Socialism, Indulgences and Why Protestants Can Not Be Democrats

There are many Christians who identify with the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party is becoming more and more socialist.  Yet socialism is the exact reason Martin Luther disagreed with the Catholic Church and started the Protestant Reformation. 

What is Socialism?

According to Karl Marx, socialism is a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

In essence, it is the political practice of the government controlling the means of production so that the workers can get a fair distribution of the products of that production. 

In a simple view, this seems very Christian.  We should all do our part to help those less fortunate. 

The first problem with this is in the realization that the workers are the means of production.  So socialism can only exist if the government has complete control of the people. 

In a socialist, the government decides who needs what, and what is needed from them.  They may decide you would be a good farm equipment mechanic in Iowa, and you only need a 1 room apartment and no car to do that job. 

Socialism is dependent on every person being willing to give up their personal liberties for the good of the masses.

The next big problem with socialism is that it is dependent on the integrity of the members of the government.  If you look at every other country that has tried Socialism, this has been a big problem.  Politicians have power and power corrupts. 

What are Indulgences?

In the middle ages, the Catholic Church started a practice of selling Indulgences.  What an indulgence is, simply put, is the penance for a sin, paid for in cash. 

Now, the Catholic Church still has Indulgences, but they are not paid for in money.  You can receive an indulgence for good works, not in place of them.

In the middle ages, however, the church felt that a donation to the church would allow the church to do good works in your name and that was the same as doing the good works yourself.

Of course, this led to abuse.  And that abuse led to Martin Luther’s disagreement with the church that led to the Protestant Reformation.

What Did Martin Luther Say?

Martin Luther argued that good works must be done by the individual.  He said that paying someone else to do good works for you did not count.  Therefore, buying an indulgence was wrong. 

Specifically, Martin Luther said

  • Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
  • Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
  • Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
  • Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
  • Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.
  • Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
  • Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
  • Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
  • Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

Why Socialism and Protestantism Do not Mix

Taking Matin Luther at his word, the very idea that paying more in taxes so that the government can take care of the poor for you is against Christ’s teachings. 

As Christians, you are obliged to do the good deeds yourself.  To spend your own time and money caring for the less fortunate.  Therefore, it should be expected of Christians to oppose government social welfare programs and instead support community programs to help the less fortunate. 

This is a direct contradiction to socialism which preaches that you need to give your money to the government so that they can take care of those less fortunate for you.

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