Agape as political love means that unconditional, egalitarian love for one’s neighbour can serve as the foundation for a new order. The form of appearance of this love is what we might also call the idea of communism: the urge to realise an egalitarian social order of solidarity.
The only church that illuminates is a burning church Slavoj Žižek
[This posting was initially published Dec. 15, 2013 on “We Occupy Jesus,” a now defunct blog that began during the Occupy Wall Street era for Christians rethinking their faith.]
So, word is that doing blog posts with the teaser, “10 reasons ______” tends to draw page views, so here goes nothing.
1) Communism is really a “Christian heresy.”
This claim has been around for almost as long as the term itself, but it is actually literally true. The term “communism” was coined by Etienne Cabet, a unorthodox Christian and French political radical. In fact, Cabet titled his five-volume opus advancing his philosophy as “real Christianity according to Jesus Christ.” In the mid-1800s, Karl Marx’s atheist reformulation of communism began to displace the original religious vision. We all know how that turned out. It’s time followers of Jesus took communism back.
2) Jesus really was a proto-Communist.
Adequately proving this claim would require a lengthy exposition of several passages in the Christian canon. Hopefully most readers here have some familiarity with these, so I’ll just cite a few samples. First of all are the famous, “all things common” verses in Act 4 & 6. Add to this the references in the Gospels to the “common purse” the disciples used. Jesus repeatedly attacks wealth throughout the gospels, most bluntly perhaps, “Woe to them that are wealthy, for they have their reward.”
Another favorite text of mine is Matthew 25’s prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats. Helping the hungry, homeless, sick, prisoner, and stranger merits eternal reward and not doing so eternal destruction. What is often misunderstood about this passage is that it is not a description of individual judgment, but rather of “nations.” Jesus is not commanding individual acts of charity or “Works of Mercy” but a collective obligation for “ta ethne” to care for the needy of a society.
3) Communism needs Jesus.
If you’ve read my first blog post here at WOJ, you know that I am a ex-Christian who nevertheless still credits following Jesus for leading me directly to communism. However, the problem is that the word and the movement have been entirely overtaken by associations with tyrannical regimes. Many communists do reject such regimes today, but that seems inadequate to convince the average modern person that communism can be advocated free of such damning history. By claiming Jesus as the inspiration for a new communism, new possibilities can be glimpsed vividly. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Loving Shepherd, and Healer of the Broken-Hearted. A new communism that takes his teachings as a fundamental element of its inspiration has great promise for a new departure.
4) Communism isn’t possible without Christians.
The Communist movement that waged revolutions in the early 20th century is now nearly totally dead and, most importantly, nothing they accomplished came close to creating actual communism. One can debate whether these regimes were some sort of socialism, but even most Marxists tend to agree that these attempts to create socialism fell short. They fell short most fundamentally because they were violently opposed by the capitalist West, which waged decades of opposition.
However, another critical reason 20th century communism failed is that it didn’t really build on the passions of the world’s people. These passions are most pervasively expressed in terms of devotion to the precepts of a religion, and Christianity is the world’s largest religion. By definition, a communist transformation of the world must include Christians and Christians will be the largest fraction of such a world, unless Christianity becomes extinct. As Mark Twain might quip, reports of the death of religion are slightly exaggerated.
5) Communism is the logical outcome of perfect love.
Jesus declared, “be ye perfect” and it is clear from the context that he meant perfect in loving others. 1 John 3:17 exhorts that if we say we love our brother but do not share to meet his needs, then we do not follow the will of Jesus.
Another French radical Louis Blanc created the famous phrase, “from each according to ability, to each according to need” which has served as a simple definition of communism ever since. However, in this form, it lacks a vivid sense of what it really means. If we rephrase it in keeping with perfect love, we get something like this:
“From each being loving wholeness and generous creative work according to their authentic capabilities. To each being, loving wholeness and material prosperity according to their authentic needs.”
Why is communism so important to me? Because everyday I am reminded that most of us are not free to fulfill our lives, but exist trapped in a system of dehumanization and perverted values. I can’t shake the images of starving children or even children who simply have to live in a world where they can never get a decent education. Communism, especially a “communism of love,” gives voice to my passions for an emancipatiory transformation of our world. I’ll close with a quote from Jodi Dean, author of The Communist Horizon (2012):
No other word symbolizes anti-capitalism like communism. And that’s reason enough to claim it, hold onto it, and organize around it.