Was Jesus a Socialist?
Jesus was apparently “a socialist who would support Bernie Sanders for president.”
This is the opening line to an article reporting on a poll conducted by Barna Group, in which those surveyed were asked questions concerning the compatibility of political ideas and the teachings of Jesus.
As it turns out, Americans—particularly millennials—think Jesus’ teachings best align with socialism (24% versus capitalism at 14%), and the 2016 presidential candidate policies of Bernie Sanders (more voted his ideas were in line with Jesus’ teachings than any of the other candidates).
It’s a pretty popular belief these days; after all, Jesus was all about helping the poor, right? Apparently it’s not too hard for some to imagine Him sporting a Che Guevara shirt on a college campus while holding a sign endorsing a wealthy old man with three homes who decries the “unfairness” and “inequality” of capitalism.
But Jesus never personally taught, followed, or endorsed any particular political system. He wasn’t a revolutionary (in any political sense), and when He walked on earth He pretty well avoided political disputes and power (Matthew 17:25-27, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 12:13-15, John 6:15, 18:36 etc.).
He came to save men from sin, not abolish inequalities between rich and poor or “straighten out” the Roman government.
He did personally minister to the physical and financial needs of people and instructed His followers to do the same. But voluntary giving, not charity under compulsion, was taught (Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:5-7), never did He mention a word intimating it was the responsibility of the government to provide for people.
For a further discussion of whether socialism or capitalism is more compatible with Christianity, I would direct the reader to three excellent articles: “Socialism in Jesus’ Name?” by R.C. Sproul Jr., “Was Jesus a Socialist, Capitalist, Or Something Else?,” and “Do Marxism and Christianity Have Anything In Common?,” both by Bill Flax.
Sproul Jr. writes:
“Socialism operates under the premise that the state not only has the authority to take what rightfully belongs to one man to give it to another, but has a duty to do so… When one man takes from another by force we rightly call this stealing, something forbidden by God in the Ten Commandments.
Jesus wants us to care for the poor. But the “us” is me, and you. It is not me and you voting for a candidate who promises to take from them. We cannot feed the hungry in Jesus’ name if we have just taken the food from our neighbor.”
Aside from all the speculation concerning the type of political system Christ would endorse, what has it looked like in actual practice when Marxism has met Christianity?
On Friday, May 6, 1966, a man stood before the United States Senate in Washington to testify exactly what this looked like (full transcript here).
Before the 89th Congress, he stripped to the waist to reveal 18 deep torture wounds covering his body. This former Romanian atheist-turned-Christian-pastor testified that communism was responsible for the persecution of the Church, and the torture of millions of innocent people.
Christians were imprisoned, drugged, starved, thrown in ice-box refrigerator cells, hung upside-down on ropes and beaten, had starving rats driven into their cells, and were forced to stand in small boxes with nails driven through the sides.
The communists tried to stamp out every thought of God, because belief in God was incompatible with their regime; it shook their power.
The churches were strictly controlled by the state, and no one was allowed to speak against the evil.
But, finally a man had come forward to do so before the world: this man was Richard Wurmbrand.
He was rescued from Romania and brought to the United States by Christians in the West after they learned of his plight in prison. He went on to establish the organization “Voice of the Martyrs,” a charity outreach to Christians in restricted nations.
Upon arriving in the States, he told his story in the book, Tortured for Christ. In this he declared, “Communism is one of the greatest menaces to mankind.”
He wrote of how the communists considered religion to be worse than cancer, and appointed their own puppet church leaders. He wrote of how peasants came to him, to tell him they were now “hungry slaves” on their own property; of how they had to “steal” food from what had been their own fields (before the collectivization started), and how they had to lie to cover their theft.
“Workers spoke to me about the terror in the factories and about an exploitation of work-power such as the capitalists had never dreamed of. The workers had no right to strike… The whole life and thought of one-third of the world at that time was destroyed or falsified – as is still being done in restricted nations today.”
He expressed his disappointment that the West seemed to be entertaining fanciful, utopian ideas of communism.
“Whereas in the East, Communists are disappointed and have lost their illusions, in the West a ‘humanistic communism’ has remained virulent. The Western humanists/Communists simply do not believe all the bad reports about the cruelties, the misery, and the persecution in Communist countries. They spread their faith with tireless zeal everywhere, in the lounges of the upper classes, in the clubs of intellectuals, in colleges, in the slums, and in the churches…”
Could such a man consider Marxism compatible with Christianity? He’d not only had a front-row seat in observing this spectre of interaction between the two philosophies, but he himself had been (unwillingly) cast in the play, and his feelings could not have been stronger:
“I have decided to denounce communism, though I love the Communists. I don’t find it to be right to preach the gospel without denouncing communism. Some tell me ‘Preach the pure gospel!’ This reminds me that the Communist secret police also told me to preach Christ, but not to mention communism… Sin must be called by its name. Communism is one of the most dangerous sins in the world today…“
Having first suffered under the Nazi regime as a Romanian Jew, and then under the communist regime that followed it, Wurmbrand declared that the tyrannies of the latter were far, far worse than the tyrannies of the former.
