Lately, there have appeared some statements by certain church pastors extolling the ‘virtues’ of Socialism and claiming its endorsement in the Bible. Nor are they the only class of religious leaders who have been publicly and strongly advocating the Socialist way.
Though this phenomenon has been very visible recently, it is hardly a new thing. Various portions of Christian church bodies have been enamored with and even actively practiced forms of Socialism in America more than 150 years ago.
“Bible Communists” in 19th Century America
The “Bible Communists” were a group founded by one John H. Noyes and a few disciples in 1841. They got their start in Vermont and later flourished after moving to Oneida, New York.
Noyes himself was a seminary and Yale Divinity school graduate who embraced an extreme form of the doctrine of perfectionism and promoted it publically. As a result, Noyes was rejected for ordination.
Perfectionism as Noyes perceived it, was the teaching that upon salvation the sinner is immediately able to become perfectly free of sin. This also led to Noyes further embracing the notion that whole communities of disciples could form perfected groups of people living in a utopian paradise.
As many cultists tend to do, Noyes managed to gather a cadre of disciples which numbered 306 people at its height in the Oneida location. There were a few other satellite sites in Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey as well.
Moreover, as cultists also invariably do, Noyes took a few biblical truths and then added his own abhorrent notions in abundance thus twisting sacred doctrine to his taste. Here is a small taste of just one of Noyes’ teaching concerning the family system in “Biblical Communism.”
Noyes’s …considered sexual union very important but rejected monogamy and the idea that one man and one woman should become closely attached to each other. The application of his views led to the practice of complex marriage in his community, in which every woman was the wife of every man and every man was the husband of every woman. Noyes also believed that Socialism without religion was impossible and that the extended family system devised by him could dissolve selfishness and demonstrate the practicality of perfectionism on Earth. …Though marriage was complex, the Perfectionists denied the charge of free love. Sexual relations were strictly regulated, and the propagation of children was a matter of community control. Those who were to produce children were carefully chosen and paired. Children remained with their mother until they could walk but were then placed in a common nursery.
The consequences of this system resulted in the first experiments in eugenics through selective breeding of human beings in the Oneida Community. That is, Noyes and the ‘community’ determined who would be paired sexually with whom based on superior human characteristics.
Between 1869 and 1880 there was a selective breeding programme (“stirpiculture”) with parents chosen for intellectual, physical and spiritual characteristics. Fifty-eight children were born.
That these practices were considered remotely biblical was and is absurd. Thankfully, “Biblical Communism” met its demise in a relatively short period of time.
The communities surrounding Oneida in New York began to object to these family practices in particular. Eventually, due to the public pressure, the Oneida Community disbanded in 1881 and Noyes and a few others moved to Canada where he exited this life in 1886.
In case the name “Oneida” seemed familiar to readers you should know that, ironically, they became an independent manufacturer of silver plates and silverware and are still around today. Some of the followers of Noyes had developed skill in this area which they used to generate revenue for the “Biblical Communists” and this ended up becoming a Capitalist enterprise!
The Promise of Heaven on Earth Is the Siren Song of Socialism
According to Greek mythology, the Sirens were half-human beings who lured sailors to their doom by singing a bewitching song that was irresistible for any human. For some who claim Christ, the Socialist promise of heaven on earth is akin to a Siren’s song.
The “Biblical Communism” of Noyes and his group was similar to Marxism in all areas with one glaring exception. Noyes tried to include Christianity and God into the mix.
However, even that inclusion couldn’t save his Socialist endeavor for one reason in particular. He confused the inclusion of God with the sovereignty of God.
Marx’s dream of a workers’ paradise and Noyes’ dream of human perfectionism are both versions of a utopian heaven on earth. The problem is God has sovereignly declared that earth and heaven are forever separated and therefore heaven on earth can never exist!
