Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Jesus Christ, the first Socialist

"Socialists in the Sooner State held that their ideals were completely in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. Building on this idea, some Oklahoma socialists argued that capitalism was an inherently unchristian system, while socialism allowed citizens to live according to the Biblical concept of cooperation. To them, socialism was a more moral, Christian alternative than the current economic system. As a result, the message of socialist organizers and candidates was often couched in religious terms. Many party members saw Jesus as the first socialist, and they considered it natural to make their case in fundamentalist, Christian churches. In these ways, the Socialist Party of Oklahoma managed to present the message of socialism, not as an alien doctrine, but as an alternative well within the boundaries of accepted American political discourse. Such a feat was unmatched elsewhere in the United States, and it helps explain the remarkable success of Oklahoma socialism."

Read all about the Socialist Party in Oklahoma.


Christianity has had many moments of joining with progressive politics and getting excited by the visions they could see and the good being done on the ground. Early 20th century agrarian populism was one, influenced by political ideas from other lands.

Byzantine Christianity was another. Celtic monastic society still another.

But if we rub them like polished worry stones, we are only masturbating nostalgia.

Christians are not called to such. Globalization of economy, environment, and human rights calls for new things built on the capitalist reality with critical thinking that draws on many ideas. Social security and health makes a ton of sense. But it will be in different dress than overalls or kaftans.

That's going in the direction of those who say jeans and a brown hoodie is the way a VP represents.
Yes, but there are sources of wisdom in many experiences, Christian and otherwise. My Okie forebears were naive, but they wren't too far off, in my opinion, in their attitude toward capitalism -- unfettered capitalism is a monster.

I don't want to chain the critter to a stake. I do want to keep it in a cage, a big one maybe, but a cage nonetheless.

Capitalism rockz. So does social legislation to mitigate its extremes.

As an individual Christian, I *am* called to use all of my resources to advance the Kingdom, including my vote. It's the entanglement of political alliances that brings downsides as well as upsides.

And, maybe because 'tis almost the season, I'm reminded again of Ebenezer Scrooge's spectral visitations, among them ghosts chained together to represent corrupt governments.
But lets arm ourselves with the likes of Susan Nieman, Seyla Benhabib, David Held, Amartya Sen, Bruce Ackerman, Kwame Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Benedict Anderson, Paul Klugman, Jeffrey Sachs, Hans Urs von Balthasar rather than Eugene Debs.

What happens in New York today will happen in Tulsa tomorrow.

Debs and Kant can be picked up while reading the living.
Tulsa is not actually part of Oklahoma. Oh, yes it takes a week before NY trends show up in Tulsa.

As for Oklahoma Social/Populism see the Railroad. Thus our Constitutionaly created Corporation Comission with elected Comissioners.

Early Christians were not socialist, they were in fact communist,the establishment of an egalitarian, classless society based on common ownership of the means of production and property in general.
They were not classless, but they did "share the wealth."
I wouldn't say he was the first socialist. Many societies have similar teachings that pre-date even the OT - particularly some Sumerian teachings.

That said, the stories of Jesus display him as a better role model than Abraham Moses or Joshua.

2000 years ago in Rome, I might have disagreed - such is the changing moral zeitgeist
Such are the changing glimpses of Wisdom, perhaps.
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