring to "the nations") with "people," making it sound as though it were a separation of individual people. But that's an interpretative choice that the translators have added to the Greek text. And it doesn't seem to reflect Jesus' intention.

The parable is often referred to as the "judgment of the nations," and I believe that's exactly what it is. The nations themselves are separated, and they are evaluated according to the standards of God's kingdom. What are those standards?

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you as a guest, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?' And the king will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.'" (Matt. 25:34–40, LEB)

Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick and the imprisoned—these are the criteria according to which Jesus judges a nation as righteous and as a part of God's kingdom.

Even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that the judgment of individual people was in view here, then this would still be based on their actions within the context of their respective nations. If individual people are being judged, then they are the people of a given nation being judged on how they acted as that nation.

One way or another, you can't remove the national element from this parable without fundamentally altering it. Jesus cares about how nations conduct themselves, and he judges them according their treatment of "the least of these." He gave no indication that such matters should be left up to individuals without any government involvement.

The laborers in the vineyard

Another objection is the idea that rich people deserve to keep everything they worked for. Here we're getting into one of the fundamental myths of capitalism. I don't want to get too distracted, as this article is supposed to be about Jesus' views, but suffice it to say that the rich do not become rich by hard work alone.

No doubt many wealthy people are indeed hard workers. That much is not in dispute. But gaining excessive wealth also requires a good deal of luck or the right connections or previous wealth to build upon or shady dealings or any combination of the above. The rich may work hard, but they do not work harder than the poor. And even if they did, it would not entitle them to an exorbitant lifestyle while others can't afford basic necessities.

In any case, Jesus had some thoughts on this as well. On the one hand, he affirmed that "the laborer deserves to be paid" (Luke 10:7). But on the other hand, Jesus disagreed with the idea that greater work inherently deserves greater pay, as he explained in his parable of the "laborers in the vineyard":

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matt. 20:1–16, NRSV)

Even though some of these laborers worked much harder than others, it did not entitle them to greater pay. Rather, the landowner was concerned that they all receive "whatever is right," which came to a normal daily wage for everyone.

So why was it right for everyone to receive the same wages, even though some worked harder? Because the wages they received were the wages they needed to care for themselves and their families. If the landowner had paid lower wages to the workers who came on later, he would have left them without enough. But if he had paid higher wages to the workers who came on earlier, he would have given them an excess beyond what they needed.

God's notion of what is right has little to do with proportionality, but it has everything to do with ensuring that all needs are met. According to Jesus, and according to socialism, it is not right for some people to earn excessive wealth while others do not have enough. It may sound counterintuitive to those of us indoctrinated in capitalism, but this is how the kingdom of God is supposed to work.

The shrewd manager

Related to the above objection, some will say that it isn't fair to take from some to give to others. However, we need to understand that the ultimate goal of socialism—and of the kingdom of God—is not so much taking from the rich to give to the poor as it is restructuring society so that there are no rich or poor to begin with.

That said, as we progress toward that state, one immediate method for reducing income inequality would be to implement fair taxes. The people who earn the most should also contribute the most back into society. For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have both recently proposed tax plans along these lines.

But Jesus seems to suggest that we go even further than that. In his parable of the "shrewd manager," Jesus defies our notions of "fairness." The manager blatantly gives away some of his master's wealth by cancelling portions of the debts others owed him:

"There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:1–13, NRSV)

I've witnessed biblical teachers twist themselves in knots to try to get around what this passage seems to say. And I've spent a fair bit of time doing so myself. But maybe this isn't that difficult of a passage at all, and we just don't like what Jesus said.

The shrewd manager gave away his master's wealth, and he was commended for it. Jesus then turned to his disciples and essentially said, "Go and do likewise."

The rich man likely became rich precisely by holding the poor in debt. New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright explains that "Jews were forbidden to lend money at interest, but many people got round this by lending in kind, with oil and wheat being easy commodities to use for this purpose" (Luke for Everyone, p. 193).

