A Defense of Christian Communism

The following is an extended quote of German theologian and Professing Church member Helmut Gollwitzer, taken from the edited volume Called to Community, which I am currently reading for an upcoming book review here. I found his defense of the socialist (or in his words, communist) reading of Luke 2 very convincing.300px-Christian_Communist_symbol.svg

We should not in the very least weaken Luke’s text. The commentaries of some New Testament scholars make the meaning quite clear, while others try to smooth it away. They say, for instance: It turned out very badly for the first church in Jerusalem ,what they did there. The hasty distribution of the little bit of property they had eventually resulted in their having nothing at all. Then among all Christians of that time they were called “The poor of Jerusalem,” and a collection had to be made for their support.

All right, Luke might have said, perhaps in their enthusiasm they did not do it very cleverly. Then you do it better, more effectively. Think out communism in which one does not become poor but through which all people are really helped! Enthusiasm must also include some common sense.

Other commentaries say, and probably we too: Yes, that was a voluntary communism, a communism of love, not a horrible communism of force like we saw in the Soviet Bloc!

Quite right, says Luke, so show me your free-willingness. Where is your communism of love? Perhaps it has come to this forced communism because the hungry people have waited in vain for two thousand years for the Christians’ communism of love!

Others argue along a different set of lines, claiming that it is not the abolition of private property that concerns Luke but rather an inner freedom from possessions.

True, Luke might say, they may have retained title deeds over the disposal of their property, as the historians claim. But what belonged to them they put at the disposal of the church with the one goal, as it says here, that none among them went short. So keep the titles to your private property, but come along with what belongs to you, with the one goal – that no one among us suffers need!

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