Rabbi David J.B. Krishef, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, writes a local column on Ethics and Religion. On August 28, 2019, he wrote a column entitled, “ Ethics and Religion Talk: Was Jesus a Communist?” This column appeared online in the Rapidian. I thought this was a good time to look at this question in light of the recent election and shift of political power in our country.
Rabbi Krishef used several examples in his essay. I will feature two of these. The first one coming from a Dominican Priest and the second one coming from an Orthodox Priest.
First, Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:
“The answer to this question depends on one’s definition of ‘communism.”‘As a simple philosophical system, ‘communism is a government and economic system where everyone is supposed to share the wealth that they create.’ However, the political definition of communism is ‘derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned, and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs’ (Google dictionary).
“The former definition is parallel to the message of Jesus. In fact, there are individuals in the Catholic Church who are vowed religious. These individuals profess a vow of poverty, in addition to obedience and chastity, and everything is owned in common, and therefore live the former definition above. The latter definition is the antithesis of Jesus’ message of loving God with your whole mind, heart, soul, and strength and then loving one’s neighbor as one’s self."
Second, Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:
“Christ taught commandments for personal choices while communism is a governmental system. While one can make the case that in idealized communism there are some Christian similarities, the historical reality would tell us quite a different story. More martyrs went to their glory enduring horrible deaths under communism than under the Roman persecution, Muslim extremism, and all other forms of persecution against Christians combined.
“Today's debate between the left and right in our country and beyond is often posed as concern for the needy vs. their neglect, and therefore an ethical debate. But since the questions being posed are specifically what should the government do, not individuals, groups or private agencies, these are political discussions, not ethical ones.”
Now, we have two different points of view on this. Notice that the first point of view was looking at outcomes and the second one was looking at the people. If you look at outcomes maybe we should look at the reality of not only what they say but what they do. Communists talk about an ideal place to live- everybody would be equal. The major difference between this and what Jesus Christ taught could also be seen here- the communists teach we will have that here on earth; whereas, Jesus Christ, teaches that we will have that in the next world- heaven. Jesus teaches that our rewards will come in eternal life, not a temporary life.
Seek ye the kingdom of God. We will fall far short if we allow the government to think for us. We will fall short if we allow the government to build us heaven here on earth. How long would the kingdom last? Maybe one or two generations at the most. The Kingdom of Heaven is eternal and forever. It will not go away. However, the chance to get there will go away if we follow the communists and the Commandments. How can we honor God if God is outlawed? How can we go to Church, if the Church is outlawed? How can we have vocations if seminaries are shut down?
Therefore, be advised learned people, Jesus Christ is the answer. The question is do you believe? Be advised learned people, Jesus Christ, came here to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The question is will you obey him? Be advised learned people, Jesus Christ, is not communist-for communism serves this world not the next. The question is now- will you serve him? Amen