Jon Moseley, a Tea Party member, declares Jesus Christ is a capitalist. He writes against Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Jon sells vacation packages to the Bahamas. The Holy Father is a trained theologian, chemist, and philosopher who happens to be the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church standing in the line of St. Peter. One of these is not like the other. Which is why I was surprised with the Holy Father started to sell vacation packages, er, I mean when Moseley started to spout off against the Pope’s theological position.
Because Moseley cannot understand Scripture and seeks to redefine concepts he clearly has no idea about, it is pointless to describe to him just how wrong he is on the interpretations of the Pope’s writing. I want to avoid his gross misunderstanding of the Holy Father’s writings and instead focus on Moseley’s misuse of Scripture.
Moseley begins by quoting Luke 12.13–14, a rather ironic Gospel to choose. Luke is by far the most economic of the Gospels and is recognized by actual scholars as such. Of course, these actual scholars would not say Luke is promoting socialism or capitalism, as both are anachronistic concepts to this time period. There are the levellers, of which Jesus could be considered, but they are hardly the socialism of Karl Marx.1 Another point of irony is that Moseley, like O’Reilly before him, forgets to follow through with the rest of the pericope. If he had, he would have seen Jesus condemn income inequality (12.15) as well as unfettered consumerism (12.16–21). Indeed, this entire passage takes on a rather communistic outlook, especially with the command to sell our possessions and give what we have to charity (12.33). Moseley suggests one verse is all that is needed. Perhaps Moseley should read Scripture rather than pre-chosen verses.
The op-ed WND declares as “set(ting) the Pope straight” on capitalism (the hubris is outstanding) goes on to suggest Jesus “spoke to the individual, never to government or government policy. Jesus was a capitalist, preaching personal responsibility, not a socialist.” This is rather odd given Jesus always spoke (if we take the words of the Gospels as records rather than interpretation) to crowds about his teachings he is leaving to the disciples (as a whole). Further, as God’s Son, he speaks to Israel as a whole (Hebrews 1.1–3). Jesus does address policy, especially when he takes the whips to the Temple animals. After all, the religious authorities had some small governmental sway. Given that one could not speak to the tax-collectors without it looking like one was speaking to or about Rome, this again flies in the face of Moseley’s rhetoric. Finally, as scholars have shown, the Gospels are filled with anti-imperial rhetoric. Jesus himself is God’s logos against Rome.
And let us not forget, Moseley makes the same fatal error O’Reilly did — he assumed individuality is an ancient concept. This flies in the face of covenantal theology found in Judaism and most of Christianity. Jesus did not come to change “individual hearts one soul at a time” as Moseley asserts later in his diatribe. Rather, Jesus came to save collectively the people of God (and the world, but that might get me tarred and feathered). Moseley’s atonement model looks more like a consumerist re-branding of the exemplar model and thus suffers from too much heresy to extrapolate.
To insist on the Vicar of Christ promoting socialism, Moseley must redefine his terms. He shows plainly that Americans simply do not understand what Socialism is. By Moseley’s definition — that of the use of guns by the government to steal property — George Washington led the first socialist revolution during the Whiskey Rebellion and Abraham Lincoln the second. His understanding of capitalism declares “the consumer is king.” Yet, we know from the parable in Luke 12, Jesus roundly condemns this attitude.
Moseley attempts to pull in the overturning of the tables as evidence that Jesus fought against crony capitalism. I am lost at this example. One example that is not lost is his use of Matthew 25.15–18. Moseley interprets this to have Jesus “using money as a metaphor for making the most of all of life’s opportunities, abilities and moments.” He sees in this “investment capital” and an almost hatred of the person who is unwilling to take a chance. Of course, had Moseley compared this to Luke 19.12–27 and the scholarship on these parables, he would have seen the ironic twist. The parablist is not condemning the person who did not make any money, but praising him. The way you made money in those days was to essentially trick your countrymen into bad loans and high interest rates. The man who refused to take a chance refused to get rich off of his fellow Jew. And let us not forget, Matthew 25.31–46 does not include one scent of budding capitalism, but focuses on a charitable life as the means to heaven.
Moseley doesn’t yet get the idea that “kingdom” language (John 18.36) is a political statement. Jesus was not saying he was apolitical (wonder if Moseley would consider becoming apolitical) but that his Kingdom was based in heaven, was eternal, and even controlled Rome. Jesus was not apolitical; Jesus was supra-political. He ends his rant by suggesting Government should not meddle in our private lives. How odd given his stances on many issues deemed private.
Jesus was not a capitalist but the Gospels contain just enough economic material to suggest he would have railed at the horrors of modern, unfettered capitalism.
- If Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin don’t like the pope, they won’t care much for Jesus (washingtonpost.com)
- Pope Francis: Judaism is not engaged in idolatry; serves the true God (revisionistreview.blogspot.com)
- Homeless Jesus statue admired by Pope Francis (metronews.ca)
- The Pope Exhorts: The Church’s Missionary Transformation (billditewig.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis visits the cell of Nazarena of Jesus, an American anchoress (patheos.com)
- I would argue that Jesus would have been considered a leveller by the Roman authorities. I wouldn’t classify them as socialists as they were more ethnic based rather than (modern) nationalistic. ↩