Christian Socialism

“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. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 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 each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

Greetings, Fighter

Welcome to the first Sunday after Easter – a day when we remember the early reverberations of the earth-shattering event that was the resurrection of Jesus.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! So … what now?

Well … we see the once-cowering disciples start to emerge from their locked rooms. We hear a new message being preached on the streets, and we see a new form of community evolving. It’s a community of caring and sharing and complete equality. In short, it’s Christian socialism, where individuals own northing but are happy!

Most of my freedom-loving sisters and brothers detest the very word, socialism, and not without reason. Socialist and communist regimes have always been associated with the denial of human rights and personal freedoms, supposedly always for the greater good. Personal freedom and the value of the individual are ideals rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures themselves.  Even so, there’s no denying that this early Christian community was a Socialist Utopia. What gives?

It was the English Evangelical, Os Guinness, who solved this conundrum for me. In his book, “The Magna Cata of Humanity”, Guinness takes as his starting point the three-fold proclamation of the French revolution – “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” – and points out that ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ are natural antagonists. No two things on earth are equal so, if there are no rules, the powerful will survive and the weak will be destroyed. If, on the other hand, we want equal rights and opportunities for the strong and the weak alike, we will need a controlling hand – restraining the activities of the powerful in order to protect the weak.

It makes perfect sense that societies that have aimed at equality for all their citizens have done so at the expense of individual liberties, whereas societies that focus on individual freedoms inevitably develop an underclass of the impoverished victims of the powerful. Is there no way for Liberty and Equality to coexist? The French thought there was – ‘Fraternity’ – and I think they had the right idea.

In order for liberty and equality to co-exist, they need to be held together by powerful spiritual values. ‘Fraternity’ (or whatever it’s gender-inclusive equivalent is) is a good place to start, though it failed to hold things together in the French Revolution, which quickly devolved into a tyranny. The early Christians though were tapping into something much more powerful – the Spirit of the living Jesus – and this was what helped them succeed where others fail.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”, Saint Paul said to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 3:17). At the same time, Paul could say to the same church, “the goal is equality” (2 Corinthians 8:14). How could these two natural antagonists – liberty and equality – be held together? To quote Paul again, “by the surpassing grace God has given you.” (2 Corinthians 8:14).

Some of my friends on the right of politics still describe me as a leftist ratbag. Personally, I think the old divisions between left and right have become all but irrelevant in Australian society today where the freedom movement has helped bring people together from across the political spectrum. That’s not an Australia-only phenomenon either. Seeing people like Russel Brand and Tucker Carlson working together is a great indication of the way that fundamental values can bridge divides. The key is to have a spiritual force that holds the ideals of left and right together.

We don’t know what happened to that early Christian community., Evidently, it didn’t last. It’s often referred to as ‘the Jerusalem experiment’, though I think that trivialises what was a clear manifestation of the Spirit of God.

I suspect that the power of the resurrected Christ was eventually eclipsed by human rivalries and the machinations of power. That has been the recurring historical pattern. Even so, the Spirit of God continues to move, and is working in our time in wonderful and unexpected ways. Perhaps that same Spirit will soon manifest itself again in the forming of new freedom-loving Christian socialist communities?

Watch this space!

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had a wonderful Easter celebration at our Sunday Eucharist last weekend. I was privileged to have Peter and Pauline Trama at my side at Binacrombi, and we were joined on the panel by our dear brothers, Andrew Madry and Robert Gilland. Rev. Joy Steele-Perkins completed the broadcasting team with a wonderful, pre-recorded Easter homily that you’ll find (with transcript) on the member site here, or you can watch it as a part of the larger broadcast below, where you’ll also find a rather unique version of the hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”. 😊

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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