(Sunday Homily) Christianity Is Communism! Jesus Was a Communist!

jesus-communist
Readings for 2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; PS 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; IPT 1:3-9; JN 20: 19-31. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042714.cfm

My wife, Peggy, and I are going to Cuba again. A week from tomorrow, we’ll be leading a group of Berea College students on a three-week study tour of the island. We’ll be especially interested in having students come to grips with its history, political economy, sustainable agricultural practices, and its form of democracy, its education and health care systems.

Both of us have traveled to Cuba many times before. But today’s liturgy of the word fittingly puts this particulars trip into theological perspective.

It reminds us that even despite the contrary claims of its leaders, the socio-economic project that Cuba represents is essentially Christian. That’s because, as Mexico’s Jose Miranda reminds us, communism originated in Christianity. It doesn’t come from Marx and Engels.

In fact, Christianity is communism. And Christian communism is what we find described in today’s lead-off reading.

Think about what we read there – a description of life among Jesus’ first followers after the experience they called his “resurrection”:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”

Luke the evangelist repeats that refrain later in his “Acts of the Apostles” when he writes:
“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 any as had need.” (Acts 4:32-36).

There you have it. The early Christians:

 * Lived communally
 * Rejected private property
 * Including land and houses
 * Instead held everything in common
 * Pooling all their resources
 * And distributing them “from each according to ability to each according to need.”
 * As a result, they eliminated poverty from their midst.

Did you catch the operative words: they divided their property “among all according to each one’s needs?” To repeat, those are the words of the Bible not of Marx or Engels. In other words the formula “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” comes straight from the Acts of the Apostles. They have nothing to do with atheism. On the contrary, they have everything to do with faith.

They have everything to do with following Jesus who himself was a communist. He’s the one who said, “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:3).

Jesus, not Marx, is the one who set concern for those in need as the final criterion for judging the authenticity of one’s life. He said, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, was a stranger and you took me in, was stripped naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me” (MT 25: 35-36). Everything, Jesus insists, depends on recognizing his presence in the poor and oppressed and responding accordingly.

Of course it’s often pointed out that the Christian experiment in communism was short-lived. Jesus’ followers soon backed off from their early idealism. That observation is supposed to invalidate their communistic lifestyle as impossibly utopian and therefore no longer applicable as Christians’ guiding North Star. In fact, this objection is taken as justifying the persecution of the communism the text idealizes and recommends!

But the same argument, of course, would apply to the Ten Commandments in general or to the Sermon on the Mount – or to the U.S. Constitution for that matter. In our day (and in the course of their histories) all of those statements of ideals have only sporadically been lived out in practice. Should we throw them out then? Should we persecute those espousing the Sermon on the Mount ideals or observance, for instance, of the Fourth Amendment? Few in the Christian community or in the U.S. political world would make that argument.

Others anxious to distance themselves from the communistic ideals of early Christianity would point out that the communal life adopted by Jesus’ first followers was voluntary not imposed from above. In doing so, they point to another passage in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. That’s the one involving Ananias and Saphira – a couple whose life is exacted for claiming to have sold their property while actually keeping some of it back for themselves.

Referring to their property, Peter says to Ananias, “Was it not still yours if you kept it, and once you sold it was it not yours to dispose of?” (Acts 5:4) But (again as Miranda points out) what was optional was not selling their property – Christianity’s indispensable condition. What was optional was the choice to become a disciple of Christ. Choosing the latter option required practicing communism – and that under pain of death!

As for economic systems imposed from above. . . . Can you name one that isn’t?

How many of us have really chosen to live under capitalism? “None of us” is the answer. That’s because to make an informed choice, one must know the alternative. However, our families, schools, churches and civic organizations, our films and novels and news programs mostly conspire together to vilify alternatives and keep them hidden.

Besides that, our government and military have made sure that experiments in alternatives (like the one implemented in Cuba) fail or are portrayed as failures – lest their “bad example” undermine capitalist claims to be the only viable system.

Even worse, our church leaders (who should know better) jump on the anti-communist band wagon and present Jesus as a champion of a system he would despise. Church people speak and act as if Luke’s passage from Acts had read:

“Now the whole group of those who believed lived in fierce competition with one another, and made sure that the rights of private property were respected. They expelled from their midst any who practiced communalism. As a consequence, God’s ‘invisible hand’ brought great prosperity to some. Many however found themselves in need. The Christians responded with ‘tough love’ demanding that the lazy either work or starve. Many of the unfit, especially the children, the elderly and those who cared for them did in fact starve. Others however raised themselves by their own bootstraps, and became stronger as a result. In this way, the industrious increased their land holdings and banked the profits. The rich got richer and the poor, poorer. Of course, all of this was seen as God’s will and a positive response to the teaching of Jesus.”

When are we going to stop this bastardization of Christianity?

First of all we must face it: Jesus was a communist; so were his earliest followers after his death!
What then should are would-be followers of Yeshua the Christ to do? At least this:

 * Read Jose Miranda’s manifesto, Communism in the Bible.
 * If we can’t bring ourselves to sell what we have, give it to the poor, and live communally, at least conspire with like-minded people to share tools, automobiles, gardens – and perhaps even jobs and homes in an effort to reduce poverty and our planetary footprints.
 * “Out” the “devout Catholic,” Paul Ryan and other congressional “Christians” whose budgets attempt to balance federal accounts by increasing the ranks of the poor whose poverty the communism of the early Christian community successfully eliminated.
 * Pressure our government to get off Cuba’s back and allow it to experiment in prophetic ways of living that can save our planet.
 * I’m sure you can add to this list.
* Please do so below.

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

8 thoughts on “(Sunday Homily) Christianity Is Communism! Jesus Was a Communist!”

