Why Socialism and Christianity are Incompatible

Mixing religion and politics is not usually something I condone when it comes to concrete issues and policies. But ideologically, the world view I have from Christianity does guide me towards a certain political ideology – and away from others.I believe that the prime purpose of government is to ensure every citizen’s right and opportunity to seek her own fortune and happiness – making sure that nobody hinders others in doing the same. Secondarily, to help those people who for certain reasons fail in taking care of themselves.

Socialism has a certain appeal to many; who can argue against a call for greater care for the weak? But the problem with socialism is that it builds on the belief that mankind can, in fact, make the world better – that by adopting the right policies we can turn the world into a harmonious, egalitarian, and truly wonderful society.

I do not share this world view. As a Christian, I believe that humans are inherently sinners, although with capacity for doing good with God’s help. The story told in the Bible is one where God will re-create this world at the end of time (and beginning of eternity). God will make all things new and give us a world with no hatred, evil, or suffering. Such an undertaking is not within our capacity – only God can do that.

Socialism as an ideology is inherently flawed, because it believes in people’s best intentions. It aims to institutionalize a solidarity believed to be central to the salvation of humanity. But solidarity is not our salvation. Building a system that loves your neighbor does no better job than actually loving your own neighbor. On the contrary, such a massive system has countless more weaknesses and opportunities for abuse because of the sheer size and opaqueness of bureaucracy.

But, some may ask, shouldn’t we at least try to make the world better? This is missing the point. All politicians believe they are making the world better. To me, the ideological foundations of socialism render its ideas worthless. It is better to acknowledge the limitations of Man and work with them to get the best of the situation, than believe in a utopian prospect of revolution.

This is why I stand politically to the right side of the arena  The Social Democrats may have some merits, but going further left than that I could never do with a clear conscience. Socialist ideology is simply incompatible with everything I believe in.

As always, I will give my vote to the Conservative Party on Tuesday.


Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

17 thoughts on “Why Socialism and Christianity are Incompatible”

  1. I don’t place my vote according to what ideology that bears most resemblance to my interpretation of Christianity. My approach to politics is very much pragmatic. Bear in mind that the parties are more concerned with getting power than actually acting according to systems of beliefs. The Social Democrats are not that different from the Liberals any longer. Someone ought to write a book called “A New Kind of Politician”.

  2. Thank you, Lars, I was expecting a comment like this.

    I acknowledge that there are many different approaches to voting. If you cast your vote pragmatically, according to power aspirations of the day, it may seem as if Liberals and Social Democrats aren’t that different. In these cases, I will not pour judgment on anybody voting left-wing.

    If you do, however, take ideology into account, I believe that Socialism is clearly the wrong way to go.

    Sounds like an interesting book 🙂 I’m sure Naser Khader would have loved to be the author. Looks like his day in the sun may be ending, though.

  3. Well as a conservative fellow I gave my vote to the conservative people’s party. As I’ve always done. However, I see no conflict in being a socialist and Christian. I believe political parties are secular and should remain so. Religious parties, in my mind, should not be allowed, except in the name of democracy. Christianity in a sense is very socialistic. Share everything. The servant is the greatest and the last (least) are first. But as you point out our sinful nature works contrary to these principles. So a totalitarian socialist state that precedes a communist state is totally unacceptable. Democracy is the lesser evil. I agree with Winston Churchill’s dictum: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

  4. Good to meet a fellow, Michael 🙂

    I agree that political parties should be secular (sorry, KD) and you are also correct in pointing out the similarities between Christianity and Socialism. But that is only on the face of it – the difference is in the foundation. If you don’t care about the foundations, go ahead, vote leftist if you like. But if you take the foundations into account, I still believe the ideology renders Socialism inferior.

    And yes, Churchill still holds true.

  5. Sorry for joining the conversation a little late (and for the long comment!)… We probably disagree with each other, however I think that may be partly because we define socialism differently.

