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Christian communism is a form of religious communism based on Christianity. It is a theological and political theory based upon the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system. Although there is no universal agreement on the exact date when Christian communism was founded, many Christian communists assert that evidence from the Bible (in the Acts of the Apostles) suggests that the first Christians, including the apostles, established their own small communist society in the years following Jesus' death and resurrection. As such, many advocates of Christian communism argue that it was taught by Jesus and practiced by the apostles themselves. Some independent historians confirm it.
Christian communists hold the biblical verse Acts 4:32–35 as evidence that the first Christians lived in a communist society. Acts 4:32–35 reads: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Gods grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need".
There is evidence that what is described in Acts 4:32–35 is historical and was practiced widely and taken seriously during at least the first two centuries of Christianity. Other biblical evidence of anti-capitalistic belief systems include Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters.Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.You cannot serve both God and money". "Each according to his abilities" has biblical origins too. Act 11:29 states: "29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea". "To each according to his needs" is biblical too. Acts 4:35: "[...] to the emissaries to distribute to each according to his need". Thomas Wharton Collens' Preaching describes biblical sources supporting a common-property society.
Christian communism is not merely based on the principles of the early apostles. In fact, Christian communists claim that anti-capitalist ideals are deeply rooted in the Christian faith. While capitalism had not yet formed in the time of Christ, his message was overwhelmingly against the love of money (greed) and in support of the poor. The principles of Christ are seen by Christian communists as staunchly anti-capitalist in nature. As Christ taught that the love of money was the root of many evils, by that logic it seems only natural for Christians to oppose a social system founded entirely on the love of money as Christian communists claim. In fact, capitalist development was delayed largely by Christian opposition to the emergence of such a system and it did not gather popular support until John Calvin brought about popular support of capitalism from a religious perspective. The ideals of Christian communism are pre-Calvinist and as such seek to return Christianity to its anti-capitalist roots by progressing beyond it into socialism and finally to communism.
Atheism and communism
Contemporary communism, including contemporary Christian communism, owes much to Marxist thought—particularly Marxist economics. Not all communists are in full agreement with Marxism, but it is difficult to find any communists today who do not agree at least with the Marxist critique of capitalism. Marxism includes a complex array of views that cover several different fields of human knowledge and one may easily distinguish between Marxist philosophy, Marxist sociology and Marxist economics. Marxist sociology and Marxist economics have no connection to religious issues and make no assertions about such things. On the other hand, Marxist philosophy is famously atheistic, although some Marxist scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, have insisted that Marxist philosophy and the philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are significantly different from one another and that this difference needs recognition. In particular, Jose Porfirio Miranda found Marx and Engels to be consistently opposed to deterministic materialism and broadly sympathetic towards Christianity and towards the text of the Bible, although disbelieving in a supernatural deity. Vladimir Lenin also allowed Christians in the Bolshevik Party.
Establishing Christian communism
There is also the question of how a communist society should be actually achieved. While orthodox communists advocate a form of violent revolution, Christian communists almost universally insist on nonviolent means, such as passive resistance or winning elections. Some groups are pacifists, such as the Hutterites and Bruderhof, who regard all force as wrong, including forcing a new society on someone. Regarding the issue of the nationalization of the means of production, Christian communists argue that capitalism itself is a form of institutionalized theft in the manner that capitalist owners exploit their workers by not paying them the full value of their labour. However, not all Christian communists seek to achieve large-scale social change. Some believe that rather than attempting to transform the politics and economics of an entire country, Christians should instead establish communism at a local or regional level only.
According to theologians such as Leonardo Boff, the Latin American branch of Christian communist liberation theology is rooted in the concept that "prudence is the understanding of situations of radical crisis". Among Christian communists, historical materialism is utilized as a methodology of analysis to define the nature of the crisis in question as a product of political-economic dynamics and modalities derived from the workings of what is termed "the late capitalist/imperialist mode of production". According to this subset of liberation theology, the challenge for the Christian communist is then to define what it means (in context of "a concrete analysis of the concrete social reality") to affirm a "preferential option for the poor and oppressed" as praxis (active theory) and as commanded by an ethics allegedly "rooted in the beatidic teachings of Jesus". Christian communist liberation theology is not about evangelization per se, but rather about developing an orthopraxis (ethical action, i.e. the condition of coming to the light by doing the works of God) that aims to reconcile the "beatidic ethics" of Jesus as espoused in the Sermon on the Mount with existing social struggles against what is termed "neo-colonialism" or "late capitalism". Both Christian communism and liberation theology stress orthopraxis over orthodoxy. A narrative of the nature of contemporary social struggles is developed via materialist analysis utilizing historiographic concepts developed by Karl Marx. A concrete example are the Paraguayan Sin Tierra (landless) movement, who engage in direct land seizures and the establishment of socialized agricultural cooperative production in asentamientos. The contemporary Paraguayan Sin Tierra operate in a very similar manner as that of the reformation era Diggers. For Camilo Torres (the founder of the Colombian guerrilla group ELN), developing this orthopraxis meant celebrating the Catholic Eucharist only among those engaged in armed struggle against the army of the Colombian state while fighting alongside them.
- Bruderhof Communities
- Christian anarchism
- Christian egalitarianism
- Christian left
- Christian socialism
- Étienne Cabet
- Fra Dolcino
- Gerrard Winstanley
- Harmony Society
- Jesuit reduction
- John Goodwyn Barmby
- League of the Just
- Plymouth Colony
- The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
- Terry Eagleton
- Wilhelm Weitling
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