Acton Institute Powerblog

The Christian Socialist Revolution

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“[Christian Socialist Movement] is a movement of Christians with a radical commitment to social justice, to protecting the environment and to fostering peace and reconciliation. We believe that ‘loving our neighbour’ in the fullest sense involves struggling for a fair and just society, one in which all can enjoy the ‘fullness of life’ Jesus came to announce. And we want to work to make it happen.”

The rise of the Christian neo-socialists has been quite surprising. These Marxists have been using the Sermon of the Mount and Beatitudes and “Jesus’ teaching” to smoke screen the resurgence of a Christian Socialist agenda. It’s amazing.

We see this clearly in socialist redistributionists like Barack Obama, Jim Wallis, Wendell Berry, Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, Ron Sider (although he’s moving more toward center), Brian McLaren, and many others I’d love to name.

At least in the U.K. leftist Christians are honest about being socialists. You will see no difference between this agenda and anything you’ll find in Jim Wallace’s neo-socialist organization Sojourners.

Here’s part of the neo-socialist Christian manifesto from the U.K.’s Christian Socialist Movement. At least these folks are honest. It should sound familiar:

Our values

We believe that Christian teaching should be reflected in laws and institutions and that the Kingdom of God finds its political expression in democratic socialist policies.

We believe that all people are created in the image of God. We all have equal worth and deserve equal opportunities to fulfil our God-given potential whilst exercising personal responsibility.

We believe in personal freedom, exercised in community with others and embracing civil, social and economic freedom.

We believe in social justice and that the institutional causes of poverty in, and between, rich and poor countries should be abolished.

We believe all people are called to common stewardship of the Earth, including its natural resources.


Christian Socialist Movement members pledge themselves to work in prayer and through political action for the following objectives:

  • A greater understanding between people of different faiths
  • The unity of all Christian people
  • Peace and reconciliation between nations and peoples and cultures together with worldwide nuclear and general disarmament
  • Social justice, equality of opportunity and redistribution economically to close the gap between the rich and the poor, and between rich and poor nations
  • A classless society based on equal worth and without discrimination
  • The sustainable use of the Earth’s resources for the benefit of all people, both current and future generations
  • Co-operation, including the creation of cooperative organisations

If you’re going to be a Wal-mart-boycotting, “fair trade” coffee-protesting, “no more income gaps between CEOs and other employees” ranting, wealth-redistributing, minimum-wage supporting, socialist you are free to do so but please don’t call it “Christian” or “consistent with Jesus’ teaching,” etc. Many of us are honest about being in tradition of Althusius, Wilberforce, Kuyper, Booker T. Washington, J. Gresham Machen, Michael Polanyi, C.S Lewis, and others and continuing to battle the socialism that keeps people in generational poverty and I think the Christian socialists should be more honest to their allegiance to their own tradition of Marx, Lenin, Keynes, FDR, etc.

We live in a country where people are free to be socialists and that’s the beauty of the whole thing but why hide behind “Christian Social Justice” lingo when it’s really socialism proof-texted from the Gospels only. Why don’t the Christian socialists in America confess it like the Marxist Christians in the U.K.?

Any thoughts on why the Wal-Mart-boycotting socialist Christians don’t just to come out and say, “We are socialists, who also love Jesus?” Why the secrecy? Any insights?

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Brian

    I think it’s easier to label yourself as a socialist in the UK and Europe more generally because of the more open nature of their politics and the difference in connotations (certain ethnic slurs, for instance, may mean the same thing as their politically correct counterparts, but it is not fair to insist that someone use the ethnic slur). In the United States, socialism equals communism which is also equated with godlessness and general evil. I think that socialism has a different foundation (based more on the secular ideal of equality) and I think these Christians draw their support from the Bible, even if you may view it as a misinterpretation.

  • Bud Hammons

    Point well-taken. However, the US form of this movement originates at the beginnings of the “Progressive Era” in the late 19th century, sometimes labeled as the Social Gospel movement. These folks sought to use the power of Government to realize their view of a just society. Their repudiation of the natural law foundation of the culture of the USA, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, was most explicit. They had absolutely no problem with coercion of people, confiscation of assets, and all the other evils one associates with totalitarian regimes.

    For a useful perspective, consult Jonah Goldberg’s excellent work, *Liberal Fascism*. [note the title comes from a phrase uttered by H.G. Wells, a noted socialist of the time, in a speech made in the 1930’s, in admiration of the fascism of Italy and Germany.] Goldberg makes the point that distinctions among fascism, socialism, and communism are not all that significant from that standpoint of individual liberty. He also clearly enumerates the unsavory associations forged by during the Progressive Era: Social Gospelers, Bismarckian Statists, socialists, advocates of eugenics, overt racists, etc. These associations were not confined to the USA, but also found in Europe.

    There is a distinct lack of interest in the actual history one finds with the left, and part of that leads back to those associations that many would like to flush down the memory hole.

    best regards,

    — B

  • Paul

    I am quite happy with the long history of various Christian’s contributions to socialist and cooperative thought. The people you mentioned are not socialists, but like many people who believe that some services and goods should be owned and managed by government, they support various degrees of socialist policy. In the same way that Republicans seem to support the United States socialist agricultural policy.

    I am glad you are upfront about your support of an economic policy that has effectively reduced the earning power of the majority of Americans and concentrated the world’s wealth in the hands of a small majority. Very biblical indeed. Where is the inequality safety valve that God designed in the concept of Jubilee today?

