Dan Popp
The robber religion
By Dan Popp
May 12, 2009

Socialism is not merely the labor question, or the question of the so-called fourth estate, it is above all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth, but to bring heaven down to earth. — Fyodor Dostoevsky

I learned something from Barack Obama. No, I'm not being facetious.

The above quote from The Brothers Karamazov had puzzled me for a few years. I understood that many atheists happen to be socialists, and vice versa. I saw that Marxists, in order to cement their control over a country, need to suppress Christianity ("religion is the opiate of the masses," and all that). But Dostoevsky, who had firsthand knowledge of both Communism and Christianity, insists on more.

Socialism, he wrote, is "the form of atheism to-day." It is the image of the invisible un-god; the Lie made flesh and dwelling among us. Socialism is the malfunctioning machine housing the malevolent ghost.

I thought that was pretty harsh. And I didn't perceive it to be entirely correct. Isn't socialism just an economic system — one that could be embraced by naïve Christians as well as by atheists?

Puzzle Pieces in Place

Enter Obama, and his Father's Day, 2008 campaign sermon I cited in my latest column. He begins the homily, as is customary in many churches, with a scripture verse.

    At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus closes by saying, "Whoever hears these words of mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock." [Matthew 7:24-25]

Then Obama says some nice things about the pastor: "Here at Apostolic, you are blessed to worship in a house that has been founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. But it is also built on another rock, another foundation — and that rock is Bishop Arthur Brazier. ..."

Nice, but theologically wrong. The sermon proper begins: "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important."

Well, shazam. Click. The light comes on. Dostoevsky was right.

Did you catch it? The wrist action of the flim-flam man is quicker than the eye. Look up again at the scripture, then down to his opening. What is different about these two pictures?

If you said, "The foundation has shifted," give yourself a gold star.

One of One

Jesus said that obedience to His words was to be the bedrock of our lives. This obedience is the outward expression, or the "form" as Dostoevsky might put it, of true faith. It's not "a" foundation, or even "the most important of all the various foundations" — but the ultimate basis for our lives. Life-changing trust in God's word is not one of many, but one of one. Obama started with the truth, then distracted us with an additional foundation-stone (even though 1 Corinthians 3:11 tells us, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ"), then he refocused our attention: "family is the most important" rock.

Families are indeed very important, as I myself wrote recently — but they are not most important. Obama has disregarded Jesus' explicit words (words, ironically, about heeding His words) and simply substituted his own "good thoughts." God has been replaced with man.

"There is a way which seems right to a man," Proverbs tells us, "but its end is the way of death." The difference between noble-sounding human ideas and God's infallible instruction may not seem that much to a person who holds little respect for Scripture. To those clinging to the one true foundation, it is the difference between life and death.

Non-Faith in Action

Richard John Neuhaus must have been on the same page with brother Dostoevsky when he said, "Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion." Compare this with the Apostle James' words, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27). "Religion," in this sense, is the "working out" of the faith within.

The religion of socialism visits orphans and widows with "gifts" stolen from their neighbors. Behold the glory of man's self-worship: even its mercy is injustice.

Perhaps this view explains why Marxism is still held up as our "Hope" despite its utter failure throughout history: it is not an economic system; it is part of a belief system.

Nathan Tabor distilled the differences between Christianity and socialism in this gem:

    The humanist view of the role of government is to perfect mankind. The Scriptural view of the role of government is to protect mankind. Throughout Scripture, God is clear that civil government is charged with a limited responsibility.... We also see in Scripture that God has a welfare plan — people are to look to the family, then the church, then the community. The humanistic plan is publicly funded, coercive, and creates cycles of dependency. God's plan is community-oriented, voluntary, and empowers people.

Christian "religion" makes me responsible first of all for myself...

If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. — 2 Thess. 3:10

...then for my family...

If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith.... — 1 Timothy 5:8

...then for the church, and afterwards for the community and the larger world. Giving goes outward in concentric circles, like ripples on a pond. This allows for accountability along with the charity. I'm not going to forget the starving children in Ethiopia — Christians have done far than anyone else to feed and clothe distant strangers — but I am going to have more opportunity, more influence, and more responsibility close to home.

This Sheep's Armed

Marx's religion makes everyone vaguely but somehow equally responsible for everyone else on the planet. Charity is not admonished; it is demanded. This of course is not charity — a word that originally meant, "love." It is force, which requires a more and more powerful state to overcome increasing resistance to more and more state robbery. "Its end is the way of death." Yes, comrades and comradettes, as much as atheists protest about believers "proselytizing at gunpoint," they have no qualms about spreading their religion in exactly that way.

Just as hypocritically, they don't seem to favor the separation of religion and state when the national religion is socialism.

This is my new favorite quote: "The love of liberty is the love of others; the lover of power is the love of ourselves." — William Hazlitt

When someone looking and sounding like a sheep tells you that he's going to make everyone his "brother's keeper," ask him what he's doing for his own brother.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock... — Matthew 7:24

Click here to discuss this article.

© Dan Popp


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