By Joel Matthews
I am not one to apply labels. It is one of the things I still bristle at. Don’t call me liberal or conservative, democrat, republican, or even independent. If I must be “categorized” then call me a pragmatic extremist. But in today’s society many people blindly follow or dismiss, without consideration, based on labels given by people in positions of power. Time need not be spent on the actual meaning of the word socialism which has become one of those terms. Those who label socialism as a bad thing profess that we are a capitalist republic and all that is capitalism is the way of our nation. Many of this same group views this country as a Christian nation. Sixty percent of Americans believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. For those that deeply believe in capitalism and profess to follow Jesus Christ, Jesus was a Socialist. One need only to read the Bible to see that this is true.
For the sake of brevity each of the following examples are a paraphrased interpretation. Feel free to examine the actual text in the version of your choice.
Let us start with St. Matthew, chapter 20. It begins with the parable of an owner of a vineyard who agreed on a daily wage for his laborers and sent them out to work. The story goes on that the man found people in the marketplace who were unemployed at the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day and brought them in to work in his vineyard and paid them the same daily wage as those who had been working since the first of the day. So that’s providing work for the unemployed and paying all of them a fair living wage no matter how many hours they had worked. Sounds like a modern government program to provide the unemployed with work. Could even be a union except there was no collective negotiation, just generosity of the employer. Generosity of the employer!? That must be when corporations make large donations to political action committees instead of giving their employees a raise.
St. Mark, chapter 10:17 is the story of a young man who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he knows he should keep all the commandments. The man replied that he had observed them all since his youth, what else did he need to do? Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. Talk about redistribution of the wealth at a much greater level than anything I have seen proposed recently. Don’t just give some money to the poor. Give it all.
St. Luke, chapter 14:13; “But when thou make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind.” Free food for the poor and disabled! Sound just like a food stamps to me.
St. John, chapter 9; Jesus came by a blind man. Blind since the day he was born. His disciples wanted to know what sin had been committed by this man or his family that he should be born blind. Jesus told them that neither he nor any member of his family had sinned to cause his blindness. Jesus restored his sight. On the weekend, for free, no charge, no premium for weekend service. Not even a request for a donation.
Jesus performed approximately 40 recorded miracles in the four Gospels. All but a handful were to heal the sick or raise the dead. Free healthcare for those who had no other recourse. In today’s society even with the generosity of many, there are still those that are homeless, hungry and dying from very curable health conditions.
St. Matthew, chapter 25:40-45 I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and you did not visit me….. In as much as you did not do it to one of the least my brethren…you did it not unto me. “I don’t want to pay for cheaters”. Really! Do you “lose” your internet purchases on your tax return? “Forget” about those cash jobs on your taxes? “Talk” your way out of a speeding ticket? Get a “doctor’s note” to avoid jury duty or get a day off of work? “Pretend” your child is younger than they are to get them in cheaper or free? “Slip” an expired coupon past the cashier at the store? St. John, chapter 8:7; He who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone. I would rather catch a cheat after the fact then let a child suffer from drawing the circle too small.
These are things we must do. Matthew 22:39 Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 5:44 Love your enemies. John 13:34 Love one another. The First book of Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of all evil. Love your family, neighbors and adversaries are all good. Love your money is not just bad, but evil. Yet in today’s society we continue to take money away from those who have no other recourse and dismiss solutions simply because they have been labeled “bad”. Demagogues use labels to scare you when you threaten their money. History teaches us that the downfall of great dynasties and nations begins with the selfish greed of those in power for the accumulation of even more wealth and power for themselves while failing to take care of those on whom their wealth is made. We look with great interest in what has been labeled “the Arab Spring”. Those who are choosing to rise up against years of oppression to choose this same freedom. We watch them and chastise their leaders for not doing the right thing, while our own nation degrades into a polarization around money.
America was born of freedom. American history is of doing what is right. I haven’t heard a word about what is right or wrong, only about how much it costs. We find plenty of money to support our lobbyists and political candidates. It is projected that monies spent in the upcoming presidential primaries and general elections will run into the billions. Corporations can now form Super Pacs that are projected to spend in the tens of billions, but apparently still need tax breaks. Yet we are running out of money for our social safety nets. How much do you love your neighbors? How much do you love your adversaries? How about total strangers? How much do you love your country? Maybe you need only answer one question. How much do you love your money?