Is socialism the fault of the church?
May 4, 2019
Toby Grater

How often have you heard someone claim that we have socialism because the church failed to provide charity, so the government had to step in?  Is that really true?  Take a drive around and look at the names of hospitals: St. Luke's; St. John's; Holy Redeemer; Presbyterian Medical Center. These are representative of massive amounts of charity traditionally provided by the church.  I am unaware of any evidence that Christians and their churches stopped providing charity in the mid-twentieth century, sparking a crisis in need of the government's supposedly unlimited wealth and omnipotent grace.  Rather, the government at all levels barged in and took over responsibilities for things in which it had no right to meddle.  The "let the government handle it" mentality is the result, not the cause of this usurpation.  And it's a predictable response from people who are taxed out of far more than half of their wealth to pay for inefficient measures that used to be handled for a fraction of the cost by people who actually cared.

If you want a clear picture of how this all works, I highly recommend an article written by Rev. Ben Johnson and published on the website of the Acton Institute: "How Pagans Viewed Christian Charity".  In this fascinating article we read how, after Constantine legalized Christianity in 313, his Nephew and successor Julian the Apostate moved to take over charity in exactly the same way that we see done today. By way of a letter to the pagan high priest:

"[I]t is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort, and the Hellenic villages to offer their first fruits to the gods; and accustom those who love the Hellenic religion to these good works by teaching them that this was our practice of old.

With the letter, the emperor sent several thousand bushels of grain and pints of wine to be distributed by the priests, at public expense."

The article is not long, and is filled with interesting and instructive parallels to our own situation.

So...is socialism the fault of the church?  I'd say yes to a significant extent.  But not for lack of giving; rather because of a pietistic attitude and theology that allowed her to sit by silently while the civil government overstepped its proper bounds, when we should have been standing up and saying: "NO!".

To those who suggest that reversing this can be done by increasing charitable activity, I'd say yes, let's increase charitable activity, but let's not have any illusion that we can compete with a government that now, at all levels combined, spends $23,000 per year for every man, woman, and child alive within our borders.  No, in addition to charity, we need to be doing the footwork in whatever way God affords us to educate, influence, convince, pray, and legislate our way out of this mess, by God's mercy because that's truly what we need.  It's a long way out, to our way of seeing and thinking, but if we get busy and act God will tend to the timing and results.

-Jim Mogel

Article originally appeared on Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society (http://www.thinkandreform.org/).
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