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Introduction: Can a Christian Embrace Communist Ideals?

The Calabash stadium was packed for the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) ten-year anniversary rally. Some prominent pastors in our country appear to be among Julius Malema’s alleged growth of one million supporters of his Marxist-inspired manifesto. Since I identify as a “Bible” Christian, I think it’s important to investigate the alleged contradictions between Christianity and communism and to highlight the philosophical differences between the teachings of Jesus and the principles of Marxism.

“Can a Christian Be a Communist?” King exclaimed at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. “…and yet, I think it is the responsibility of the preacher to keep his congregation informed on the major issues of the day, to bring the kind of tenets of our gospel to bear on these various issues” Before beginning, King Martin Luther Jr. apologised, saying, “this will not be a traditional sermon with a text, and you may feel afterwards that it was more of an academic lecture than a moving sermon. I know it’s not popular, but I’m going to preach on the subject of “Can a Christian Be a Communist?”

New Political Landscape for South Africans, Impeding People of Faith

More people are debating communism than ever before. As a Gospel preacher, King felt compelled to speak up. First, while communism’s global dominance has been mostly influenced by China, Russia, and Eastern Europe, it is now present in our parliament, expanding steadily among our youth and oddly with the Christian community. Worldwide, there are estimated to be close to two billion communist followers. Many of these people have adopted it as a new “faith’ and are ready to devote their entire lives to it. Communism is a force that must be addressed because of the impending new political landscape for South Africans, especially the people of faith.

Communist Regimes and Its Global Impact

In yet another instance, President Putin is once again vying for the presidency for the umpteenth time since 2012, potentially cementing his political dominance in Russia until 2036. Meanwhile, in China, President Xi’s (2013) political trajectory eerily resembles the totalitarian rule of figures like Mugabe, as term limits have been eradicated from party and state constitutions. These actions solidify Putin and Xi’s positions at the helms of the world’s largest communist regimes, with whom the ANC government forged alliances through the Brics pact.

Both Russia and China, along with their fellow BRICS allies, have been marred by disappointing performances in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Furthermore, concerning trends of democratic backsliding have been observed, as indicated by both the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index. The implications of strongman leaders’ consolidation of power and their countries’ democratic decline are a matter of global concern.

Foundations of Christianity

As Christians, it is crucial to heed the wisdom of Jesus, who taught us to discern the true nature of things by their fruits, not by mere rhetoric or political posturing. This yardstick, applicable beyond the confines of a barren modern church, serves as a valuable tool for evaluating any process, including politics. By examining the outcomes and consequences of political ideologies and policies, we can better understand their impact on society.

The cautionary tale of former African communist states that adopted a comparable EFF Communist Manifesto is a stark reminder of the potential dangers of certain political ideologies. These nations’ bankrupt and ruinous conditions serve as a sobering example of the long-term effects of such governance on the economic stability and well-being of citizens.

Drawing parallel with the story of “Hansel and Gretel”, we find an analogy that resonates with young and desperate South Africans who may be vulnerable to deception. Much like the wicked witch’s gingerbread house, some political figures may tempt individuals with promises of comfort and prosperity, but ultimately bring harm and disillusionment. As a remnant of God in this land, it is our responsibility to speak up and hold pastoral sell-outs accountable for any hypocrisy they exhibit.

In the biblical narrative of Acts 2:44-45, we encounter a beautiful example of sharing rooted in love and compassion, not a promotion of socialist ideologies. True biblical sharing emphasizes caring for those in need, as emphasized in Proverbs 19:17 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. It is crucial to differentiate this principle of sharing from political systems such as socialism, as the motivations and outcomes differ significantly.

As we engage in political discussions and report on societal issues, may we, as Christians, remain steadfast in our commitment to truth, justice, and the well-being of all people? Guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ, our reporting may serve to foster understanding, discernment, and genuine care for the welfare of our communities and nation.