But even if he wasn't charging interest, the fact remains that he was rich, and his debtors were poor. He had enough that he could have chosen to "lend, expecting nothing in return," as Jesus instructed (Luke 6:35). So that's what he should have done. Instead, this man who had more than he needed demanded repayment in full from those who did not have enough.

Jesus said that the manager's method of reducing income inequality was an example of faithfulness. And then Jesus charged his disciples—and by extension us—to likewise be faithful with the "dishonest wealth" that "belongs to another."

If we're willing to take Jesus at his word, then perhaps we can accept that he wants us to use other people's wealth for kingdom purposes. This we are called to do as an act of faithfulness. A democratic "wealth tax" frankly pales in comparison to this radical idea from Jesus.

The rich man & Lazarus

Yet another objection claims that socialism is coercive. This view sees God as being non-coercive, and it asserts that we should thus avoid coercion as well. While I agree with the premise of non-coercion, this principle can easily be taken to an absurd extreme if not properly understood.

When I say that God is not coercive, I mean that God does not override free will and that God is not manipulative. God allows us to make our own choices. However, our choices have consequences, and the wrong choices can harm people.

We may have the free will to be able to make harmful choices, but that doesn't give us free reign to do so. God is not coercive, but Jesus certainly issued warnings related to our behavior. And some of the direst consequences Jesus warned about had to do with hoarding wealth that should be given to the poor:

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.'" (Luke 16:19–26, NRSV)

As for implementing democratic socialism on a national scale, we're not talking about threatening the rich with violence to force them to give up their money. We're talking about using our democratic system to move toward a more just society that works for everyone. This will be no more an act of coercion than any other aspect of government.

I suppose you could argue that a certain amount of coercion is inherent in any legal system. And if you want to be consistent enough to oppose all legislation of any kind, then more power to ya! No more setting speed limits or establishing fire codes or anything of the sort. But if that's not what you have in mind, then it doesn't work to oppose democratic socialism on the grounds of it being coercive either.

Jesus is Lord

As a final objection, some Christians say that we should stay out of politics altogether. For a while, this was my position as well. Like so many others, I was in the process of extracting myself from the idolatrous relationship between conservative Evangelical Christianity and the GOP. I was coming to understand how the religious right had sold its soul to nationalism and Republican partisanship, and I was determined to have no further part in it. My solution was to have nothing to do with politics whatsoever.

I think that may have been a healthy place for me for a time. I needed the chance to detox from my politically conservative past. But this would not have been a good place for me to have stayed indefinitely.

At the most basic level, opting out of politics is itself a political position. And it's a position that defaults to allowing evil politics to harm the most vulnerable members of society. As Desmond Tutu famously said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

There's this fear that we will turn political involvement into an idol. And given the example we see in the religious right, that fear is not completely unfounded. We would do well to avoid partisan politics—giving blind allegiance to a party no matter what direction it may take. But the answer is not to opt out entirely and allow society's worst inclinations to take hold.

The answer for Christians is to affirm that Jesus is Lord. And if Jesus truly is Lord, then Jesus must be Lord of our political life, as well as our spiritual life.

Jesus' gospel of the kingdom is intensely political. I hope we've established at least that much in this article. To accept Jesus' theological teachings while neglecting or outright rejecting his politics is to have only half of his gospel.

I'm not suggesting that we necessarily have to affirm socialism itself as a part of the gospel. There's room for discussion and debate on such particulars. But we must engage in politics that advocate for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor. This is absolutely central to Jesus' message. His gospel simply is not the gospel without it.


At this point, whether or not you agree with my claim that Jesus was a socialist, if you've at least caught a glimpse of how central economic justice is to Jesus' gospel, then I'll count it a success.

This is one of those principles that you can't unsee after having once seen it. As you read other passages in the Gospels, you just might start noticing little hints in this direction scattered throughout. They've always been there, but they may not have been quite as obvious before. Perhaps I'll cover more of them at some point, but I think this article has gotten long enough for now.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I have a request to make. I don't often beg my readers to share my posts, but then I don't often put in quite as much effort as I have for this one. If you've found this article to be thought provoking, would you mind sharing it wherever your people are to be found? Let's start a conversation.

Thanks, comrades!