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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 regard biblical texts in Acts 2 and 4 as evidence that the first Christians lived in a communist society.
Acts 2:44-45, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."
Acts 4:32-35, "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. ... 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need."
Montero offers anthropological evidence that the practices recounted in Acts 4:32–35 were historical and were 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." The slogan "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". The phrase "To each according to his needs" also has a biblical basis - Acts 4:35: "[...] to the emissaries to distribute to each according to his need". Preaching by Thomas Wharton Collens (1812-1879) describes biblical sources supporting a common-property society.[page needed]
Christian communism does not depend merely on the principles of the early apostles. In fact, Christian communists claim that anti-capitalist ideals are deeply rooted in the Christian faith. While modern 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. Christian communists see the principles of Christ as staunchly anti-capitalist in nature. Since "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim 6:10 NRSV), it seems natural for Christians to oppose a social system founded - as Christian communists claim - entirely on the love of money. In fact, Christian opposition to the emergence of such a system largely delayed capitalist development, and capitalism did not gather popular support until John Calvin (1509-1564) endorsed capitalist practice 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
- Christian views on poverty and wealth
- Étienne Cabet
- Fra Dolcino
- Gerrard Winstanley
- Harmony Society
- Jesuit reduction
- John Goodwyn Barmby
- League of the Just
- Münster Rebellion
- Plymouth Colony
- The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
- Terry Eagleton
- Wilhelm Weitling
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- Montero, Roman A. (2017). All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 5. ISBN 9781532607929. Retrieved 24 January 2019.I am going to argue that the accounts found in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 describe historical economic practices found within the early Christian community; practices that were taken very seriously, which were widespread over different Christian communities around the Roman world, and which lasted for at least well into the second century. I am also going to argue that these economic practices were grounded in both Jewish and Christian theology and had precedent in Jewish tradition and practice; as well as the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
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