Christian Ministry Extols 'Biblical Values' of AOC's Democratic Socialism
When George W. Bush was running for President, I debated Jim Wallis, who is the founder of Sojourners, a leftist ministry masquerading as a Christian ministry. I don’t remember everything about our debate, but the one thing I do remember is that he could not answer this one question I asked: You mention that numerous places in the Bible address the poor. Can you supply one verse that states that civil government should redistribute wealth to help the poor? He never supplied a verse for the simple reason that there aren’t any.
Ron Sider tried to turn in the Bible into a socialist document when he wrote Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Christians gobbled it up. When Sider came out with a revised edition, he claimed that the new edition would answer his critics.
The most comprehensive critique of Rich Christians is David Chilton’s masterpiece Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (1981, 1982, 1985 editions). Chilton wrote the following in the final revised edition of Productive Christians in response to Sider:
I must confess that the professor’s new edition loses me at the outset. The back cover proclaims: “In this revised and expanded edition, Sider updates the situation around the world and responds to many of his critics by reconsidering and reformulating his arguments.” I know of at least ten authors who have written to refute Sider, from various perspectives. Since we are told that Dr. Sider responds to “many” of his critics, it might be easier to count the critics he didn’t respond to [Chilton then lists ten of them]. (pages 249–250)
Sider makes no mention of Productive Christians, originally a critique of more than 200 pages with the following subtitle: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider. It’s obvious that Sider read Chilton’s book because he changed a great deal in his revised version of Rich Christians because of Chilton’s critique.
Little has changed since Sider wrote Rich Christians in 1977. Sojourners and its supporters are spewing the same socialist nonsense in the name of Jesus. Uriesou Brito understands the tactic very well:
It is essential that we understand the religious nature of our present crisis. At this point, “Jesus” is still a very useful tool in the hands of tyrants. The liberationists, socialists, barbarians, and Scythians can easily use Jesus’ name to fit into any of their agenda. Jesus can be the easiest way to push a “love thy neighbor” agenda that can apply to just about any modern governmental impulse from forcing masks to wearing Bernie’s mittens. The reason Jesus is such a compelling figure is that unbelievers know that there is still a modicum of spirituality among the leftist base that still cherishes Jesus as a decorative piece in the intellectual journey of any human being.
The latest is Obery M. Hendricks’ “The Biblical Values of Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic Socialism.”
Hendricks begins his article with the following statement: “Two years before his death, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, ‘We are saying that something is wrong with capitalism … there must be a better distribution of wealth in this country for all of God’s children and maybe America must move toward democratic socialism.”
God vs. Socialism
Fundamental conflict separates the rival religious systems of private property and socialism. Choosing one, you reject the other. Either God commands and judges man, or man commands and judges man. God Versus Socialism illustrates the war of worldviews in the economic and political realm, and argues the necessity and superiority of choosing God over humanism's false god, socialism, in all its many forms.
Actually, there isn’t a better way if capitalism is defined correctly. Hendricks states, “The Bible and democratic socialism preach that governments should enact policies that address the needs of the poor, provide equal access to opportunity, and legislate policies that curb inequity. Both believe that any government that ignores the interests of the poor is an unjust government in need of correction.”
The problem with this statement is in the application of these principles. As I mentioned in my debate with Jim Wallis, there are no verses in the Bible where the civil government is in the wealth redistribution business to “curb inequity.” There is no law in the Bible that authorizes civil governments to take money from some people so it can be given to other people in the name of some nebulous social justice narrative. Nothing is said about Abraham, Job, or Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57). Jerry Bowyer, author of The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really said About Social Justice and Economics, writes the following about Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Ruler (archon): “An ‘archon’ [ruler] is a member of a government council, in this case that most likely means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a center of political, religious and financial power. Sanhedrin seats were occupied by wealthy and influential families, priestly and pharisaical. Seats were often inherited.” It’s most likely that he accumulated his great wealth by political maleficence—by defrauding people (Mark 10:19). Let’s not forget Zacchaeus the tax collector who embraced Jesus and paid back those he defrauded four times as much in restitution (Luke 19:1–0).
James pronounces judgment on the rich, not by calling on the government to redistribute wealth but because of the violation of God’s law (James 5:1–6).
There are laws against theft that apply to everyone, including elected officials. This means that they have no right to steal in the name of the people to redistribute wealth (curb inequity). There are laws against fraud (just weights and measures: Lev. 19:35–36), theft, and debasing commodities (your silver has become dross and your wine diluted with water: Isa. 1:22). If capitalists cheat customers, they can be prosecuted and made to pay restitution. But governments can and do debase the currency (inflation) which ends up hurting the poor and widows (Isa. 1:22). These judgments are directed at “rulers” (1:21–23).