    As far as I can see modern socialists have dropped the idea of progress and instead define socialism as a system of politics where the focus is on the role of the community, the community is privileged over the individual. In contrast political conservatism/economic liberalism favours the individual over the community. Again these are rather simplistic definitions.

    A second problem is that the bible does not really address the issue of political ideologies or governance directly. In fact only 3 types of government are described in any detail: a theocracy, a monarchy (which is not portrayed as the ideal) and oppressive empire/captivity. As this doesn’t really correlate with our contemporary political system we need to look at the bible’s larger picture and the principles we find in it and try to apply these (and again as we might disagree on these, here is a third place we might disagree!)

    In my understanding the biblical story tells us that we are relational, we were created (in the image of God) to be comunitarian, in relationship with God and those around us. However sin entered the world and destroyed these relationships and the community by turning our focus onto ourselves. This is sin and its results are relationships and communities broken by individuality and selfishness.

    The story of the scriptures id God’s effort to restore these relationships, between God and us and between us and those around us. The laws found in the torah were designed to create community (interestingly no jails were created-serious criminals were executed, others were excluded from the community which was seen as the ultimate punishment). The idea of the jubilee was to stop individuals accumulating land/property which was supposed to be hared amongst the community. The later prophets duel task was to call people back to relationship with God by abandoning idolatry and into relationship with each other through restorative social justice.

    In the New Testament Jesus declared the kingdom of God was here and that christians had duel nationality. His death restored the connection to God and through this relationships with others was no possible. He taught community values which the early church followed. Common ownership of property was common amongst the early church and the early church fathers taught that charity was an act of restitution because ownership of property was an injustice. The turn to the individual and the loss of these radical social teachings followed Christianity’s establishment as a state religion.

    So I see in the bible the teaching that a focus on myself and the individual over the community is a result of sin, and that as a christian I should aim to be restored in my relationship with God and those around me. I am to replace selfishness with community. These are hard teaching, at odds with the world (and sadly with the way christianity is often lived).

    Yes, I’m a sinful human in a sinful world, so my focus is turned from God and others towards myself, the individual. But I also believe that through Jesus I’m reconnected to God, I’m a new creature, and my relationships (with God and others) are restored. I’m now a citizen of the kingdom of God which Jesus instigated. And whilst it won’t become a physical reality until the second coming and the recreation of the world, I believe I’m called to live kingdom values now, to try and further kingdom principles now, not further the selfish principles of my former sinful life.

    So does this affect the way I vote? Certainly. I recognize that all politicians are imperfect and are working to further their goals rather than the kingdom of Gods, however I will use my vote, to vote for the “least objectionable”. Just because I know that sinful humans are limited, and that the kingdom won’t be established until the second coming doesn’t mean that I should vote for a political party based on the principle of individuality and selfishness- the result of sin, the life I claim to have left behind when I became a christian. Rather I seek to support any (even if only slight and flawed) expression of the kingdom/community whilst holding onto the advent hope.

    (As I noted earlier, if we start from different foundations we’ll disagree… I understand that there are other ways of seeing the bible’s big picture, which will also lead to a different view. So thanks for letting me disagree with you on your blog again!)

  6. Hej Kenneth. Tilgiv mig at jeg skriver på dansk, men det er på mit modersmål, at jeg formulerer mig bedst:)

    Et spændende indlæg du har skrevet! Jeg er enig i, at man ikke skal sammenblande religion og politik. Det er gået galt før!

    Omvendt af dig finder jeg større sammenhæng mellem socialismen (eller snarere socialdemokratismen, som blev toneangivende i Danmark) og et kristent næstekærlighedslivssyn end mellem liberalismen/konservatismen og kristendommen.

    Når jeg læser Jesu lignelse om den barmhjertige samaritaner, virker det på mig som om, at Jesus indirekte siger, at vi mennesker kan være med til at gøre verden bedre for hinanden.