It doesn’t matter how much you or I or anyone might desire heaven on earth, God has decided differently. According to His Word, there is a glorious paradise awaiting the faithful and a new earth and new heavens will comprise the real perfection in our future lives with Christ.
The Siren song of heaven on earth is deceptive and comes from a false notion that imperfect human beings can create a perfect world. In biblical terms, it could be called the lie that sinful people could make a sinless world.
However, this hasn’t stopped many ‘leaders’ today who still attempt to adopt a Socialist view of Christianity within their organizations. A recent exchange on social media concerning a pastor’s insistence that Christianity endorses Socialism is illustrative.
In a twitter exchange, a Baptist pastor made the following claims,
Rev. William Barber stated, “When we embrace moral language, we must ask, does our policy care for the least of these? Does it lift up those who are most marginalized and dejected in our society? Does it establish justice? That is the moral question. If someone calls it socialism, then we must compel them to acknowledge that the Bible must then promote socialism. Because Jesus offered free healthcare, and he never charged the leper a co-pay.”
Congressman Dan Crenshaw from Texas gave a proper rebuke to these claims on Twitter,
Crenshaw tweeted, “Deliberate misreading of Biblical principles by DNC to promote socialism. The Bible teaches charity with one’s own time and money. Socialism teaches charity with other people’s time and money. So….not the same thing.”
The real destructive force of Socialism in practice can only be appreciated when testimony is given by those who have lived under its cruel mantle. Here is an important and timely video posted on Twitter from such a person who escaped the Castro regime in Cuba.
The Erroneous Biblical Justification for Christian Socialism
The Leftist faith leaders who champion Socialism in Christianity aren’t limited to a Baptist pastor on social media. In fact, the current Pope has recently been tagged with that accusation.
In 2015, Pope Francis produced both an encyclical [a ruling interpreting Christian practice] and a speech with the message of Socialism as a righteous system at its core. He attacked Capitalism as,
the “mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” and an “idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills.”
His proposed solution calls for the government to guarantee,
rights to land, labor and lodging—
In order for the government to provide these guarantees, it has to exert a Socialist level of control over the means of production and distribution of goods. In other words, the state has to force the people to give their production to the state and trust it will be redistributed “fairly.”
The consequences of this procedure have invariably been disastrous throughout history. What is the justification for such foolishness in both Catholic and Protestant groups?
There is one passage of Scripture used by all who promote some form of Christian Socialism to justify their beliefs. The passage describes the experience of the first community of Christians in Jerusalem from the fourth chapter of Acts.
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own and with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:32-35 [NKJV]
One can easily see that the possibility of living in a faith community like this would be very attractive. However, it is erroneous to believe that this was anything other than a unique event, and human attempts to duplicate it are rife with the failure of human pride.
The Jerusalem church at birth and infancy was unique in two particular areas. First, it was directly administered by the apostles themselves and none questioned the rightness of that and all gave willingly believing in that, at least for a short time.
Secondly, it was the closest example to a ‘perfect’ church ever, and even there, just as in the Garden at the beginning, sin crept in quickly. Once that happened, the idea of a humanly perfected Christian church on earth was an impossibility.
The remainder of the New Testament gives abundant witness to this fact. From Acts chapter 5 through all the letters to various churches by Paul, Peter, and John, the story told is of a church broken up into small groups in various cities, imperfectly struggling against persecution, legalism, greed and false doctrine.
Teaching that the Bible, and therefore Christian doctrine, supports a Socialistic system is a prime example of human pride overstepping Divine bounds. As the Word of God reminds us, overstepping Divine bounds is always fraught with terrible consequences.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:18-21 [NKJV]
Sources: The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, 1975
Featured and Top Image courtesy of Andrew Aliferis’ Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Syracuse University Library, Department of Special Collections
Oneida Community Collection
Inset Image 2 courtesy of stu mayhew’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Republic of Korea Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of Andrew E. Larsen’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
All other sources linked or cited in the text
Originally published in TIL Journal