To those who assert that “Jesus is a socialist,” I am sure Wurmbrand would beg to differ; and so would millions of Christians (and those from other religious backgrounds) — from Cuba to China — who have personally suffered through the hell of Karl Marx’s ideology in practice.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about socialism or communism; they’re both branches of the same tree, in either case you get a collectivist state which has all-powerful control over its citizens’ lives, inevitably leading to tyranny on some level.
Socialism is inherently flawed: it presumes that man is too selfish to help his neighbor voluntarily and must be forced to do so with the barrel of a gun, yet somehow believes that mankind’s tendency to selfishness will never manifest itself through an abuse of power and control in an all-powerful state!
It denounces the corruption of individuals, yet somehow believes that throwing power and control into the mix will make the human individuals who control the state immune to corruption.
It believes that if an individual “holds a gun,” it is dangerous and susceptible to misuse, yet if individuals who have been given totalitarian power and control by the state “hold the gun,” it will only be used for good.
The irony is staggering; the mental gymnastics, mind-blowing.
The tragedy is that Westerners, having seen the repeated failures of this system, still believe it would work if we just “try it for real” and “do it right” this time.
Religious freedom has never been immune from the tyranny of Marxism, for religion has repeatedly proven incompatible with it—there is no room, in a philosophy like Marxism that demands so much control over the individual, for full freedom of religious practice to ultimately prove acceptable.
At some point, there is a clash of ideas and worldviews, for Marxism is very fragile and cannot survive if individual opinions are tolerated; it requires a group-think mentality.
Look it up. See what has happened to religious freedom in every country that has fully embraced Marxism; see what is happening even today.
Marxism, carried out to its full conclusion, can never freely coincide with religion because it is its own, intolerant religion. If it cannot successfully stamp out religion, then it tries to strictly control and censor it. Wurmbrand spoke of how he wished to give men’s personalities back to them—those who had become slaves of communism. He watched, with grief, as Marxism wiped out man’s freedom and individualism.
Today, we have communist groups like Antifa parading the streets, doing violence, and causing havoc in the name of social justice.
The same collectivism, the same disdain for freedom of speech, the same hatred of individualism drives these groups just as it did the communist regimes of the East.
Communism always enters under the guise of helping the underdog. Through identity politics, we have created many such “victims” who are now championed by communist groups like Antifa.
This is very convenient for them. Many of the things they stand against should be stood against (racism, white supremacy, etc.), therefore, saying anything against their tactics or their underlying ideology is tantamount to attacking the victim groups they claim to be protecting.
It’s a lose-lose situation. To condemn communism is to condone racism. That is how the cards are played. So, they grow bolder, this darling of the media, doing evil in the name of combating evil, protected by their very “righteousness.”
Christianity and communism are utterly incompatible. It’s a shame we’ve entertained an illicit affair between them here in the West.
Claiming Christ’s name and support for any particular political cause is sketchy, but claiming it for socialism/communism is tragic—the worst sort of irony.
While the Church has rightly raised her voice in denunciation of racism of late, she often seems strangely quiet where any form of Marxism is concerned. Wurmbrand would have found this cowardly.
Historically, the Church has played a pivotal role in society, in shaping the values and mores of nations.
Wurmbrand attested that it was religious leaders who helped bring communism into his country. What happens in the next few decades, when socialist-loving millennials fill many of the offices in the Church? With communism growing ever popular among those who claim to be religious, what will ultimately come of it?
The Trojan horse is at the gates. Will the Church embrace it with open arms to her own detriment… or expose it for the egregious fraud it is?
Paul Bond, “Poll: Jesus Was a Socialist Who Would Support Bernie Sanders,” The Hollywood Reporter, entry posted May 16, 2016,
R. C. Sproul, Jr., “Socialism in Jesus’ Name?” Ligioner Ministries, entry posted September 2, 2016,
Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, 30th Anniversary Ed. (Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1967, 1998 edition), p. 54
* Tabitha Alloway is a book-reading, book-writing, adventure-craving, liberty-loving, electrician who resides in Kansas where she is currently raising/homeschooling two future libertarians.