    Socialismen opstod som en modvægt til konservatismen og liberalismen, fordi de mange arbejdere ikke blev behandlet ordentligt. Ganske vist har de borgerlige ideologier en langt større forståelse for samfundets værdier (inkl. kristendommens betydning for vor kultur) – men på det konkretpolitiske plan er det i høj grad socialdemokratismen, som har skabt den høje levestandard vi kender i dag, fordi man gennem denne ideologi netop troede på, at man gennem solidaritet kunne gøre livet bedre for de fleste, frem for at det kun var få, som havde det økonomisk godt.

    For Danmarks vedkommende viste en nylig undersøgelse i Kristeligt Dagblad, at de fleste folkekirkepræster stemte på SF og dernæst Socialdemokraterne…

    Rent historisk har nogle af socialismens grundlæggere været ateistisk orienteret, men i den danske arbejderbevægelse (hvoraf Socialdemokratiet og mange fagbevægelser er rundet af), var der også mange medlemmer af Folkekirken, som sikrede, at man undlod at nedlægge Folkekirken.
    Jeg kan godt forstå, hvis man dengang nærede et had til kirken, fordi den blev betragtet som en del af en undertrykkende stat.
    Men der var altså også kristne medlemmer i arbejderbevægelsen, som holdt fast ved kristendommen.

    Jeg tror ikke, at man som kristen skal have nogen kvaler ved at stemme på de fleste af Folketingets partier, men for mit vedkommende hælder jeg overvejende til socialdemokratismen, fordi den rent historisk har taget hånd om samfundets svage – ligesom i lignelsen om den barmhjertige samaritaner.

  7. Thank you for disagreeing again, Andrew – wouldn’t be any fun without it 🙂

    You state that socialism puts community over individual, whilst liberalism/conservatism does the opposite. That is the socialist telling of the story. I would rather put that (pure) socialism promotes community at the expense of the individual, whilst liberalism/conservatism tries to fathom the need for both.

    Conservatism as expressed by the Conservative Party in Denmark does not in my opinion undermine community or solidarity. Rather it seeks to strengthen people’s natural fellowships and free will in stead of imposing a lowest denominator on everybody.

    I believe you are correct in justifying a relational reading of the Bible; that may shed new light on several topics. But I must also point out that Christianity differs from many other world religions in its focus on the value of the individual. Yes, individualism as in selfishness is a result of sin. But I believe the Bible teaches us the value of each individual person and his/her right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness in this world and beyond. Jesus died for each individual person; none of us are expendable for the greater good of the community. Modern-day human rights are solidly rooted in Christianity and its unique notion of the value of the individual. And I believe that (pure) Socialism opposed this, as it opposed Christianity.

    Did this answer your question too, Lasse?

    @Jens Christian: Jeg betragter ikke Socialdemokratiet som socialister, jf. tidligere kommentarer, så det er ikke dem, jeg sigter til, men længere til venstre.

    Jeg anerkender gerne Socialdemokratiets rolle i at skabe det Danmark, vi kender i dag. Men jeg mener ikke man kan sige, de nu er mere næstekærlige partier til højre for midten. At folkekirkepræster stemmer SF har ikke nødvendigvis noget med deres tro at gøre, men kan lige så godt være et udtryk for uddannelsesniveau, sektor m.m., som ofte påvirker den slags.

    For at sætte det på spidsen, så fortæller “Den barmhjertige samaritaner” os, at vi skal tage os af de svage. Socialisterne vil have, at staten skal gøre det 🙂

  8. This subject is like a never ending story.. we will never agree on this as citizens of the same country or as christians or as 7th day adventists. Nevertheless it’s quite interesting to watch the development in the discussion. I thought I might add a comment..
    Although most of us agree that politics and religion should be kept separate, many still use one to argue for the other. I find this contradictive.
    As a Danish citizen I choose where to place my vote based on what I think will be best for the whole country, not just myself, not what will best for christianity or christians in this country. Thankfully it’s not the politicians job to make this country more christian. It’s the chritians’ job. Let politicians do what they do best: Protect freedom. For everyone. Even those who only think of themselves. People will learn what is best in time. I do not want a government who tells me what is best. I’m an adult, I want a government who ensures I have the opportunity to find out on my own. And one thats still being reasonable of course.. 🙂 (Sorry DF- thats not you!)

