Economist and author Lawrence Reed is pushing back against arguments that Jesus was a “socialist” and refuted the ideas of Christian socialism while speaking with conservative Christian radio host Eric Metaxas this week.
Reed, president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education, authored the June 2020 book Was Jesus a Socialist?: Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, and Why the Answer Is Almost Always Wrong.
Reed was interviewed by Metaxas in a video posted to YouTube Tuesday. He pushed back against those that blend the ideas of Christianity with left-wing economic policies that tend to focus on higher taxation and more welfare benefits for the underserved populations.
Reed, who also authored the 2015 title Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist?, explained that he believed that many falsely claim that “Jesus was a socialist” because they “superficially” equate socialism with “compassion” and “the idea of helping other people.”
“There are a lot of young people who come out of high school and college these days who’ve been told by their teachers that socialism is nothing more than wanting to help people when of course you can do that under capitalism,” said Reed.
“When you dig a little deeper, you discover that socialism is not voluntary. It is the use of force to accomplish certain objectives and Jesus never advocated any such thing.”
Reed quoted former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who reportedly once said that “Jesus was the first socialist because he was the first to seek a better life for mankind.”
“Well, if that’s all that [a] socialist is, then just about everybody must be one. But of course, that’s not what it’s all about,” Reed responded.
“The case that socialism rests upon force is one that we just have to make more strongly to convince people because they’re just utterly unaware of it, thanks to academia.”
Reed went on to note contradictions between socialism, which involves the state-sponsored redistribution of wealth, and how Jesus approached charity.
Specifically, Reed referenced a passage from Luke 12 in which an individual approached Jesus and asked him to tell his brother to divide an inheritance. Jesus refused to do so. In the passage, Jesus asked the man who appointed Him to be the arbiter between the two brothers.
“That’s what socialists are doing all the time. They act as judges and dividers over the rest of us and they want to do more of it,” Reed argued. “I see no statement that [Jesus] ever made that supports forcible redistribution of wealth.”
While rebutting the idea that Jesus was a socialist, Reed also rejected using the term “capitalist” to describe Jesus as well.
Reed said that both words “arose some 1,800 years after his crucifixion.” Reed warned that both words “would limit [Jesus] to but a fraction of who He was and what He had to say.”
In his new book released last month, Reed explained that more and more advocates are trying to convince Christians that Jesus was a socialist as “socialism has come back into vogue.”
“This rhetoric has had an impact,” an online synopsis of the book reads. “According to a 2016 poll by the Barna Group, Americans think socialism aligns better with Jesus’s teachings than capitalism does.”
In the book, Reed answers the claims — point by point — of socialists and progressives “who try to enlist Jesus in their causes.”
Reed contends that “nothing in the New Testament supports their contentions.”
Some Christian apologists, among them author and speaker Alex McFarland, believe that more efforts should be made by churches to refute the claims of socialism.
“When it comes to defending God or the Bible or Jesus, there are a lot of great apologists,” said McFarland to The Christian Post in an interview last month.
“But in terms of apologists specifically addressing the political schemes of the left, and by name calling out people that have malicious designs for America, most apologists don't have the fortitude to really get in the down and dirty fray of defending the country or the economic model that has been our M.O. for two centuries plus.”