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Is Social Justice Marxism?

Q: I am a big supporter of Glenn Beck and all the work he is doing to save the country. On one of his programs, he was discussing social justice, which is Marxism, and how the government is trying to absorb the churches to run them as everything else—as the Communists do. He said there is a part of our Church that is tied into Marxism. What is it and how can we stop it?

A: If you have described TV commentator Glenn Beck accurately, I can only answer that he is way off the mark. Social justice was a concern of Jesus’ followers for 18 centuries before Karl Marx was born. It remains a vital part of living out the Good News.

Was Jesus preaching socialism when he told the parable about the Last Judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46) and identified those who will be saved as the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked or visited those who are sick or imprisoned?

The Good News of Jesus Christ challenges every person to compare what he or she considers normal to Christ’s teachings. Yes, Christians can have blind spots—as evidenced by their acceptance of slavery in many places for centuries. But Christians were counted among those who took the lead in calling for the abolition of slavery. The same is true for exposing the physical, economic and political exploitation of children today.

Was it socialism for the author of the Letter of James to write: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17).

Was it socialism for Saint Paul to criticize the Christians in Corinth for bringing their social and economic divisions into the celebration of the Eucharist itself (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-32)? That, by the way, is the oldest liturgical abuse recorded in the New Testament.

Yes, Communists have attempted to manipulate Christianity, but our best response to that is to live out Jesus’ teachings more wholeheartedly—not to reject them because Marxists try to mimic them for their own purposes.

For Jesus’ followers, the best test of loyalty is faithfulness to his teachings as we find them in the New Testament. Over time, all blind spots and unholy compromises with any human party or system will become obvious.

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