Jesus was a socialist

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EDITORIAL Christmas Day, here in the city of St. Francis, seems like a fine time to look at Jesus Christ, what he advocated, and what his legacy is today. Because this traditionally Catholic city has temples filled with crass money changers these days, and a mistaken elevation of "the market" to almost divine status — developments that are antithetical to everything the Bible teaches about Jesus.

While the Guardian isn't regularly in the habit of using biblical citations to support our arguments — yes, we're still the same godless heathens that you've all come to know and love or hate — this is an exercise worth undertaking for a couple reasons. One, many of this city's power brokers are people of faith. And two, because morality still matters, maybe more than ever in these heady times of myopic, buccaneering capitalism, so it's worth discussing the moral framework that we've inherited.

Let's start with a clear truth: Jesus was a socialist. He was one the early socialists to have his ideology laid out so clearly and at such length, calling for the wealthy to give away their riches to the poor and expect nothing in return, not their names on monuments or even so much as a thank you.

"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," Jesus said in Matthew 19:23.

San Francisco's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, took that tenet as far as it could go, giving away all his worldly possessions and joining the poor in the streets of Rome and begging in front of churches, the kind of homeless person now treated with such disdain here.

Jesus was the guy who "poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables," according to the John 2:13, one of the four gospels that chronicle that high-profile clash with the capitalists of his day. It was the only time in the Bible where Jesus, always a serene and resolute fellow, is actually pissed off and acting out aggressively.

San Francisco's religious critics love to compare this city to a modern day Sodom or Gomorrah, the cities supposedly destroyed by God because of their citizens' wicked ways. But on the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who befriended the destitute and the prostitutes and the freaks of all kind, it's worth remembering that his ire was aimed at the greedy rich and not the bedraggled poor or the animated activists.

It is those who aspire to good socialist values — compassion, integrity, sharing (not renting, which is actually what most "sharing economy" companies do), caring for the Earth and all its creatures, and yes, hard work as well, albeit in service of humanity and not personal wealth — who most embody the true Christmas spirit.

Comments

What makes the SFBG think that the faith professed by the ruling elites is sincere?

What makes the SFBG think that the pathologically shameless ruling elites can be shamed into changing their ways if indeed their faith is sincere?

This appeal to morality that is rising on San Francisco's liberal/progressive flank is most disturbing. There is a strong Catholic component of expecting authoritarian power to concede power that stands in denial of overwhelming evidence. Appealing to the priest to not molest us again does not cut it.

It is not the morality that guides some of us but it is values that most of us share which are points of unity. It does not matter how we come to those values, morals, ethics, faith or at random. All that is important is that we share them in common and our opponents do not.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 25, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

How many people do you meet who think they are wrong?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

No, I think that there are many paths to the values we share and that the success of an appeal to morals ultimately relies on guilt and shame. People don't like to be guilt tripped and shamed into action when they themselves are entering the precariat. Lame ass liberal appeals to morals have been tried and have not worked. The reason people are directing our attention to moral appeals is because they do not work and ground out outrage in appropriate, controlled settings. Fewer and fewer Americans look to Jesus for guidance. Why is the SFBG starting to?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 26, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

or something.
would seem to me that his appeal to morality was kinda successful

and yes, it is laughable that the SFBG would pull out the Christ card, after mocking a guy who gave $100M to open a children's hospital in SF.

Posted by guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 11:13 am

because of it's opposition to gay marriage.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 11:54 am

MLK's appeal was to justice, not morals.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

"morals", sadly. That's why politicians always say they are fighting for "justice" when really they are just pursuing whatever ideology they favor.

"Justice" sounds like a grand, objective word but, in reality, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Just look at how the left describe punitive confiscatory policies as "social justice".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 7:53 am

Justice is a much more expansive and encompassing concept that morals.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 9:21 am

Otherwise we would not disagree on examples of each.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 11:33 am

if nothing else, the guy was preaching from churches, not courthouses

try again, marcos

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 9:24 am

MLK's base was in the churches but his political appeal reached up and beyond that religious comfort zone and was an appeal to justice and decency.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 10:12 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 11:16 am

are subjective.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

cheap way of trying to make your own value system somehow appear objective when it is not.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

Unlike some other blacks of his time, he sought change through peaceful and democratic means, not through violence or provocation.

That is why he is revered far more than other black leaders who never renounced violence.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 11:23 am

The problem is that non-violence isn't always enough to achieve the ends. Nelson Mandela, who is also universally revered now (well except for a few on the far right), famously contrasted his views on non-violence with those of Gandhi and MLK. To them, non-violence was a principle, but to Mandela, it was a tactic. When non-violence was no longer seen as working, the ANC shifted strategies to include violence. Different tactics are appropriate for different struggles.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

if it doesn't work out, you spend the rest of your life in some filthy prison, which Mandela could easily have done.

Violence or, for that matter, any form of direct action is extremely undemocratic and should not be advocated by responsible advocates. Violence is really intolerance for not winning.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

It certainly was in Apartheid South Africa. Of course it's risky. Anything that actually threatens the power structure is risky, because ruling elites don't want to give up power without a fight. Social change is never achieved without risk. Non-violence doesn't shield you from risk either. Both Gandhi and MLK also went to prison. And of course both were assassinated.

In a perfect democracy, social change could theoretically be achieved without direct action, but most governments have systems in place to make it extremely difficult. Without direct action, Apartheid would still be in power.

Those who are quickest to criticize tactics usually don't want the change to happen in the first place.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

in violence, you are assuming that you are right and justified. What if you are not? And what if the violence works anyway? That's the basis of terrorism and much crime that is committed.

