Friday, November 28, 2008

Marxism and Liberation Theology

I've recently become aware of the significance of an alarming trend in Christianity. Throughout our history, many have attempted to destroy Christians and the Word of God. Among the more recent threats to Christianity is Communism, which sought to persuade people that all religion was just a drug to be rejected by reasonable people.

Communism began as a philosophical ideal among a few which quickly became a national phenomenon in many countries. It tried to convince people that ideology was the essence of behavior, and one must have the correct ideology for the revolution to be successful. When Communism failed to convince everyone of its ideology, its supporters sought to impose their ideology by force. As a result, if one would not remove themselves from their religion, they would be forcefully removed from it. This has lead to much religious persecution in the last century.

Now, after the failure of Communism in nations worldwide, a new trend is emerging. Rather than Marxist philosophy attacking from the outside, now it has made inroads in the thought patterns of many Christians. It all starts with the misconception that our social ills have social sources. Rather, the source of social problems is a sinful heart.

Liberation theology has become acceptable in many South American and African nations. This is a theology that teaches that Jesus died for our race and our way of life. Therefore, anyone who is against us is against God. These groups sees social inequality as the source of evil and a revolutionary government as their redeemer. While we may not be familiar with liberation theology in the U.S. we are familiar with some of its supporters, most notably the former pastor of our future president. While I do not believe that Mr. Obama is a supporter of this theology, he has apparently been able to ignore it week after week as it was taught from the pulpit of his church.

Another similar threat comes from trends within the Emerging Church. While many of their principles are good, many adherents are adopting this Marxist philosophy that the government is the solution to all of our social problems. While no emergent Christian would dream of persecuting other Christians, this mindset is not too far removed from the experiences of Communist nations.

When people believe that their problems result from social situations and not the sinful heart of man, then we seek social solutions. The solution to the world's problems do not come from social reform. Rather, we must reform the hearts of men, which can only be done by Christ.

The government is not the redeemer of mankind, and despite the plight of many in the world, we must care for them out of a willing heart, not by the coercion of others. Government aid is not the same as private charity, and we insult our savior by claiming it is so.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:31 AM

    A most excellent post!

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  2. Now, I actually have read a decent amount of Marxist theory and I don't know what exactly what you are referring to when you claim to observe "the significance of an alarming trend in Christianity." I suspect with some certainty you are responding directly to the incoming Obama administration and the large number of Christian organizations that supported his election. I feel caution in this sort of critique. It is reminiscent of the pot calling the kettle black i.e glass house hypocrisy. You start your article with a quote from Martin Luther. I had not seen this before but will say I have mixed feelings about it. It brings to mind original sin and the inevitability of corruption in human institutions. However, Luther also implies his own judgment here, a pejorative criticism, in that he claims schools will be great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures. I find this judgment to go too far. I am reminded here of how Christ approached the woman at the well and reviled himself to her. Of course it is this sort model I believe is expected of us. In that approach Christ appears to model love and humility ideally. We must strive for this even while we know we are imperfect. I think this is most important to consider because religious persecution is not something Christians have experienced alone, in fact they have been ardent persecutors of evil to other religions in the name of Christ, and continue to this day.

    I would say that no materialistic theory that structures the distribution of material wealth, political and material power (by material I mean money - and wealth proxies like property - assets etc) is aligned with Christian values. That includes capitalism. Even if we could pull off a true free market economic system we would still have social/national programs to assist the citizens of this country. These aids should in no way claim preference over charity but it is not in my view in appropriate for them to be modeled after charity, understanding that the collection and distribution of the resources are done in a representative democratic environment. Which is similar to the charity committed by a church only the governing body resides within the church and the offertory is morally obligatory rather then legally.

    It is unfortunate that many people attribute human behavior to theories. Communism did not impose itself, people like Hitler, Stalin, and others imposed a version of communism based on ideas from theorists such as Carl Marx that would serve as means to their end. Now, some could argue that George Bush's imposition of Capitalism is not much different. In fact, many would argue that his "Crusade" into Iraq, now having caused the deaths of well over 100 thousand Iraq's, and over 4 thousand US soldiers with no real definitive account of the numbers killed, wounded, and harmed in the name of US and allied interests, while claiming God is on our side is an evil and not of God or sanctioned by God.

    Be sure, capitalistic agendas were part of our Governments priorities when we invaded Iraq and Christians in our country were very willing to see it as sanctioned by God because it was sold as combating "evil doers." I suggest our Christian values are missing or at least sparse in our governmental ways whatever worldly theory is employed and it always will be. In you essay you claim, "Government aid is not the same as private charity, and we insult our savior by claiming it is so." I would agree with this but clarify that this claim is made, not just in the ways governments aid people through social programs, but also in the ways government claims to aid its citizens through declarations of war and through other protectionist forms of foreign policy. Furthermore, if we are successful at governing from our Christian teachings what would that look like? Would there be no social programs? What would our collective responsibility to be to our nation? Of course there are many many considerations and much would be different.

    I feel there is much you offer in this essay and all your essay’s. I find your blog to be uplifting and spiritually stimulating and I hope you find my critique respectful of your views. Please keep the blog going and I pray that God continues to bless you.

    BJ Kitchin
    bj.kitchin@umit.maine.edu

    ReplyDelete
  3. BJ, I must first thank you greatly for the time and energy you put into your response, and I find many of your critiques quite accurate. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and I hope to post increasingly relevant material as time goes on.

    First, while the Luther quote is valuable, it was not part of the article itself but merely a header to the page. It's value does lie in hyperbole, and I'm sure it's declaration is not limited to secular schooling.

    On the persecution of Christians, it is quite true that they have returned the favor on many occasions. I suppose the primary thrust of my critique was that Christians are increasingly relying on human institutions for their redemption. I see the Socialist trend emerging in Christian circles and that it encourages this kind of government reliance. I am not overly concerned about Obama, but his church did serve as an example of this trend. However, I take your point that one could say the same about capitalism. Neither economic institution can be the cure of all our ills. My primary critique of Socialism is that it claims to be the charitable solution when it in fact is not. However, Capitalism is no less guilty of such oppression.

    Regarding your conclusions on foreign policy, I thoroughly agree. I don't think we are actually helping people at all by the kind of ventures that we have undergone, which is why I voted for the Constitution Party in this most recent election.

    "Furthermore, if we are successful at governing from our Christian teachings what would that look like? Would there be no social programs? What would our collective responsibility to be to our nation?"

    I am unsure of what a truly Christ-based government would look like, and I am sure that no such entity could exist practically until His return. Maybe these are issues into which I should attempt to delve in the future.

    Thank you again!

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  4. Anonymous10:40 AM

    many of the most outspoken proponents of the emerging church are actually quite outspoken about the pitfalls of reliance on government. There is quite a difference between liberation theology and a theology of a God who liberates from oppressive systems and practices (the God who rescues out of Egypt, cares for the widow and orphan, instills a jubilee concept, offers His son as a sacrifice).

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  5. True Anon. He is a very different God indeed. However, I see many in that movement acting as though God prefers to use the government to meet those ends. They see that justice comes from above (politically) rather than action from fellow believers.

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