How do Communism and Christianity work together?

 
BY: Scott Hiley| August 2, 2016
QCPUSA declares that it's okay to be religious and a communist; it's actually a good to bring people together of all religions for one cause. As a Christian, I was wondering if you could either explain how Communism and Christianity can work together or give me titles of articles/books that delve into this topic? Thank you very much for taking the time to read and answer my question!
ACommunism and Christianity have a long history.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus spread the revolutionary message that the needs of the poor and the marginalized are at the center of the kingdom of God.  Following in the Jewish tradition of the jubilee year, he announced, “[The Lord] has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” From the ancient bishops who blasted moneylenders from the pulpit to the modern-day prophets of the civil rights movement, faithful Christians have carried that message through the ages.

At the same time, however, ruling classes have crafted a Christianity to suit their own ends: a brutal doctrine that salvation lies in submission, and that the emperor, the slaveholder, the boss, and the husband are God’s representatives on earth.  This belief that we should suffer now and hope for better after we die is the religion that Marx famously called “the opiate of the masses”—though he also said that faith in a better world to come is the expression of needs that cannot be met under existing social conditions.

So we might say, on the one hand, that Christianity and Communism go hand-in-hand because at the core of both we find a radical message of liberation and a revolutionary understanding that our current society is incompatible with the full development of human potential.  On the other hand, Communist Christians must keep up the fight to bring Communism and Christianity together by engaging our faith communities in the struggle against exploitation and oppression that is, in my understanding, at the center of the Gospel.

For further reading on the subject, I would suggest Tim Yeager's article, "The Revolutionary Hope of Christmas" and the book The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America, by Erik Gellman and Jarod Roll.  My favorite modern example of radical Christianity is Dr. King's speech against "the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism," delivered at Riverside Church in 1967.
Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

Comments (15)

Shannon Selin | October 17, 2017 at 6:47 PM

God is Awesome and Good. Jesus is coming again.

Andrew | July 03, 2017 at 3:49 PM

On this topic, I would have definitely mentioned https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_theology

hotzpacho | May 28, 2017 at 5:16 PM

First and foremost mankind has an inner problem. While Marx may have been against religion unbeknownst to him, he invoked core principles of religious thought. While i don’t agree with religious doctrines (man made) i do believe in a creator and Jesus. Marx, like the pharisees of Jesus’ day along with antiquities self righteous rulers believed that changing the outside conditions would solve the problem. The self righteous mind believes they are righteous, but they overlook the need of repentance (changing of the mind) through love. True love must be permanent, unchanging, everlasting, with no conditions, ergo the concept of “GRACE”. This was one of the core messages of Jesus and still a message that people of our day and age overlook, avoid, and or disregard. Jesus taught that man needed to change the inner part of themselves first and through that change they would be led to change the outside conditions.

The future will be much different than the present. Good and services will be free to all people, but with that power will man prevail and grow into a great civilization or will they let that power promote their savagery and destroy the human civilization? This depends on whether or not mankind comes to the revelation/epiphany/enlightenment that they need to walk side by side with the creator rather than walking against him.

    John | July 09, 2017 at 3:25 AM

    WOW!! Your comment is outstanding.

    Scott Hiley | July 13, 2017 at 1:19 PM

    There’s a big philosophical divide at work here, that we might sum up as follows: when you want to get rid of hunger, do you start with the mind, or with the belly?

    Starting with the mind is what we see, in various forms, promoted by the gurus of capitalism. When people are dealing with economic insecurity, stress, and despair, their answer is basically, “free your mind.” Sometimes it’s yoga and meditation, other times it’s smiling more or being nice to people. In the Christian version, it’s “get right with God, instead of worrying about external things.” In the end, though, it all amounts to the same thing: telling people who are sick or unhappy or suffering that the problem is in their own mind, or in their own soul, rather than in the world.

    But there is a problem in the world. Capitalism makes people compete to stay alive. It turns greed and pride into virtues. In a world based on “the war of all against all,” how can we expect people to feel or understand the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself?

    I (and I think most Communists) agree that people need to change the way they think and understand the world. But it’s hard to do that when people’s way of seeing the world is twisted by poverty, hunger, sickness, and anxiety. If we want people to understand love and grace, it seems like we should try to get rid of an economic and social system that requires them to compete just to stay alive.

    To put it differently: in your comment, you say that we need to change people’s minds to change the world. I respond that we also need to change the world to change people’s minds. How we live and how we think/feel are intertwined; they evolve together.