  1. Have a good trip to Cuba Mike. Wish I could join you. You know better than I that most Americans are so totally brainwashed with government BS that they are incapable of hearing what you are sharing about Jesus and communism. Keep up your good work however, there will be a few who will hear you – may their numbers increase!

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  2. Frankly I’m envious. Please share lots of photos! I want to see Cuba myself. A local Presbyterian church has an affiliation with a Presbyterian church and school in rural Cuba, and some local people have visited there. I would like to go also.

    …. you note that the word “Catholic” covers people who don’t see the world the same way you do, including Paul Ryan.

    The same is true of the designation “Communist”. During the Bolshevik Uprising in Munich 1919, my grandfather, a stenographer for the German General Staff, had to go into hiding, in fear for his life.
    Opa’s time in hiding followed a raid on the building where he, my grandmother and their two young babies resided.

    The story that I was told was that the nursemaid, Justina, heard commotion upstairs when a neighbor (an old artist who had criticized the revolution) was seized and taken away by a group of armed, intoxicated men. Justina thought quickly and hid Opa under a pile of linens. When the group of men came to their door, she told them that Opa had been away for weeks and she didn’t know when he would return. The story I was told was that many people were shot and killed in a Munich school basement for disagreement with the so called “Bloodless Revolution”…which targeted the royal family….which was associated with the Catholic church. “Catholic” and “Communist” were not compatible theories at the time. Alliances were different than they are usually described today.

    Bela Kun, who ran the Hungarian Bolshevik Revolution, also presided over the assassination of many people through the “Lenin Boys”. Targets of the “Lenin boys” included priests and nuns who were associated with the Habsburg monarchy. Terrible backlash (and anti-Semitism and other ethnic violence) came with the counter-revolutions post-World War II. Bela Kun went from Hungary to Munich, and many people were very much on edge about his presence. Eventually Bela Kun went to the Soviet Union, where he ended up in a gulag and was eventually executed by Stalin.

    I heard many of these stories from family members, but they aren’t covered in any Western Civ classes that I’ve attended. I get the feeling that most people prefer simpler narratives, ones that make it very easy to pick out “good” or “bad guys”. I’m always disappointed by historical narratives that leave out so many details that it becomes impossible to understand what actually took place. The alliances are usually complex and shifting.

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  3. Hi Mike,

    Is a country where power is controlled from the center and the people have no voice, truly communist? Where power is not shared, there is no communism.

    Cuba is the flip side of the confederacy: demanding the right to do what they wanted because the Declaration said they had equal rights, while denying the rights (of exit, if nothing else) to the slaves.

    As Cuba denies the right of exit.

    Cuba is many things, but a communist state as you describe such is not one of them.

    Hank

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  4. For this vile unmitigated disinformation to proceed from one associated with Berea College is proof that Christianity is whatever you want it to be. For you young people who are brainwashed by what this so-called guy is, I ask that you always remember that Satan quoted the Bible too. He twisted it and contorted it – just like this hate filled vermin has done! Christianity is NOT Communism. Jesus Christ was not a Communist and anyone who swallows that poison will burn in hell. Communism is based on atheism! It is the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ preached, taught and lived! Please do not be seduced by the Satanic likes of the lover of Cuba (why not go there and stay there if it is so great? Why? Because you are a liar and you know it! Why don’t you go to North Korea – they are Communist! Why don’t you Berea students stop drinking the Kool-Aid and being seduced by appearances? If you are a Berea graduate or any other college student and you fall for this trash (that Jesus was a Communist – that Christians are Communist) then you have NOT been educated and you need to demand a refund of your tuition (or mandatory donation as Berea calls it). As a Berea graduate this article and the sheepy followers is not only disgusting, it is vile and destructive of America. For all of you who believe in Islam – the moon god idol pagen worship based on hate – go to Saudi, go to Iraq, go to North Korea, go to Cuba, go live where they practice what you say you want! Get out of America you are destroying it because you are destroying yourself. I bet this guy didn’t tell you anything about Agenda 21, did he? I bet he denies that Adolph Hitler (not his real name just like the current WH resident) was a vile homosexual as was his SS. I bet he didn’t tell you that those same vile people came to the United States and carried on their sins. Know this:
    Jesus Christ did not advocate Communism – communist are cold-blooded murderers – as soon as they finish using you – while you’re being used (as you are now – just like Jim Jones’ followers) you are a ‘useful idiot’ and when they take power – to you they say, ‘up against the wall you scum – and they blow your brains out while laughing!” That’s the way liberalism/progressivism/Democrats/Marxist/ etc is. I bet you think Bill Ayers is a ‘distinguished educator’ too, don’t you?

    That this article is even remotely associated with Berea College is reason to gag – this putrid lie would make gag a maggot! It’s that vile. Why do atheist, haters, sodomites and assorted sinners who do so deliberately, want to cover their wicked destroying vulgar madness with Jesus Christ and Christianity?

    I hope that you stay in Cuba! You are a Communist and are severely misguided! The first step in brainwashing is DEMORALIZATION and that’s exactly what you are doing! To go to a college where the less fortunate (economically speaking) are is SO TYPICAL OF DECEIVERS – of Communist! Why? Because it’s easier to take advantage of them!

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  5. Christians ought to practice communism among ourselves, to do this we need a government that lets us do what we want with our property. capitalism is just the government staying out of our way, its not an ideal, its not moral, its an environment in which we can practice christian communal life (and others don’t have too)

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    1. Thanks for the comment. As I understand it, socialism is not about you or me owning property. It’s about who owns the “means of production” so that the rest of us might have more property. 80% of Cubans are home owners. 90% of them vote. Cuba’s system with its clear preferential option for the poor seems far closer to gospel ideals than ours with its highly evident preferential option for the rich.

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