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January 29, 2007

Sorry, Hugo, Jesus Is No Socialist


As he was sworn in for another six years of “socialism or death,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez solidified his new role as an enemy to freedom and prosperity. To lighten the mood, he sought to bridge his fanatic view of the world with the message of none other than Jesus. “Christ,” he declared, was “the greatest socialist in history.” Chavez then proceeded to unleash a veiled threat against the Catholic Church in Venezuela, suggesting that “a return to the times of confrontation with Venezuelan bishops” is possible if they do not adapt their behavior to his liking.


Putting this particular instance of irony aside for a moment, it remains quite puzzling that Chavez and many socialists around the world seem to be under the impression that Jesus would approve of their actions and ideology. A very basic understanding of the world’s most celebrated man is enough to bring serious doubt to the socialists’ allegations.


Chavez insists that socialism, and not capitalism, is the path to follow to achieve a country’s prosperity and success. And we all know how well this proud adherence to socialist principles is serving countries such as Cuba, Laos and North Korea. “But those are communist states with authoritarian regimes,” one might argue. Ah yes, in that case we can refer to Chavez’s proposed constitutional change that would allow for “indefinite re-election,” which would allow him to retain his office . . . indefinitely. With these quick constitutional tweaks and the nationalization of major industries, it would not be startling to see Venezuela turn into a slightly belated communist satellite.


To say that Jesus smiles down on Cuba and Laos, or approved of the various socialist states that have risen and fallen in Africa, South America, Asia and even Europe, is to say that Jesus takes pleasure in watching us suffer through poverty and scarcity. Fortunately, few theologians would argue that Jesus endorses the ineffective production of goods or their wasteful distribution among the populace, not to mention the suffocation of individual responsibility and useful creativity. He further never suggested or implied that government should be headed by self-serving dictators with life tenures, or that said government should make decisions, big and small, for all individuals.


Incidentally, even segments of the American left often attempt to push the idea that Jesus was a fiscal liberal and a fan of the welfare state. They primarily cite the continuous references by Jesus in the Gospel to helping the poor. What they refuse to recognize, however, is that Jesus never indicated that a government should enforce the giving of alms; giving is only rewarded if it is genuine and voluntary. In other words, a $5 donation to a poor, hardworking man is indeed much more valuable than a 5 percent increase in income tax rates that yields more money given to both good and idle people in need. And if criminals tie you up and remove your kidney to give it to one of their own, you did not donate the organ – it was stolen from you.


Jesus established the roots to a true religion of peace. He never forced anyone to follow him, and did not expect any person to be coerced into taking what he described as the right action. As such, Jesus would not approve of any government that forces its people into acting in the “right” way, even pretending that socialism was in any way beneficial to a society. One can hardly label Jesus “the greatest socialist in history.”


Widespread socialism, and by logical extension, communism, are not nearly as much of a threat to world progress and stability as they have been over the past few decades. After all, most regimes of the far left have collapsed by now, and the remaining ones are either swallowed up in deep poverty (such as Cuba) with no prospect of trend reversal, or are being forced to open up their economies (such as Vietnam). The same fate will inevitably hit Venezuela if it continues going down the path of socialism.


What is truly unnerving, however, is that until that time, Chavez will continue building relations with evil regimes and Islamic extremists such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Time will tell whether such alliances will outlast the will of the American people to combat the forces of socialism and Islamic radicalism. We can thus only hope that our own left-wing “doves,” such as Jane Fonda and company, will not wait to hear from Chavez - on which side of the struggle Jesus would be - before deciding whom to support.


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