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Transatlantic Blog

‘If anyone was ever a socialist it was Jesus’: Democratic Socialists of America leader

Last week, Kelley Rose told the national media why she helped found a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America: Jesus made her do it. Fittingly, she told her story at taxpayer expense.

Her comments came as part of a glowing profile of the DSA that National Public Radio posted on July 26 mistitled, “What You Need to Know About the Democratic Socialists of America.”

Rose, a 36-year-old who co-founded the DSA’s North Central West Virginia chapter, told NPR:

"I might be the only one in our little chapter that is a Christian, and it all just fits so perfectly together for me, things that I've always thought anyway along with my values morally and religiously," she said.

 

"Possibly my mother would want to debate me on this, but if anyone was ever a socialist it was Jesus."

This is welcome, unusually positive coverage of faith from an outlet that frequently brands any Christian’s interest in politics a sign of impending “theocracy.” However, it should cause all taxpayers to question whether they wish to underwrite this sort of propaganda with $445 million a year. (The story’s only mildly negative comment notes that Bernie Sanders “got attacked for how much [his “Medicare for All” proposal] could cost — by one estimate, $32 trillion over 10 years.”)

For Christians, Rose’s views expose another kind of deficit: a lack of sound doctrinal teaching.

Rose’s misappropriation of Jesus as a socialist spokesman highlights how important it is for Christians to teach that socialism and Christianity are incompatible.

At one time, pulpits and Ivy League institutions alike repeated the fact that collectivism contradicts both the Bible and human nature.

As the principal of Princeton Theological Seminary for 27 years, Charles Hodge taught thousands of ministers, and his writings influenced generations yet to come. In his Systematic Theology, he wrote of socialism:

The conditions of the success of this plan, on any large scale, cannot be found on earth. It supposes something near perfection in all embraced within the compass of its operation. It supposes that men will labour as assiduously without the stimulus of the desire to improve their condition and to secure the welfare of their families as with it. It supposes absolute disinterestedness on the part of the more wealthy, the stronger, or the more able members of the community. They must be willing to forego all personal advantages from their superior endowments. It supposes perfect integrity on the part of the distributors of the common fund, and a spirit of moderation and contentment in each member of the community, to be satisfied with what others, and not he, may think to be his equitable share. We shall have to wait till the millennium before these conditions can be fulfilled. The attempt to introduce a general community of goods in the present state of the world, instead of elevating the poor, would reduce the whole mass of society to a common level of barbarism and poverty. The only secure basis of society is in those immutable principles of right and duty which God has revealed in his Word, and written upon the hearts of men. And these truths, even if acknowledged as matters of opinion, lose their authority and power if they cease to be regarded as revelations of the mind and will of God, to which human reason and human conduct must conform.

The passage comes as Hodge, a Presbyterian, branded socialism a violation of the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” He proceeded to dissect “Communism and Socialism” for four pages.

One need not be Reformed to reject socialism. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and evangelicals all condemned socialism as incompatible with both the Eighth Commandment as well as the Tenth: “Thou shalt not covet.”

If Rose investigates traditional Christian teachings, she will learn it is no coincidence that she is “the only one” in her chapter who is a Christian.

Readers – perhaps including Rose –will enjoy Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist by Lawrence W. Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).


Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.