Welcome to The Christian Socialist
, a blog dedicated to presenting Christian socialist ideas and delivering commentary on world events from a Christian socialist perspective. The blog aims to become a valuable source of information on Christian socialism, an ideology with a long tradition but very limited recognition in present-day politics within Europe and North America. The politics of those two continents will be the focus of this blog, though I wish to maintain an international outlook.
In this first post, I wish to give a very short introduction to socialism in general and Christian socialism in particular.
The word "socialism" may refer to either a political ideology (something in the same category as liberalism and conservatism), or a socio-economic system (something in the same category as capitalism or feudalism). Socialist ideology provides the moral and intellectual support for socialist economics and a socialist organization of society.
As an ideology, "socialism" refers to a body of ideas that emphasize equality and community spirit as the primary moral values that should guide human affairs. Socialists believe that human beings have equal moral worth and equal dignity; they believe that all people should have the same rights and responsibilities, and that rights and responsibilities should be evenly balanced (there should be no rights without responsibilities, nor any responsibilities without rights). Socialists further believe that all human beings are born equal and remain that way throughout their lives. Differences certainly exist, but they are minor in comparison to all the things we have in common. There are no great variations in strength, intelligence, or other defining features. For example, it is very difficult to find a person who is twice as intelligent as another (in terms of IQ), or a person who is twice as strong as another. There are people who are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad at certain tasks, but most of us lie in the middle, and no one is good at everything. In addition, socialists realize that human beings are social animals. All our achievements - all our science, art and technology - are the result of collective effort. Even when an invention is made by an individual, that individual benefitted from the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of generations that came before. Albert Einstein (himself a socialist) could not have come up with the Theory of Relativity if there hadn't been anyone to teach him basic physics in the first place. And just like knowledge is the result of collective effort, so are the vast majority of our material goods. All of the things we use in our daily lives - such as the computer you are using right now - were built by dozens or even hundreds of people working together. Human beings working together can achieve far more than human beings working apart. Society is greater than the sum of its parts.
As a socio-economic system, "socialism" refers to a kind of society organized according to the principles outlined above. Because human beings are equal, they should have an equal say in political decisions. Thus, socialists support democracy. But socialists also wish to expand the concept of democracy to include not only the political but also the economic sphere. One of the most fundamental aspects of socialism is a democratic economy - an economy in which decisions about the production and distribution of goods and services are made either by the people themselves or by democratically elected representatives. Socialism is the economic system based on public ownership over the means of production. This means that all capital goods used in economic production (e.g. factories, office buildings - the kinds of things that make up businesses and firms) would be the shared property of all the people. In other words, each citizen would be an equal “shareholder” in the national economy. Socialism aims to put the people in charge of the economy and run it along democratic lines. It can be described simply as economic democracy
Or, to be more exact, socialism means representative
economic democracy. The people, as “shareholders” in the economy, elect representatives to manage and plan economic activity. Therefore, a socialist economy is a planned economy. The democratic process - perhaps together with other checks and balances - ensures the planners will do a good job (because if they don’t, they can be voted out of office).
Now let's backtrack a little. Two paragraphs above, I listed the basic principles that all socialists agree on. But what do socialists disagree
on? They disagree on the foundations of those principles. In other words, while agreeing that people should be treated equally, socialists often disagree on the reasons why
people should be treated equally. They may also disagree on many of the specific details of a socialist society. There is great variety in capitalist societies throughout the world (not all capitalist countries are exactly the same). The same applies to socialism - not every socialist society would be exactly the same. Finally, socialists also disagree - sometimes quite bitterly - on the best means to achieve socialism. These differences have resulted in the development of several branches of socialism. One such branch is Christian socialism.
Christian socialism, as the name implies, is socialism based on Christian values. Christian socialists believe that socialism is the logical political choice for a Christian. This is not to say that we believe all Christians must
be socialists. Christianity is a religion, not a political ideology; it concerns itself with the human soul, and one may be a very good Christian without holding any political views at all. One may also make illogical or misguided political choices while still remaining a very good Christian. The reason why Christian socialists hold that socialism is the only logical political choice for a Christian is because only a socialist society can uphold all Christian values at the same time. Other socio-economic systems may tolerate certain Christian values, but will infringe on others. Capitalism, for example, tolerates altruism, but encourages greed, selfishness, individualism and the pursuit of material profit at any cost. Capitalism does not force anyone to sin, but it encourages
people to do so (by rewarding sinful activities). Christians cannot logically support a system that rewards sin; a Christian society must reward virtue.
In addition to the principles shared by all socialists, Christian socialists make the observation that all political decisions are, at their core, moral decisions. All laws are moral laws. For instance, we have laws against murder because we believe that murder is bad
. That is a moral judgement. From this observation, Christian socialists conclude that it is impossible to separate morality from politics. We may separate religion from politics, we may separate the Church from the state (which is something that Christian socialists support), but we still need to base our laws and our society on some sort of moral beliefs. Christian socialists believe that some of the core values of Christianity - interdependence, the duty to help one another when in need, strong community bonds, sanctity of life, and a rejection of the excessive individualism that permeates Western culture - are values that all people, both religious and non-religious, can embrace. We believe that these values are the most solid foundation for socialism, and socialism is the best way out of the spiritual, political and economic problems of our times. We will never have an ideal society, but it is our duty to strive to get as close to it as humanly possible.
Labels: christianity, socialism