In a recent Townhall article, Grove City College political science professor Dr. Paul Kengor described an alarming interaction he had with one of his students:
[He] told me of the elite Christian private school he attended, where the newly hired teacher, fresh out of a major university, told the students he was a “Christian communist,” and that anyone who is a Christian should be a communist.
The father of communism, Karl Marx, announced his object in life was to “dethrone God and destroy capitalism”. If Marx really wanted to dethrone God, shouldn’t it be disturbing that some Christians support his ideology?
Communist Christians past and present have disconnected Marxism from the atrocities of communism. More devastatingly, they have disconnected their faith from Marxism.
In Jesus and Marx: From Gospel to Ideology, Christian sociologist Jacques Ellul says Marxists Christians fail to analyze the theoretical problem of Marxism’s lack of compatibility with Christianity. Instead,
Their basic concern is to reinterpret Christianity by means of Marxism, and to transpose their action onto the terrain demarcated by Communism.
Rather than reinterpreting Christianity by means of Marxism, let’s reinterpret Marxism by means of Christianity. Marx twisted four principal truths:
1.Work is God: Marx’s case for communism flows from his view of labor. Harry Magdoff, former editor of the Monthly Review, claims Marx believed work was central to human existence in that labor:
is the prime basic condition for all human existence and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labor created man himself.
In other words, work is God.
Art Lindsley gives a biblical understanding of labor through creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration in a recent post.
2. Capitalism committed original sin: To Marx, capitalism is guilty of original sin rather than humanity. In a recent Forbes article, Bill Flax claims the Marxist dialect is guilty of redefining biblical good and evil through antithetical parallels, particularly in the case of sin. He says,
The institution of property rights represented original sin.
3. “Alienated work” is the curse: Marx believed that humans are alienated from their labor under a capitalistic structure because they are not in complete control of production from start to finish. Because factory workers are disconnected from the products they produce and the relationships they have with other workers, Marx says they have lost complete control of their lives. Therefor capitalism divides workers from their very human nature. In a sense, capitalism’s curse for committing original sin is the alienation of work.
But in seeking human dignity through work, Marx oddly compromises it. Pepperdine University economics professor George Reisman explains in his book Capitalism why Marx’s view of alienation diminishes the dignity of the human person:
The charge that factory work is ‘alienating’ rests on a view of the average factory worker as being incapable of intellectually understanding the importance of his particular work to the final product. It assumes that to take personal pride in his work, a worker has to be in the position of a medieval cobbler and oversee the process from raw material to finished produce. It does not see that a worker can conceptually understand that, for example, the welds he performs help to keep an airplane in flight or an automobile in operation. The charge of alienation does not see that in a division-of-labor society a worker can take pride in the fact that he contributes to the production of magnificent products whose very existence appear absolutely miraculous to any medieval cobbler.
4. Communism redeems: According to Marx, capitalism is fatally flawed and needs to be overthrow by communism. He summarized communism as the abolition of private property. (In a previous post, Art Lindsley debunks the myth that the Bible supports the abolition of private property). Essentially Marx believed that communism was the savior that would free laborers from market constraints and reunite them with their work.
Though Marx’s ideas come from a place of concern for human dignity, his view of labor is incongruent to a Biblical understanding of God, human nature, and work.
As Christians, we know humanity is guilty of original sin, not any economic system. We have been separated from God, not from our labor. We need Christ’s sacrifice to redeem us, not an economic system. In redefining Biblical themes, Marx reduces the story of creation to economic factors and ironically suffocates his own objective by leaving little room for any authentic human dignity.
Despite Marx’s negating parallels to scripture, his economic philosophy has captivated some Christians throughout history and continues to do so in derivative forms today. This is precisely why Christians must examine philosophies, ideologies, and policies through a lens of a sound Biblical understanding: to properly analyze compatibility with their faith.
In my next post, I will discuss another popular Christian economic movement known as “The Social Gospel” as it relates to Marxism.
What do you think? Are Christianity and Marxism compatible? Leave your comments here.