SODOM & GOMORRAH: Gregory Paul has joined a long line of people who criticize conservative Christians for being against socialism. He’s argued that Jesus and Christianity are self evidently socialistic and that any support of capitalism will contradict Biblical teachings.
Jay W. Richards at the Washington Post has responded to Mr. Paul by saying that there really aren’t that many Christian supporters of Ayn Rand and that Mr. Paul’s arguments are based on misleading interpretations of Scripture. This misleading interpretation stems from some overlooked verses and the fact that the state is nowhere to be seen in this Christian socialism Mr. Paul describes.
Unfortunately, Mr. Paul and Mr. Richards both miss the mark completely.
First, both men share a particular assumption about Christianity that leads them both to error. Both Richards and Paul assume that the Biblical teachings they’re reading are concerned primarily about the physical world. Most discourse in our time that argues against socialism centers on the role of the state (which colors Mr. Richards’ argument that Rome is not enforcing socialism so therefore it must not exist). Those who defend the assumed right wing position do so from a vantage point of comparing state intervention to non state intervention. This materialistic assumption drives Mr. Paul to make his strange Protestant ethic argument – that some Protestants got together and imagined that God must be happy with their Protestantism so he was blessing them through economic growth. For both Richards and Paul, God and the followers of God are incredibly materialistic. The faithful in Richards’ world automatically become capitalists because the Roman government wasn’t redistributing wealth. The god of Mr. Paul’s world is naturally socialist because the “Christian economics” talked about in the Bible discuss how people weren’t needy.
They miss the mark in that the faith is hardly about the material at all, but the spiritual, which our age has banned from all serious discussion. Mr. Paul stumbles on the general lack of discussion about economics by accident when he notes that “the only” mention of Christian economics in the Bible is this set of verses about people not being needy and how only the Christian community shared with each other. The materialism of both authors is rather striking when you notice that Mr. Richards fails to address how the conflict with socialism is one of faiths and that Mr. Paul regurgitates a twisted version of Max Weber’s argument (Weber argued that Protestantism and capitalism influenced each other because the doctrine of predestination meant that Calvinists could never be sure if they were saved, so they began to seek out signs of their salvation in the world. Weber was very clear that we could never be sure which triggered which, if there was a trigger, just that they influenced each other and that the long term trend was a removal of the spiritual from the physical – at which point we would quit caring about God and salvation and just pay attention to the money).
This confusion leads, second, to Mr. Paul’s psuedo-Weberianism. He falls into Weber’s trap and thinks only in terms of the material.
Third, it leads Mr. Richards to make the stock responses to socialism that every capitalist has ever made. It’s about government intervention, taxation, etc. He could have handled this a lot better by pointing out the real source of the conflict. Every genuinely socialist theorist has been an atheist. (What’s fascinating is that most genuinely capitalist theorists have also been atheists.) Proudhon called on revolutionaries to worship Satan because he was the first to rebel against established authority. Marx proclaimed that all communism begins with atheism and all communism was an atheism. Saul Alinsky, in our own time, dedicated one of his books to Lucifer. All one must do to demonstrate the utter incompatibility of socialism and Christianity is to quote any socialist theorist on the topic of religion. Remember, religion, as they tell us, is just a product of capitalism and when we do away with capitalism we’ll do away with faith too. We just have to believe.