Another significant reason communism is incompatible with Christianity is its fundamental opposition to Christian principles. As Christians, we firmly believe in the existence of a divine government and an absolute moral order. These fixed and immutable principles guide our actions and shape our understanding of the right and wrong.

However, communists do not acknowledge the divine authority or absolute moral truths. In the absence of these guiding principles, they view force, violence, murder, and deceit as justifiable means of achieving their vision of a classless society.

Lenin’s Legacy, Putin’s Ukraine War, and the Controversial Song, Shoot the Boer

Lenin, a significant figure in implementing communist ideology, once advocated the use of trickery, deceit, and lawbreaking to advance their agenda. Regrettably, history has shown that Lenin’s followers acted on these instructions, leaving behind a troubling legacy of brutality and oppression.

Another pertinent example of political-style dictatorships can be seen in Putin’s war on Ukraine. Putin’s regime has been marked by the use of force, deception, and violation of international law to further its interests, leading to devastating consequences for Ukraine and its people.

Focusing on a different issue, the song “Dubul’ ibhunu”, which translates to “shoot the Boer” or “kill the Boer”, has been a subject of controversy in South Africa. Supporters of the song, particularly Black South Africans, view it as a “liberation song” that holds significance in the country’s history, especially during the struggle against apartheid. However, critics, including organisations such as AfriForum and TAU-SA, argue that the song contributes to the incitement of violence against white-owned farms, leading to deep social divisions. In 2011, the South Gauteng High Court took a stand and ruled that the song was discriminatory, harmful, and constituted hate speech. As a result, Julius Malema, who was associated with the song, was prohibited from singing at rallies. Nevertheless, Malema altered the wording to “Kiss the Boer”, raising debates about the song’s true intentions and impact on society.

Communism is Christianity’s most Serious Rival

Communism and Christianity are diametrically opposed philosophies that render them irreconcilable. As Christians, it is essential to delve into the reasons behind this incongruity. First, communism’s avowed secularistic and materialistic nature sets it apart from Christianity and leaves Jesus Christ out. Karl Marx, constructed his entire ideology upon dialectical materialism. This perspective posits that reality can be comprehended solely through the lens of matter in motion, relegating the spiritual and divine to insignificance. Marx believed that the whole of human history moved on, driven by economic forces. This was his ideal. In so doing, communism effectively excludes God and Jesus Christ from its worldview, making it inherently atheistic. I am hoping you are beginning to recognise the slippery slope that the EFF’s political backers are on.

The denial of God’s existence forms the foundation of communism’s atheistic stance, leaving no room for faith or religious belief. Throughout history, communist regimes have actively suppressed religion and sought to replace it with devotion to the state. This atheistic underpinning is evident even in countries where churches may seem to function, but the underlying ethos remains materialism and disbelief in God. Marx himself said, “communism begins where atheism begins.”

In contrast, Christianity firmly holds that God is an integral part of the universe and that spiritual forces influence the course of history. Christian faith recognises a loving God who actively engages with humanity for salvation. This belief in the transcendent, divine, and spiritual makes it incompatible with the materialistic tenets of communism.

Furthermore, communism’s view of religion as mere wishful thinking, the product of fear and ignorance, or an instrument of exploitation runs contrary to the Christian understanding of faith. Christianity regards faith as an expression of genuine spiritual experiences and genuine relationships with the divine.

The Classless Fallacy

According to communist theory, Karl Marx envisioned a progression towards a classless society through a series of stages. The ruling class, represented by capitalists or producers, would be overthrown by the working class, known as the proletariat, through a revolution. The proletariat seizes power and establishes a new social order, ultimately leading to a classless society.

During the transitional phase towards this classless society, the state takes a central role. Marx argued that the state, controlled by the working class through the party, becomes the instrument for achieving the communist goal.

The following are some practical examples of how society’s freedoms could be restricted:

1. Freedom of Speech: Under communist regime, freedom of speech may be limited to ensure conformity to the party’s ideology and prevent dissent. Expressing views that are critical of the government or its policies can lead to censorship, punishment, or even imprisonment.

