By Art Gallagher
Michael Riley, a Baptist minister and member of The Asbury Park Press editorial board says “Jesus was a card-carrying socialist” in his Only Human column in today’s print edition. The column is not yet on the app’s web site.
Someone better inform Barack Obama who insists that he is a Christian, that he is not a socialist, and that he was born in Hawaii.
But Riley is not writing for Obama. He’s writing to Republicans:
“I hate to break it to the far-right wing in this country (or as it is more commonly called these days, the Republican Party), but Jesus was a car-carrying socialist. Or, he would have been, if cards had been invented, and if pockets to carry the card had been around and if the word socialism had made it into the language in the first century.
I have no doubt about it.”
I have doubts about what Riley understands about Jesus, government and freedom. That there will be a slew of cancelled subscriptions to The Press as a result of Riley’s column, I have no doubt.
The first thing that struck me about Riley’s column is that he is talking about Jesus in the past tense. Even a Jesuit trained lapsed Catholic like me believes in a Living God. Why is this Baptist minister telling The Press’s remaining readers that Jesus is dead? Didn’t we just celebrate His resurrection two weeks ago?
Riley paraphrases the Gospel of Luke and Karl Marx to make his case.
“One thing you lack,” Riley quotes Luke quoting Jesus talking to the rich, “go and sell all you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
“But Jesus was a conservative compared to those who followed him,” Riley continues in the past tense again, “In the book of Acts, we read, ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common, They sold property and possession to give to anyone who had need.’
No one claimed that any of their possession were their own; they shared everything they had.
That is right out of the Marxist playbook: ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his need.’ And woe to anyone who tried to wiggle out of the deal.”
Without getting all theological and politically scientific on Michael, the Nudnik of Neptune, let me just point out two key words from his paraphrase of Luke paraphrasing Jesus that hopefully will set him straight:
Sell and Give. Both involve a concept that is fundamental to Christianity and foreign to Marxism: Choice.
Never mind that Christians believe that God created Man (and Woman) and that Marxists believe than Man created God. Let’s look at selling and giving.
In order for Jesus’s followers to sell all of their possessions, they first had to have them. Hmmm, how would that happen in a Marxist socialist society?
In order for the rich to give to the poor, someone would have to buy those possessions. More than likely someone else who was rich.
While Riley starts his column with no doubt that the dead Jesus was a socialist, he seems to have some doubt as he concludes:
Obviously, human sin makes this kind of socialistic/communist economic system unworkable over the long haul and in large groups. But capitalism is a sinner’s banquet as well, full of abuse and greed and loopholes that turn into nooses for the poor.
The point here is that socialism is not necessarily a dirty word. It seems to be sort of what God was hoping for as a model for his people. So let’s not get all high and mighty about using it as an epithet.
How about we do get high and mighty about Liberty, Choice, Charity and Responsibility.
How about the preachers and ministers do their jobs and spread The Word and convert the sinners so that capitalism, the only system that has ever worked and creates genuine sharing and empowerment as opposed to the compelled sharing and mediocrity of Marxism, can work better for the rich and the poor.
Riley’s heart might be in the right place, but his head is a dark place.