An Introduction to Christian Socialism

The U.S. interest in religious socialism is growing. Recently, the Christian publishing house McGahan Publishing asked longtime Religion and Socialism Working Group leader Maxine Phillips and RS editorial team member Fran Quigley to contribute a brief essay on the deep relationship between socialism and Christian scripture and history. This week, we link to and excerpt their article, an introduction to the concept of Christian socialism:

“The Acts of the Apostles describes the first Christian communities as being profoundly socialist . . . (T)his system was a fresh response to Jesus’ teaching that we should love our neighbors as ourselves and see Christ embodied in the poor and the sick.

“The early Christians were also deeply familiar with the Hebrew Bible’s many mandates to redistribute wealth. Consider Deuteronomy 24:19-22’s call to leave a portion of harvests available for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, and Isaiah 10:1-2’s emphasis that the poor are not to be pitied and given alms – they have rights to be honored. The scripture reflected the law of the Hebrew communities, carried out in the Sabbath and Jubilee years of debt forgiveness and free access to harvests (Leviticus 25:10 and Deuteronomy 15:2) . . .

“More U.S. Christians are recognizing, as the earliest Christians did, the clear meaning of Jesus’ teachings. The signs of the unemployed who marched during the Great Depression read, “Damn your charity – we want justice.” Christianity makes the same demand, with every bit as much passion.

“The response to that demand is socialism.”

The full article can be read here


Poster by Art Young, First published in The Masses in 1917. (Public Domain)