2. Freedom of the Press: Independent media outlets may be suppressed or controlled by the state to ensure that information aligns with the party’s narrative. Journalists may face restrictions in reporting and covering certain topics, leading to the biased or propagandistic dissemination of information.

3. Freedom of assembly: Organising or participating in gatherings or protests that challenge the government’s authority or policies may be severely curtailed. Unauthorised public demonstrations can be met with forceful suppression.

4. Political Participation: While individuals may have the right to vote, political parties and candidates could be limited to those approved or aligned with the ruling party. Opposition parties may face obstacles in gaining traction or may even be banned outright.

5. Religious Freedom: In communist systems, religious practices might be restricted or monitored to prevent the influence of religious institutions on the state. Worship activities can be subject to scrutiny and interference, especially if perceived as challenging a party’s authority.

6. Personal Beliefs: Private beliefs or ideologies that contradict communist principles may be discouraged or considered subversive. Engaging in activities that promote alternative ideologies or challenge a party’s policies could have consequences.

7. Academic Freedom: Educational institutions might face government interference in promoting communist propaganda and controlling the curriculum. Critical thinking and dissenting views can be discouraged or punished.

8. Internet and Social Media: Online platforms may be heavily monitored and censored to prevent the spread of information that contradicts the party’s ideology or challenges its authority.

The worship leader who loves Jesus but voted EFF could face scrutiny or repercussions under a communist system. Expressing opinions that oppose the ruling party’s policies or affiliating with political parties that are not aligned with the state’s ideology could lead to consequences, such as censorship, surveillance, or potential harm to their professional or personal life.

For these reasons, I am convinced that no Christian can be a communist. No Christian ought to support a political party with a communist ideology. However, these systems are in direct opposition. These two systems are mutually exclusive. We should endeavour to comprehend communism. Communists must be loved. However, Christians cannot accept communism. Communism is heresy.

Communism may emphasis many essential truths that must forever challenge us as Christians, such as social justice, because it originated as a protest against the tribulations of the underprivileged (The Communist Manifesto, 1847). Efforts to eradicate racial prejudice are underway. Communism attempts to transcend the superficialities of race and colour (wonderful!) However, it is still heresy!

Who Was Karl Marx?

Karl Marx, born into a rabbinic Jewish family, must have been influenced by the teachings of justice from an early age, as the words of Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” resonate deeply. Later, his parents embraced Christianity, further exposing him to the New Testament’s teachings on caring for the least.

As Christians, we are naturally inclined to support movements that advocate for the unfair treatment of the poor. This concern for social justice aligns with the Christian doctrine of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Christianity itself is a call to protest against injustices and to show compassion and care for the marginalised.

While the Communist Manifesto may express concern for the poor and the oppressed, Jesus Christ’s manifesto carries an equally profound concern for those in need. Jesus’ mission was centred around preaching the Gospel to the poor, healing the broken-hearted, and delivering captives. His teachings emphasised compassion, mercy, and love for all, particularly those who were suffering and marginalised.

Thus, a passionate concern for social justice is deeply ingrained in the essence of Christian faith. Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus and work towards creating a just and equitable society where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The pursuit of social justice is not just a political endeavour but a fundamental aspect of Christian values and principles.

The Church Has Failed This Nation

We must admit that we, as Christians, have often lagged behind on our kingdom assignment. We get high blood pressure for creeds and deeds, and this is the tragedy facing us today. King asked, “Isn’t it tragic that we will take the name of Christ, identify it with so many evils of history. Oh, how we’ve lost Christ.” You remember the words in Shakespeare’s Othello: As he stood there before the villain Lago, cried out, “Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ’twas mine, ’tis his, has been the slave of thousands. But he who filches from me my good name robs me of that which might enrich him but makes me poor indeed’ (Shakespeare, Othello, act 3, sc. 3.) This is what we have done to Christ. We robbed him for his good name. And we have identified that name with segregation, heresy, falsity, and worldliness. We have identified that name with exploitation and with oppression and with so many of the evils of history.