Socialism vs. Christianity

It has been a few months ago now, but this Sunday’s Gospel lesson has me reflecting on a conversation we had at the real-life Draughting Theology for the Feast of Vida Dutton Scudder.  Ms. Scudder is remembered on October 10th, an this year that put us less than 30 days away from a hotly contested Presidential election between what their detractors called “A Bleeding-heart Muslim Socialist” on one side and “A Greedy Fat Cat Capitalist” on the other.  Of course, neither candidate is the monster that the PAC attack adds created them to be, but in early October, as we gathered for a beer and a chat about God, politics and noted Christian socialist, Vida Dutton Scudder, it made for lively conversation.

What I recall most vividly was the near agreement, around the table and across the political spectrum that being a disciple of Jesus required generosity, i.e. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise,” but that that generosity should be Spirit-lead rather than government-mandated.

Dear reader, you may or may not agree with the above paragraph, and quite frankly, I don’t care.  What I appreciate about where we landed on the issue was the generosity of spirit that brought us to that place.  I bring it up as I start to prepare to preach on Advent 3 this year because I wonder, 2 months later, on the other side of the election, if we can still approach this difficult word from John the Baptist with the same sort of grace.  I also wonder, if in our hyper-politically-charged world, if we are even able to hear JBap’s message of preparation for the Kingdom of God, or if when we hear these things, no matter what side of the aisle we’re on, and immediately go into “its an attack ad, shut your brain off” mode?  Can we be challenged by the radical nature of JBap’s message this week, or are we just so tired of it all that we ignore it: something we do, very much, to our peril.

The vast majority of us, as 21st century Americans, probably fall into John’s brood of vipers.  I wonder, or perhaps better said, I hope, that we can hear the message of salvation in between the lines.


5 thoughts on “Socialism vs. Christianity

  1. Shooting for another 30,000 visitors, I see!!??? (LOL) I most certainly agree with that paragraph, but allowing for the possibility that government mandates can also be spirit-led? It’s hard to extrapolate a message given to folks at that time in history to today’s time. The concept of “need” has morphed and changed quite a bit (and ascended a bit up Maslow’s triangle in comparison). Back when that message was originally delivered, if resources weren’t shared in every community all the time, people literally died. This happens in our world today, but not to the same extent – so we tire of perceived hyperbole and exaggeration. Seems to me, though, that what is universally true then and now is that folks in every community all the time are starving for God’s love, and signs that God’s love has affected them where they live. How we do that, what we share, who we reach – these are all very individual to the communities where we live.

  2. The group seems to have hit the nail on the head. It’s not whether Christians are to be generous, rather, the mechanism for delivery is what’s left up to us.
    I trust the Episcopal church and its subsidiaries but NOT the government. Neither party.

  3. From my 2010 sermon….John gives us the big picture and then…”Suddenly we go from “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” to a close up. Maybe not close enough to get a splinter out, but close enough to see people making decisions. They’ve come out to John to hear his preaching and his preaching is big. But his preaching zooms in. It zooms right down to their lives. Here’s the question that zooms everything right down to individual lives. “What then should we do?” We can’t prepare until we ask that question. We can’t prepare until we want to know the answer to that question. We can’t prepare for Jesus until, beyond knowing the answer, we actually want to live the answer to that question: “What then should we do?”
    It is time for us to prepare. I want us to ask that question: “What then should we do?”. No, I want to zoom in. I want you to prepare. I want you to ask that question, “What then should I do?” The Bible says, “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and the people around him.” That’s how we need to grow. These are the ways we need to prepare. We need to prepare for the coming of God’s salvation by growing in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and the people around us.”

    shuck it down to the cob…

  4. So a while back I offered the perspective we are all impoverished one way or another – sometimes in multiple ways. But sadly it was too easy to ignore so let me say again, we are all impoverished. Those who would say we need the government to provide for the needs of the “poor” simply acknowledge the material poverty our society embraces because we choose not to share with our neighbors. Those who would say we need government to step out of the picture, that it gives us an excuse not to notice and act on the poverty around us, are also correct. What neither group acknowledges is “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”: it is a gift given for all Creation to be shared with all Creation by its true Owner. It is not a lack of good that makes poverty, it is the lack within us to recognize our blessings and their Source and share this good which creates the potholes in our souls and our society.

    What then should we do?

    Embrace Lady Poverty as did Brother Juniper, St. Francis’s sidekick. Value her for her wisdom in helping us know true need from industrially manufactured and manipulated wants. Know what is enough, and having attained it, share the surplus. If you have family who are suffering be as an angel come to deliver them. To all whom you encounter, give freely and generously of your compassion: share a meal with someone who is hungry; give ten minutes to listen intently to someone discouraged or sorrowful; remember the lost and broken in a spoken or unspoken prayer and bless them verbally to their face; spend less time worrying about great economic indicators – national debt, credit ratings – and look for indicators of the more relevant measures of our personal economies: our neighbors’ joys and sorrows, our fullness and our excess…

    It is not in “-itys” and “-isms” that our poverty will be cured: it is in walking the Way in the world, and, as George Fox might have said, responding joyfully to that of God in all persons and the Creation.


    • I agree with you as your position relates to the gospel, but of course the real world is filled with people, sinful people, and the ideal is impossible. The balance between the ideal and the gospel gets struck in grace. Grace covers our sin, our mistakes, our spiritual poverty that creates material poverty for those around us.

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