  9. Spoken like a true libertarian, Mette! I agree – politicians should protect freedom. But I guess that for me that belief does have roots in Christianity. I believe Christianity teaches us the value of the individual, which can be argued paved the way to modern ideals of liberty and justice for all. And of course, that includes the freedom to choose your own faith or none at all, without political or societal interference, positive as well as negative.

  10. He he… Kenneth du siger at det at folkekirkepræster stemmer SF blandt andet hænger sammen med deres uddannelse. Er de så efter din mening dårligt uddannede? Pædagoger og lærere har blandt andet også historie for at stemme socialistisk… Er de også dårligt uddannede eller arbejder de bare i den forkerte sektor?
    Jeg mener faktisk det er sundt for et land både at værdsætte den fri vilje og det sociale ansvar, på det punkt klarer Danmark sig nok egentlig ret godt ikke!?!

    Jeg vil nok alligevel altid stemme på dem der varetager samfundets svagestes interesser bedst. Jeg mener det lidt vigtigere at bruge den frie vilje til at vælge at passe godt på vores børn, syge og gamle, end at vælge hvor meget vi vil betale i skat 😉

    Vidste du forresten godt at Bendt Bendtsen siger godmorgen skat to gange hver morgen? … Når han vågner ved siden af fruen og når han møder i folketinget.

  11. @Per: Jeg er grundlæggende enig i, at vi har en udmærket balance i Danmark. Men m.ht. til den frie vilje vil jeg stadig principielt mene, at børnene f.eks. er forældrenes ansvar. Derfor er det forældrene, der skal bruge penge på deres børn – ikke mig (som skatteyder). Så bliver det frie valg kollektivt og ikke individuelt.

    I øvrigt grineren den med Bendtsen 🙂

  12. It seems that liberals have picked up on the habit of using the precepts of Christianity for the purpose of promoting socialism. After all, wouldn’t Jesus be willing to pay higher taxes in order to help out the less fortunate?

    Oh, I don’t think so.

    God created Man with free will. There is the heart of the problem, is it not? Why didn’t God create Man without the capacity to commit evil? The answer is that if Man had no capacity to do evil, neither would he have the capacity to love.

    When government confiscates money from the people and calls it “tax,” the people have not given the government their money out of love. The force of government is like a gun held to the head. Taxes are paid because we are given little choice. Our tax money being redistributed to the “less fortunate” is not an act of love at all.

    When I have compassion on that fellow at the street corner who’s missing a leg, and I give him $20, that’s an act of love. That is the kind of thing that Jesus would do. When the Congress decides to confiscate the fruits of my labor and give them to someone else in order to buy a vote, that is nothing less than sanctioned larceny and pure evil.

    Government largess is administered by systems, and systems are brutal. There is no compassion from government. The two words do not go together.

    Jesus was not about making anyone behave in this manner or that manner…Jesus was about each of us deciding for ourselves how we are going to behave and treat each other. We are told how He wants us to act, and from that point it’s all strictly voluntary.

    A man in chains is capable of neither acts of hatred nor acts of love. God does not want to see how we treat our fellow man with a gun held to our heads. He wants to see how we treat our fellow man when we are free to act as we choose.

  13. What, two years have passed and not a single reply? Not a single challenge? Is my position unassailable? I think it is indeed.

    Liberals want to dictate that others display goodness—and that would be “goodness” as they define it. Conservatives would have us all be free to decide for ourselves whether or not we choose to show goodness, and answer to God for it.

    Liberalism and statism are tools of the devil.

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