  • Thomas

    The Christian Socalist Movement in Britain is not a Marxist organisation. If you cannot differentiate between Marxism and other types of socialism, you’ve got some reading (or deprogramming) to do. The same is true for annoying liberals who cannot tell the difference between a neocon and a paleocon.
    Anyway, there is nothing neo- about this socialism. If you research it, you see it has a tradition in 19th century Methodism (who always had a proud tradition of social work) and also in the Anglo-Catholic revival (which goes hand in hand with very conservative liturgical Christianity). In fact, the latter is sometimes called ‘Tory Socialism’ as some of these people are still very apt to show their support for aspects of Disraelian conservatism and even the House of Stuart.
    In fact, even though Britain served as a refuge to Marx, Marxism has never had much of a foothold there, unlike in Europe were many social democrat premiers, it seems, cut their political teeth as Trotskyite or Maoist political organisers.
    Lastly, the CSM is no longer very socialist. Tony Blair was a member but even when he was elected it still had a very radical constitution that it owed partly to an old leader, Lord Soper, a methodist preacher who sermonised weekly in hyde park all his life. It went New Labour in the 90s and now if you go to their website they mention nothing about socialism anywhere except for in the name of the organisation.
    But anyone who practises true Christian values would also practise socialist ones. I am not claiming Christ guides macroeconomic policy, just about values. Free abortion, gay rights, unlimited immigration, laws that protect criminals, etc., these are liberal policies, not socialist. But economic liberalism, what passes as ‘conservative’ in America, though it conserveth nothing only destroyeth, gives economic, and ultimately political, power to the most greedy and covetous and ultimately leads to much of this cultural liberalism that social conservatives rightly decry.

  • matt

    Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck just released a great book on the growing Socialist Christian movement and what a load it truly is. Why We’re Not Emergent. It is a must read.

  • Jim

    I couldn’t agree more. The “Capitalism” we have in the US is really “Socialism for the rich”.

    The “anointed few” who have access to the Fed’s discount window get the most and best use of the money. By the time it “trickles down” to the unwashed masses it has been debased to the point of almost being worthless (checked your 401k lately?). This is accelerating exponentially right now with the “too big to fail” bailouts we are seeing.

    When food banks are lining up for government handouts – you know this model needs “change” – only not the kind Obama (or McCain) is proposing.

    What is needed is a lot more “co-operation” and a lot less labeling. It’s OK to have differences of opinion, but I haven’t seen ANYONE with ALL the answers – especially “free-market” libertarians.

    God may speak with an “Austrian accent” – only it’s Benedict’s not Mises.

  • I’m far too cynical to ever believe we, as a planet, will be able to put our differences aside and stand together as one, undivided. We cannot even do it as a neighborhood. When reading Thomas’s post I realized just how divided we truly are. Look at how many labels he used! I had no idea we were so divided until now. I thought I could consider myself a Christian Socialist, but now, after considering at all the different factions of political viewpoints there are I really doubt that correctly sums up my beliefs.

  • Philip Callas

    Jesus never said: “Follow me, and bring all your private property with you.” I am neither a Christian nor a Marxist, but it is patently obvious that an embrace of state capitalism is incompatible with authentic Christian values. For those who fail to recognize that, no amount of evidence will suffice.

  • tom

    Philip you speak the truth! Jesus said pick up your cross and fallow me. leave your possesstions behind. Why did He say that? Because if you truly want to fallow Him you must be willing to give up any material wealth that would come between your relationship with the living God. What is your reward?, God will provide all your needs, not your wants. If man truly wants to help his fellow man he must fallow Jesus. This example mirrors Gods Love for all of humanity. Just think if Goverment would adhere to the Constitution of the United States and throw out all the bogus legislation they have concocted for decades and just fallow the 10 commandments we would all give of our selfs and quit trying to take advantage of our own personal selfish wants. As for me Iam waiting for His soon return as His Goverment will be just for all. God Bless Thomas “seeker of Truth”!!

  • rebecca kaminski

    I call myself a Christian socialist, no big deal.

    I do, of course, disagree about the poverty part. FDR’s stats prove otherwise.

    I agree with Philip Callas too, excellent observation.

  • Greg

    The aspect of “Christian socialism” I find most curious is its attempt to impose some sort of social or economic egalitarianism on humanity. This effort in spite of the fact that Jesus does indeed speak of very real distinctions and “inequalities” between people. Take your pick–“the first shall be last”, “in my Father’s house their are many mansions” (and perhaps some more grand than others), or how John is the greatest born of woman, but the least in the kingdom of heaven will be greater than him.

    While all human beings may be equal in dignity, it does not follow they are equal in ability, work ethic/productivity, or deserve equal treatment in all things.

    Besides, sacred scripture talks about the “Kingdom of God” not the “Republic of Heaven” (a conceit propped up as ideal in the atheistic ramblings of Phillip Pullman’s “children’s books”). There is a hierarchy to all of creation, and it is fundamentally at odds with Natural Law–and arrogantly presumptious–to presume the society of man can operate differently.

  • kindly brief me more about this organisation. I am a sosialist oriented student union activist while in the university but now a clergy with celestial church of christ, a church based in nigeria and parishes all over the world.

  • Ty

    We should take care of one another, not just our self. That’s why I’m a Christian and a socialist. If we all work together all is well. And no one can say I deserve more then you. Ether doctor or wood cuter. We all live, we all die. For ether 1 day or 100 years, we are all human.

  • William woessner m. D.

    Does anyone know if Leadership Foundations of America is a home for undercover socialist activity? Is. H. Spees a. Socialist in Fresno? Is there a link to ACORN?

  • Stan Theman

    Great-you share your wealth and let the rest of us know how that turns out.