Thursday, November 16, 2006

Socialism vs Koinonia

One source of confusion to many Christians is the apparent similarity between the early church and modern day socialism. Some like to point to Acts 2: 44-45

"And all those who believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need."

First off, this is an attitude that modern Christians need to recapture and it would do much to strengthen the Church and the faith, as well as our moral authority in the world. Some groups do to great success while others have attempted it and failed.

The actual Greek word for this idea is koinonia which is usually translated "fellowship" but it is more acurately "being in a community." Like the ideal of socialism (and totally unlike the reality of socialism) it involves selflessness, sharing and concern for your fellow man.

The differences however are as great as or greater than the similarities.

First off, koinonia is totally voluntary. When the Apostle Paul wrote about this idea he reminded the churches that there was no compulsion, but that God loves a cheerful giver. Socialism is forced on people by others and is not born of a generous spirit.

Secondly, in koinonia it is those who hold the property who decide to share it, and how to best distribute it. In socialism it is either those with needs or those with authority over others who decide who is going to share and how it is going to be distributed. In forced charity the state takes money I earned and decides who needs it, even if I feel that it is counter-productive to give money to this group or that person. In Koinonia I either see a need which I can fulfill and do so, or I provide the means to someone whose judgement I trust to take what I give and distribute it as needed. In koinonia the initiative comes from those with the means to help, not from the those in need (who may ask for but may not demand help).

Finally socialism is impersonal where everything belongs to a souless state, while in koinonia one recognizes that everything one has actually belongs to God and we are simply entrusted with it.

A professor of mine used to give this little tidbit

Greed says "What is mine is mine and I am going to keep it for myself".
Theft says "I want what is yours and I am going to take it."
Communism says "What is yours is mine and I demand you give it to me."
Koinonia says "Everything I have is God's and so I will share it with you my brother."


Blogger Gayle said...

Excellent, Shoprat! It's also absolutely true. I love the professor's little tidbit. If only liberals would understand that concept it would be a far better world.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

When liberals tell me that the early Chritians were socialists, I tell them that the big difference is that the early Christians did it voluntarily. They were not coerced by big government.

5:02 PM  

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