Violence is justified sometimes e.g. when we fought Hitler. But you have to be certain you are right and the problem is that everyone is certain that they are right, including those who disagree with you and use violence against you.

So overall, it is better to find peaceful, democratic and negotiated solutions, even if you end up not getting everything that you want.

Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Buddha and so on are revered because they used peaceful means to achieve (some of) what they believed in.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

He used violent means to achieve justice, when non-violence didn't work. Do you have a problem with Mandela?

Always better to find peaceful, democratic, negotiated solutions. But that doesn't always work.

The problem is those who have powerful militaries on their side are always quickest to resort to violence, while they preach to the weak that they must be peaceful.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

way? Well, yeah, that happens when you cannot convince the people that you are right.

Claiming that your work is somehow like Mandela's is a tad rich even by your standards.

The simple fact is that violence is not justified just because you think you are right.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

Our work is somewhat like Mandela's and like MLK's, a campaign for justice.

Justice is like wealth, there's plenty of it, no shortage, the only problem is how it is maldistributed. Nor is it like the struggles of celebrities are somehow more valid than unrecognized struggles.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

with good and evil neatly divided into two sides, where it is obvious which is which.

The problem, of course, is that the world is not like that at all, and it is the certainty of some dogmatists like you that is the real danger.

It just never occurs to you that you might be 100% wrong.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Quietly petition the apartheid regime... till the cows come home?

And where did you get this?
"Claiming that your work is somehow like Mandela's is a tad rich even by your standards."

I provided Mandela's tactics as an example of a struggle for justice where non-violence did not wok. Do you or do you not disagree?

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

than the average cause that you get all worked up about. In fact, the majot causes of justice have already been won, which means that more aggressive tactics are really not justified.

Also, south Africa really wasn't a democracy in the normal sense of the word, so extra-democratic efforts make more sense than here, where we can all vote to achieve change.

You come across as far too certain that you are right for anyone to trust you with power or force.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

think the major causes of justice have already been won, and therefore there is no need for further progress. That includes the conservatives who opposed changing the apartheid regime.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

than any right-winger that I know. They do not want SF to change at all.

But the fact here is that both sides think they are correct, both left and right. And it is the arrogance with which many of them hold that view that is perhaps the scariest, even to the point of seeing violence as being justified in pursuit of their ends.

That is why I am a moderate and a democrat. I do not hold with right-wing values but nor am I buying your socialist nonsense. And I trust the voters a lot more than I trust any "activist" who, typically, are far too convinced that they are "right" to be trusted.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

-both those with the boot on their neck, and the ones putting their boot on other people's necks think they're "correct." Fortunately the arc of history, as MLK said, does bend toward justice.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

and then claiming that there really is only one side - the one that you just happen to support.

You claim justice is on your side but that assumes a very convenient and contrived definition of the word "justice".

The fact that ideological opinions are always subjective and personal doesn't seem like a stretch to anyone else. But your conviction that you are right is so strong that you have no problem with contemplating using violence to support it, even though you would no doubt be horrified if the other side used violence similarly.

The people do not generally trust those who are that one-sided.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

The money changers weren't "capitalists", they were tax collectors. And he told the wealthy who wished to follow him to give away their riches, not because he was a socialist, but because he advocated total commitment to spiritual principles and viewed the pursuit of money as a worldly distraction.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7: "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers." (Matthew 21:13, ESV)

The incident that the SFBG so sophomorically tries to bend to their cause was actually about the anger that Jesus felt because of what was going on specifically at the Temple, the holiest site of Judaism.

Here is my wish for the SFBG staff in 2014 -- may you mature just a little bit.

Posted by Chole on Dec. 26, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

is so pathetically transparent and embarrassing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

I doubt the people who wrote this statement believe in a god.

What they are attempting to do is pick what they like out of a book of non sense to torment other people who pick what they like out of a book of non sense.

Jesus is a socialist, Jesus is a small businessman, Jesus is a eggplant etc...

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

of that there is little doubt. However attempting to frame his actions, which were the actions of a zealot, within the framework of 20th and 21st century politics is ridiculous. He was a renegade Jew with zero respect for authority - that's pretty much it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Hey wait a minute, I'm a renegade Jew with zero respect for authority.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 10:13 am
Posted by Matlock on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 10:33 am

Your real name sounds half Irish and half Hispanic.

Then again, your real name doesn't sound gay either.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

"Jesus" sounds Hispanic to me.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 2:59 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

to put up an editorial about Christ, when just last week, the sage Steven Jones wrote:
"Charity is a bourgeois concept" when discussing the over $100M that Benoiff has given to S.F. charities.
give. me. a break.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 9:22 am

Jesus said that He did not come to “abolish the law and the prophets” (Matt. 5:17). One of those laws is “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), even if a majority of people vote for stealing. Socialism is the transfer of wealth from some people to other people by force. Neither Jesus in particular nor the Bible generally advocates for such a system. Even the poorest members of society had to work (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:20-22). Jesus and his disciples practiced a form of gleaning as they walked through grain fields breaking off heads of wheat to eat (Mark 2:23). Gleaning was hard work, and it was not a government program.Certainly Rome had the power to tax (Luke 2:1; Matt. 22:15–22), and yet Jesus never petitions the Empire to force people to pay their “fair share” in the development of a welfare State. Jesus believed in limited government.

Then there's Paul injunction, " if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either" (2 Thess. 3:10).

Not only is your idea of government immoral; it doesn’t work. Therefor maybe you should not lie about things you obviously know nothing about

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2014 @ 10:37 am

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