What I Mean by (Christian) Socialism

by redguthrie

Socialism is a term fraught with meaning and misunderstanding. To many, especially in the tea party movement, socialism is equated with nearly everything that government does. To others, socialism is defined by the oppressive, totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union, China, and even Nazi Germany. For some socialism is defined by the works of Karl Marx. For others, socialism is the desirable social services that governments can provide through taxes without fundamentally challenging the basic structures of capitalism. For some, socialism is a centralized, command economy run by bureaucrats. For others, socialism is the outgrowth of a healthy democracy. For some, socialism is big government. For others, it is anarchism.

Part of the problem is that there are many groups and individuals that advocate a wide variety of economic programs and political philosophies under the umbrella of socialism. These range from certain strands of anarchism and social democracy movements that emphasize varying degrees of volunteerism and democracy to hardline Marxist-Leninists and Maoists who advocate insurgency and full communism. These movements generally share the belief that the means of producing wealth (land, machinery, natural resources, etc.) should in some way be controlled by society, rather than by individuals with enough power to control others’ access to the means of production. How they seek to implement this social control of the means of production is where they diverge, often widely. Another part of the problem is that those who oppose socialism, intentionally and accidentally distort different versions of socialism, creating caricatures of the different movements.

The third part of the problem, with regards to this blog, is that I am somewhat vague in what I mean by socialism. This is because I don’t adhere to any particular dogma about how socialism is to be achieved. I’m not Leninist nor a Trotskyist. I’m not an anarchist (at least not strictly). I’m not a social democrat. I am not a De Leonist nor a Fourierist. I am a Christian socialist, and what that means for me is that…

…when I advocate socialism, I am not:

  • advocating a violent revolution,
  • advocating for totalitarian regime,
  • seeking to oppress the rich,
  • advocating a centralized, state-run economy,
  • necessarily advocating for a total dissolution of the market economy.

…when I advocate socialism, I am:

  • promoting a peaceful transition away from global capitalism and routine worker exploitation,
  • advocating a more equitable distribution of wealth,
  • seeking a less hierarchical, decentralized, worker-run economy,
  • advocating a society based on the ideas of liberty and equality,
  • seeking a community-centered way of life,
  • advocating a truly democratic form of government,
  • seeking an end to poverty and all forms of oppression.

…when I advocate Christian socialism, I am not:

  • advocating Marxism with a thin veneer of Christian symbolism,
  • calling for a theocracy that oppresses non-Christians,
  • advocating a society that requires all its members to be Christian,
  • promoting one particular branch of Christianity over all others.

…when I advocate Christian socialism, I am:

  • seeking to establish the Kingdom of God within my own heart,
  • seeking to establish the Kingdom of God in the world,
  • advocating an economic system that is faithful to the moral and economic teachings of the Bible,
  • advocating an economy, government, and society based on love for one’s neighbor rather than love of material things.
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