I had the opportunity to review a recently aired television special sponsored by Coral Ridge Ministries, titled “Socialism: A Clear and President Danger.” The documentary, available on DVD, tackles the rise of socialism in America, and essentially asks the question, “What would Jesus do?”
For Christians, most of whom receive conflicting guidance on this topic, this is a critical question for the times in which we live.
If you’re bored and you want to start something, toss the word “socialist” into a discussion about the Obama Administration and the 111th U.S. Congress, and watch the fireworks.
The President himself bristles at the charge, declaring to the House Republican Conference in Baltimore, “I am not an ideologue.”
In a subsequent speech to the graduates of the University of Michigan, he said “Throwing around phrases like ’socialist’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover’... has the effect of comparing our government…to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.”
Others complain that those levying the “socialist” charge are hypocrites because they depend on government services daily. I find this argument maddening in its sheer ignorance.
National security, law enforcement, public safety, public infrastructure, and the administration of justice have nothing to do with socialism. These are inherently governmental functions.
Government is designed to be a protector of our rights and enforcer of our laws. The Bible describes government as “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
George Washington declared “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant -- and a fearful master.” Because of this, our nation’s founders took steps to design a central government limited in size, scope and function.
Socialism, on the other hand, is government control or direction of the production and distribution of private goods and services. The confiscation and redistribution of privately-held wealth according to someone’s arbitrary notion of “fairness” is socialism.
If government assumes the role of provider as well as protector and enforcer, and confiscates wealth from private individuals and businesses to perform its expanded role, that is socialism.
When the federal government owns 60 percent of General Motors, the nation’s largest, and the world’s 2nd largest, automobile manufacturer, it has crossed the line into socialism.
What Illinois state senator Barack Obama in 2001 described as “the redistribution of wealth” or “redistributive change” in the name of “political and economic justice in society” is socialism.
When U.S. Senator Obama told Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher during the 2008 presidential campaign, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody”, he was talking like a socialist.
When President Obama declared recently, “I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money,” thereby implying government should dictate wages and salaries, he was advocating socialism.
So when President Obama complains about the use of the word “socialist” to describe his political agenda, our response, paraphrasing the immortal words of William Shakespeare, should be “he doth protest too much, methinks.”
The documentary itself mentions the infamous Newsweek issue, “We Are All Socialists Now,” and shows the Rev. Al Sharpton, an ally of the President, saying “the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama.” They have revealed their agenda, even as the President and his allies try to conceal it.
The focus of the documentary is the struggle Christians seem to have with discerning God’s will when it comes to socialism versus free enterprise, or capitalism. After all, it opines, the language of socialism is seductive to the Christian – who doesn’t want “social justice” or to meet the needs of the poor?
Dr. Jay Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of the book Money, Greed and God, credits socialism with “the best marketing” in terms of appealing to human compassion and the ideal of everyone sharing their possessions so all have enough. In contrast, capitalism, with its emphasis on the accumulation of wealth, appears to be morally deficient.
This siren song cannot, however, drown out the sounds of death and destruction at the hands of socialist regimes throughout history. Since 1917, 120 million people have been killed by communist regimes, the grisly laboratories of socialism.
In the documentary, Joseph Farah, journalist and editor of the website WorldNetDaily (WND), speaks to the failed history of socialism:
“All you have to do is read The Black Book of Communism to see that socialism should be a thoroughly discredited ideology on the ash heap of history, but unfortunately it seems like every generation has to relearn these lessons for themselves.”
The rhetorical appeal of socialism also doesn’t square with the Biblical truth about human nature, and real-world illustrations are presented of failed socialist experiments, such as the Pilgrims’ attempt to use common property to feed and care for one another.
Only when they divided property into private plots were the industrious motivated to produce, and the lazy forced to work if they were to eat. The switch from communal farming to privatized farming led to the colony’s most abundant harvest, and their largest Thanksgiving celebration in 1623.
Amigos for Christ, a charity operating in Nicaragua, describes how it collapsed after following a communal model, reconstituted itself using private property and incentives, and is now thriving, with 120 people starting their own businesses and creating jobs for others.
So why does socialism keep rearing its ugly head?
In addition to flowery rhetoric, the appeal of socialism is kept alive by the academic community, where intellectuals to this day continue to preach the evils of capitalism and the morality of socialism. Socialism’s failures, they teach, are the result of flawed institutions rather than the nature of man, the consistent failure of socialistic experiments at all levels of human interaction notwithstanding.
The documentary features many people who were socialists or Marxists in their college days, but who “converted” to capitalism as they matured, such as Dr. Richards, Dr. Marvin Olasky, provost of The King’s College in New York City, and David Horowitz, an American conservative writer and policy advocate who was a leader in the New Left movement in the 1960s.
The catalyst for Dr. Richards and Dr. Olasky’s conversion was the conflict between socialism and Christianity. Atheism is the cornerstone of socialism which, according to the documentary’s narrator, Dr. Jerry Newcombe, seeks to “dethrone God and undermine the Biblical truth about human nature.” This objective is cited frequently in the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who together wrote The Communist Manifesto.
The documentary makes a compelling Biblical case for free enterprise. Two of the Ten Commandments clearly speak to ownership of private property. “You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15)” implies private ownership, as does “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:17).” 1 Thessalonians 3:10 states, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”
It also refutes the liberal claim that Acts 2:44-45 is an endorsement of socialism:
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
This practice was a voluntary act of charity among the believers, and not a clarion call for government to take someone’s wealth and give it to another. While charity is freely given, government programs are thievery masquerading as compassion, and they are fueled by covetousness, envy and resentment.
Socialists present their case as if wealth is a finite asset, and that one person’s possession of wealth comes at the expense of another. To the contrary, wealth is an infinite resource, limited only by the will, the ingenuity and work ethic of human beings.
The documentary uses the analogy of a pie to illustrate the socialist view of wealth. Socialists see the pie as fixed and those who get a bigger slice are leaving less for others. In reality, however, capitalism creates more pies.
The most compelling testimony in the documentary comes from Kai Chen, a Chinese immigrant who fled the oppression of his home country, came to America, worked at a fast food restaurant while taking adult education classes to learn English, and is now a wealthy businessman with a political science degree from UCLA.
“It's [America] founded for the free souls like me! Now we come here and want to establish ourselves. We create value; we're not zombies. We do not suck value from others! We create value. Now I live in this house; it's a beautiful house. I didn't steal; I didn't rob. I didn't do anything bad. I saw opportunity, I create value, I enjoy my life. That's what it is; that's what America is about.
“You need me! America! You need me, a person emigrated from China, to tell you what this country means. You don't even know what this country means anymore! You lose...you have lost it. You have lost it because you don't read the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence anymore. I was born Chinese, but I chose to be American. I chose to be American because I chose to be free. That's all.
“Once America is perverted, once America is gone, so goes the world. I mean, where am I going to go? Where are the Kai Chens in the world going to go? American people, you need to hear what I say. I'm here to tell you, do not change. You exist with a special meaning by God.”
An extra feature on the DVD, “Socialism and the Media,” describes the role of the media and the entertainment industry in keeping socialism alive. A sermon from the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, the founder of Coral Ridge Ministries, on “Government – A Fearful Master,” and features on the history of socialism and the Biblical basis for a free market, round out the DVD.
The DVD and its companion book, “10 Truths About Socialism” co-authored by Robert Knight and others, are available for sale on the Web.