Governments are the biggest perpetrators of fraud and inequity. Attempts to eliminate inequality outside the confines of God’s law only create more inequity in the name of social justice.
How does Hendricks defend his position? He begins with this: “The Bible envisions a just and equitable social order.” I agree. But how is this accomplished? Here’s his answer: “Democratic socialism seeks to build a more humane society, not by force or compulsion, but by way of the age-old democratic practice of ‘one person, one vote.’” Where in the Bible does it say this? If 50+ percent of the people elect government officials to take money from some people so they can give it to others, that’s force and compulsion! Just because people vote for wealth redistribution does not make it right. Democratic socialism is force and compulsion.
Slavery operated like this in the United States. A majority enslaved a minority and forced them to work for other people. If biblical law had been followed, we never would have had chattel slavery (Ex. 21:16). Democratic socialism is a form of chattel slavery. Some work for the benefit of the many who vote for politicians to confiscate wealth from the productive, the job creators.
To demonstrate how tenuous Hendricks’ argument for democratic socialism is, he states the following: “Jesus modeled universal health care by healing everyone who asked, regardless of their gender, nationality or ability to pay. ‘Great multitudes followed him,’ mostly poor peasants, ‘and he healed them all’ (Matthew 12:15).” How is this analogous to universal healthcare? Governments can’t perform miracles.
Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish (Matt. 15:32–39; Mark 8:1–9; Matt. 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:5–15). Governments have been trying to duplicate this miracle by turning digits into wealth and paper into money. It’s the satanic temptation of turning “stones into bread” (Matt. 4:3; Luke 4:3). It’s an old and disastrous story. Empires have been toppled by such arrogance. Herbert Schlossberg writes:
[W]hen we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder has rightly interpreted that scene: “The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.”
Hendricks then posits that the Bible requires a “fair wage.” “Prophets consistently excoriated those exploiting their employees. For example, ‘Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing and does not give them their wages’ (Jeremiah 22:13, 17).”
This verse does not say anything about a fair wage. Promising to pay a certain amount and failing to abide by an agreed-upon wage is a criminal act in biblical law: “Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight” (Lev. 19:13), or whenever the agreed-upon time of payment was determined. Jeremiah seems to be describing theft by compulsion, otherwise, how could an employer be able to get anyone to work for him if he failed to pay his workers either an agreed-upon wage or no wage at all? Gary North comments:
[W]hat we have here is a system of compulsory labor. The house builder was using violence or the threat of violence against workers. This would have been possible only through the corruption of the civil courts. (Restoration and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on the Prophets, 83.)
Once again, the government through its courts are the problem, not the owner of the house. No one is forced to work in a free economy as the parable of the talents shows (Matt. 25:14–30). There is no mention of a “fair wage.” See my article on the minimum wage.
His next claim is for “a minimum income for everyone. The book of Leviticus is clear: ‘There should be no poor among you … if any of your neighbors become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them … so they can continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35–36).” The “help them” is a charitable act. There is no call on the government to establish a government agency for wealth redistribution. The laws of gleaning were designed to help the poor (Lev. 23:22).
Dr. North puts the Leviticus 25 passage in perspective in terms of the whole Bible:
Charitable loans are part of God’s program to provide help to honest, covenant-keeping people who have fallen on hard times. These loans are not supposed to subsidize sloth or evil. God does not want us to subsidize evil with the money or assets that He has provided for us. In this sense, biblical charity is necessarily morally conditional. Biblical charity is never a judicially automatic “entitlement,” to use the terminology of the modern welfare State: a compulsory redistribution of wealth from the successful to the unsuccessful (minus approximately 50% for “handling” by government bureaucrats ). It is this element of covenantal conditionality which distinguishes biblical charity from humanist compulsion. (Leviticus: An Economic Commentary, 482–483.)
Henricks’ last point is the “Fair treatment of workers: The Book of Deuteronomy declares, ‘you shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the immigrants who are in your land …’ (Deuteronomy 24:14).” There is nothing to disagree with here.
Hendricks has not made his case with any of the passages he has presented. His case is less than weak; it’s nonexistent.
Christian Economics in One Lesson
Christian economics must begin with the issue of ultimate ownership. This sets it apart from modern economic analysis, which begins with the issue of scarcity. Second, this leads to the issue of theft, which in turn raises the issue of ethics.