Actor Matthew Modine’s new short movie, Jesus Was a Commie, isn’t out yet, so I don’t know if that title is just a provocative tease, or if the movie really does put Christ and Karl Marx in the same camp.
Ecosalon.com interviewed Modine and concluded that the 15-minute film “points out that Jesus and his posse were all dictionary-definition communists ...”
Modine is being coy, telling one person on Facebook to withhold judgment until he sees the film. “The title is purposefully provocative,” Modine wrote. “Those most critical of the title have been those most moved after viewing.”
Whatever the “mini-documentary” may say, it is pretty clear that Modine, a Hollywood liberal, thinks Jesus would have signed the Communist Manifesto. He told Ecosalon.com that if you look at Jesus “without evangelical glasses” you will see “a man that questioned and challenged the conditions of life in his time. And it can be argued, and has been by a lot of incredible people, that Jesus was a Utopian Communist.”
But what do the credible people say about whether or not Jesus was a communist? The kind of people who actually know something about Jesus, or even know Him.
People like the apostle Paul, who met the resurrected Christ in a spectacular mid-day encounter that transformed him from someone who arrested Christians into a man willing to give his life for Christ.
No communist, Paul warned Christians not to expect handouts if they didn’t work. His tough-love message to Christians was, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NKJV). That means that if we’re able-bodied, we shouldn’t look to others, including the state, to put food on our table.
Not that Christians shouldn’t be charitable. Paul said that instead of stealing, the Christian should “labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:32).
Paul favored private, voluntary charity, as did Jesus, but he didn’t believe in using state power to spread the wealth around, one of the hallmarks of communism. He wouldn’t have endorsed the famous slogan of Karl Marx, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
Paul, a man who wrote a good chunk of the New Testament, gave us no reason to think Christ was a communist. How about someone on the other side, someone who knew a lot about communism, and even knew Marx? What about Friedrich Engels, the co-author with Marx of The Communist Manifesto, one of the world’s most influential political tracts.
Engels believed that “… if some few passages of the Bible may be favourable to Communism, the general spirit of its doctrines is, nevertheless, totally opposed to it ...”
Engels came to his conclusion honestly. Not only was he taught the Christian faith as a child (a faith he rebelled against as a young man), he also faced opposition from at least one powerful Victorian-era minister. Author David Aikman recounts that Engels, when asked whom he hated most, gave a terse one-word answer: “Spurgeon.” Engels loathed English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, Aikman writes, because his sermons reached as many as 20,000 people at a time and were “diverting England’s urban working class away from atheist revolutionary socialism to Christian parliamentary reformism.”
Despite Paul and Engels, some like Modine still want to recruit Christ to their cause. They often point to the first Christians in Jerusalem who had what, at first glance, seems like a model communist community. These believers “had all things in common” (Acts 4:32) and “all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need” (Acts 4:34-35).
But unlike socialism, in which the “sharing” is coerced by a central authority, these early Christians were under no obligation to share the wealth. When Ananias sold some land and kept back a portion of the proceeds for himself, Peter confronted him not for his failure to give all, but for his bald-faced lie in claiming to have given all: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?” (Acts 5:3-4).
Peter acknowledged and honored the right of private ownership, but communists assault and undermine property rights.
In their Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels put the “abolition of property” first in a 10-step program for implementing communism. The next three items on their list were also aimed at achieving what the authors called “despotic inroads on the rights of property”: a heavy progressive or graduated income tax; abolition of all rights of inheritance; confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
None of that seems very Christ-like. Christ told us to love others and gave us the Golden Rule: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
No one wants to have their property confiscated, but that’s what communists have done in the real world to bring about “economic justice.” It never works. “Socialism does a horrible job of helping the poor,” says former communist Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD magazine on the Truth in Action Ministries documentary, Socialism: A Clear and Present Danger. “Socialist systems utterly failed in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe.”
But communist systems have been grotesquely successful at one thing: killing people.
Jesus told us it is wrong to murder, but Marxist regimes have brought death to millions. Marx and Engels proclaimed that their aims could be “attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” And that’s how the communist revolution unfolded.
The Black Book of Communism puts the death toll from Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and other communist henchmen at 100 million people. It is a “tragedy of planetary dimensions,” as the French publisher of The Black Book of Communism put it.
The killing began under Lenin, who counseled harsh means to expedite the transition from capitalism to socialism — to “purge the land of Russia of all vermin, of fleas — the rogues, of bugs — the rich, and so on and so forth.” Lenin’s favored techniques included imprisonment, forced labor and terror: “One out of every 10 idlers will be shot on the spot.”
His successor, Joseph Stalin, was equally ruthless. He imposed policies that wiped out almost 25 percent of Ukraine’s population, including some three million children.
Communist regimes are really “good” at killing their people; but Jesus gives life to everyone who comes to Him. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Whatever Matthew Modine and his collection of “incredible people” may say, the pure truth is that Jesus is no “commie.”
John Aman is Director of Communications at Truth in Action Ministries, which produced the 2010 documentary, Socialism: A Real And Present Danger.
Publication date: November 7, 2011