Tuesday, May 30, 2006

5 Reasons Christianity Conflicts with Socialism (#1)

As I mentioned in my first post, socialism violates various principles that can be gleaned from the Bible. Christians need to seriously evaluate the implications of any political program before they accept it. As I will attempt to display in my next five posts, Christianity naturally clashes with socialism on a fundamental level, before even getting to the debate over which system actually helps the poor. The following principles will form some of the reasons for Christians to reject socialism, aside from its practical failure.

The first reason is that socialism usurps the responsibilities of family and church. The general responsibility for raising up children in the Old and New Testaments is placed upon the family. God ordained marriage in Genesis 2:24 and emphasizes the family in the cases of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites were then grouped by tribe and clan, but the lowest common denominator was the family. Deuteronomy 6:7-25 shows that God expected parents to educate their children. The ten commandments include honor for mother and father, but not for government or teacher. Family is the basic unit of society; this is shown throughout the OT and affirmed in Proverbs (17:6; 19:18; 23:25-26; etc.). The NT concurs with the OT as illustrated by Ephesians 6:1-4. In addition, God places the financial responsibility for a person in need directly on the extended family (1 Timothy 5:3-8). Only if there is no family available is the need to be transferred to the church (5:16). Jesus does assume Christians will give to the needy individually (Matthew 6:2). Jesus placed emphasis the family by having John look after his mother for him (John 19:26-27). Glaringly, Jesus never called on the government to take care of a person's health, education, or social concerns. In fact, that violates the role of government (that will be in a later post) and would naturally transgress the role of the family that God already set up.

All that being typed, some will protest that this arrangement, although ideal, is impractical and unreliable. In other words, "we can not trust that people will care for their families or that the church will provide for the poor." Of course, we can not trust people to do good, but we do know that people will often do good, whether motivated by conscience, necessity, or the love of Christ. The problem is that a government that usurps the family's role will encourage the family not to prepare to provide. Instead the tendency of people is to maximize their benefit from the government since that aid is "free" (not really) or since "I pay taxes too." Instead of encouraging responsibility, these government programs encourage irresponsibility and sin. Yes, it is a sin to not provide for one's family (1 Timothy 5:8). Do we want a government that encourages waste, laziness, and stealing or one that encourages responsibility, planning, and caring? If each family was "forced" (encouraged by not providing government welfare) to care for its own, many families would stop movie rentals and vacations and begin planning. Most families would be able to take care of the basics. Perfect equality is not a reasonable goal (as I will explain later). The few that are left behind could be cared for by the church or other charitable folks. This is the only solution that affirms the biblical role for the family, government, and church.

"Can we expect unbelievers to live in line with biblical principles though?" No, not in every way, certainly. Many do obey biblical principles though simply because those principles are universally right and wrong, and people can understand that with their consciences. This model does not force Christianity on these people, it merely affirms a Christian view of right and wrong. All laws are based upon higher principles, so Christians should naturally hope that the laws reflect the principles they believe to be right. If socialism, which the preceding attempts to demonstrate, does not promote good values, why accept it over another system that affirms them?


Phugebrins said...

Ok, so you've outlined how some social-democratic policies can make it easier for people not to need to depend on families, and you argue that this usurps the role of the family. But you don't mention a thing about socialism.

"The few that are left behind could be cared for by the church or other charitable folks."
They might be. Or they might not be.
If you can argue they will always be be, why is charity any different from any other safety-net system, in terms of the malignant effects you heap on them? If you accept that charity can't always acheive the coverage, then you're supporting a system doomed to fail orphans and outcasts, victims of abuse or of other social evils.

Citizen said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response Phugebrins. Perhaps I did not explain exactly how socialism usurps the family. I define socialism as government control over the economy and society. If government has that capability, it can abuse certain groups and people. If government is not given the authority it can not abuse them.

When families are taxed excessively to pay for social programs, those families become dependent on the government. Thus, the government breeds dependence.

Furthermore, why trust a distance bureaucracy to a local family or charity? The added "middle man" (gov.) which rarely exercises good discernment will certainly waste more funds. Therefore the poor end up getting less money.

Of course, some of this implies an unselfish attitude in people as a result of a spiritual rebirth. However, I think that most people (those who have not experienced a rebirth) have a conscience enough to care for their own family if expected to do so. This does not even mention that most people in the world could provide for themselves, given opportunity in a free market.

This concept affirms compassion, which is by nature voluntary. It opposes force (socialism), even force that claims to be for "the good" of the people. We can risk voluntary compassion as the best option because the alternative destroys human responsibility, choice, rights, and value.

To read an excellent article about true compassion check out...

Phugebrins said...

I think you've got a funny idea of socialism. A common one, but not one that anyone supports. As you point out in your more recent post, what you attack is more akin to fascism than anything else.

"I define socialism as government control over the economy and society."
Am I right in thinking you're imagining something like the US government - or that of the USSR - just expanding until it controls all of society and the economy. If you are, then that isn't socialism, I'm afraid. Socialism is not a function or result of force, as you claim. Actually, it's the other way around: capital and privation is what's always been enforced by the threat of physical violence.

A good deal of the idea of socialism revolves around local organisation and communities. Perhaps you've heard of the 'ground up' approach?
Each person has rights and responsibilities with regard to their community, and also to society as a whole (the global community, if you like). There aren't any 'middlemen'.

Compare our current system: we have middlemen in the forms of businesses we deal with, businesses we don't deal with directly and serve only other businesses, businesses that serve only governmental organisations, in the US you have the regional state AND the national state and all their departments.

Socialism? Everyone has a direct relationship with society, and thereby, its resources.

On a more down-to-earth level, I ask again: how do either the free market or charitable organisations guarantee that orphans are given the same opportunities in life as everyone else?

It's all very well saying 'charity should be voluntary', but it's no good for those people who need it.

Nikodemos said...

A virtue will never be promoted by a social system that allows people to reject that virtue entirely and not suffer any consequences.

Capitalism allows people to be selfish and not only get away with it, but positively benefit from it. Thus, capitalism encourages selfishness.

As far as the family is concerned, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that people may not use other means of support in addition to the family. Jesus never called on the government to take care of a person's health, education, or social concerns, true, but He never said anything against it either. There are many things Jesus did not talk about - that doesn't mean He opposed them.