While stumbling upon Facebook, I came across the following image:

Socialist Jesus

The image is obviously in reference to the Biblical miracle of Jesus described in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15 of feeding a large crowd using only five loaves of bread and two fish. While this feat may be impressive, it is not, as this image implies, socialism.

Let’s take a gander at the definition of socialism:

So•cial•ism (noun) \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\
1. Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

The key words in the definition of the term that completely negate any idea of Christ being a socialist are “governmental ownership.” Jesus, while being the Son of God and the King of the Jews, was not the government. People did not pay taxes to Jesus, for instance. Jesus may have had his own group of followers, but he was neither the head of any state nor the leader of any form of government. The prefect of Judea at the time of Christ’s life was Pontius Pilate, not Christ himself.

Furthermore, as the image suggests, the act of simply providing food for everyone in the crowd is not “socialism,” for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the bread and fishes collected from the crowd were donated voluntarily, not taken by force from the people via governmental order. Taxes, on the other hand, are not voluntary.

For a modern day example, let’s look at the Red Cross. The Red Cross provides disaster relief to people around the world, and for the sake of comparison to this picture, let’s say they “feed everyone.” While the Red Cross works with federal governments, the Red Cross does not receive governmental funding on a regular basis, and is funded almost entirely through voluntary, private donations. The Red Cross is therefore not socialism, despite the fact that they provide essential services for free to those who need it.

NewChristineRousselleIconJesus performing a miracle was not an act of the government and therefore cannot be an act of socialism, even if the result of the miracle bears a resemblance in passing to the goals of a socialized state. Jesus may have healed various people for “free,” but this cannot be considered “socialized medicine.” In actuality, the act was the effective use of a private charity (Jesus himself), the polar opposite of socialism.

In a perfectly socialized state, the government would provide for the needs of the people, whether it is healthcare, food, schooling, etc. There would be collective ownership of everything. Jesus did not advocate this. On the contrary, the Bible advocates strong individual charity and charity via the church—not the government forcibly collecting large sums of taxes and confiscating private property in order to aid the poor. Had a socialized government been the one distributing the five loaves and two fishes to the crowd that day, it is certainly plausible that many people would have gone home hungry.

Jesus Christ was many things, but he definitely was not a socialist.

Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @crousselle