    Brad | August 16, 2017 at 2:47 PM

    Ultimately, Marx saw the world through the lens of labor. I agree that he was ultimately a naturalist, although he was raised Lutheran. When Jesus lived on earth, he fought a sort of Jewish naturalism that saw Him as coming to save his people from Rome. Of course He came for a much more important problem – The most important problem. Man’s more pressing issue is not class struggle, as Marx would have us believe. Rather it is the rotting, oppressive, corrosive, all-infecting problem of sin. Sin is deifying the self. “I want to be god.” Everyone has it in them, no matter how altruistic they may appear on the outside. Sin causes communism, although perhaps a well-meaning system, to devolve into corruption whereby the individual finds ways to gather wealth and property and stature for himself. Sin is the problem with capitalism too. Sin is the problem with everything. And thus, the only solution is one that addresses the root cause. Ultimately, assuming benevolent intent, Marx wanted to institute a noble thing – a classless, fair society, which makes sense given the poverty he endured in life. Unfortunately his fatal flaw was ignoring the root cause of the struggle – sin. Thus, his ‘utopia’, if it were possible to achieve, would have been a mere shadow of the real utopia, heaven. Heaven is the place where there is no sin, afforded by the work of the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. Marxist utopia is fake – a cheap Chinese knock-off of the real thing. It’s a hopeless cause because it ignores the problem that rages is all of us.

Noah Tighe | April 21, 2017 at 7:33 PM

Is that what Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels proposed “Communism abolishes eternal truth, it abolishes all religion, and all morality” page 29 of the communist manifesto

    Scott Hiley | April 21, 2017 at 9:24 PM

    In that section of the Manifesto, Marx and Engels are systematically rebutting charges made by the bourgeoisie against communism. The passage you quote is an accusation against them (“‘Undoubtedly,’ it will be said…”), which they then refute by saying that every form of society (feudalism, capitalism, communism) has a different set of ideas. Changing property relations will change the way we think about morality, justice, religion, etc. Glad I could clarify.

Steven white | November 18, 2016 at 9:56 PM

Many was we can help like helping the mass of the poor people and the working class

Steven white | November 18, 2016 at 9:44 PM

I am a Christian and I think this is a great idea 💡

chloe | October 03, 2016 at 6:05 PM

I don’t think the doctrine of submission is even incompatible with communism. The whole idea of it in christianity, I would argue, is not about submission to a specific person or group, but rather about putting others above yourself. In my opinion, this could even be seen as a support for communism because it condemns the idea that self interest should be the driving force in any aspect of life, and certainly not economically.

Keith Arp | September 25, 2016 at 3:34 AM

BTW, Fred, those who Jesus declared to be set free from the oppressed, the oppression Jesus is speaking of is the oppression of SIN!! Just to clarify this misleading statement. Thanks. Keith

Keith Arp | September 25, 2016 at 3:28 AM

Clearly a non-christian responded to the question. Just to keep it short and sweet, Jesus did preach to love and help the poor and desperate. However, this act MUST be by choice and never enforced. Christ never taught wealth equality or forced wealth distribution. Jesus taught mankind to use the gifts given from God to live a life of peace and joy, spreading the Word of God openly, freely, and boldly. Teaching always to affirm Christian truths. Jesus claims, as do active loving Christians, that He is God, and there are no other Gods. He taught that He (Christ) is the ONLY hope for man, the only way to heaven (yes, literal heaven), and all other ideologies are false, evil, and distributed by the forces of Satan! Christ teaches the believer to love all sinners but hate the sin (all sin; the church should be better at voicing our love for all humanity while, at the same time, hating all forms of sin)! So, in short, communism and Christianity are non-capatible. However, all communist are welcome to come and “…drink of the water of life freely…”. God Bless. Keith

Fred T | August 28, 2016 at 8:16 PM

Communism and Christianity have a long history. Throughout his ministry, Jesus spread the revolutionary message that the needs of the poor and the marginalized are at the center of the kingdom of God. Following in the Jewish tradition of the jubilee year, he announced, “[The Lord] has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” From the ancient bishops who blasted moneylenders from the pulpit to the modern-day prophets of the civil rights movement, faithful Christians have carried that message through the ages.

“At the same time, however, ruling classes have crafted a Christianity to suit their own ends: a brutal doctrine that salvation lies in submission, and that the emperor, the slaveholder, the boss, and the husband are God’s representatives on earth.”

What do you have to say about Islam, whose very name is “submission”? Would you say that women and the poor are treated better under Islam?

    Abdul Noorzad | October 01, 2016 at 10:05 PM

    Actually they are . Political factions just use religion for their own benefit.

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