A (very) brief examination of the two through the book of James [by William Brien]
The following was written by a student of mine, William Brien, and I found the content quite insightful. As a caveat, Brien writes “I submit this piece with only a limited understanding of Marxism, therefore if I am panned for misconstruing it I yield my position to the experts.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Also, I’d like to add that these insights are merely those: insights. He is, “giving credit where credit is due.” He’s a true intellectual who does not have to profess allegiance to something in order to see what value it may offer. None of the following determines his religious or political inclinations.
Never in the history of humankind has a doctrine been so viciously contorted as that of Christianity. It has been used as justification for atrocities ranging from the Holocaust, to Apartheid, and even Jim Crow. The symbiotic relationship between Russia’s Orthodox Church and the Tsarist regime served as a bulwark of aristocratic rule amid the mass killing and famines of the early 20th century empire. Yet the egalitarianism promoted in the Christian scripture itself directly contradicts the oppressive status quo it has been used to preserve. The Epistle of James condemns the hypocrisy of elitism, saying,
If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?… Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? (2:2-6).
Perhaps the radical Marx could have found a friend in James. Indeed, the apostle’s contrast between the “dishonored” poor and the “rich who oppress” and “drag [the poor] into court” is very much reminiscent of The Communist Manifesto’s elite bourgeoisie guarding the means of production and subjugating the proletariat. The perpetuation of injustice, in accordance with this passage, is not the fulfillment of God’s plan, but a crude imitation designed to protect tyrannical authorities. Though these distortions led Marx to adopt a vehement opposition towards religion, ironically enough, the greed-filled class struggle which he proves to be the driver of socio-economic development towards socialism runs parallel to the greed and sin which drive the actions and thoughts of human beings as they work to become good Christians. It is the death of self-serving pursuit and the preservation of equality, whether through political and economic revolution or through compassion blind of class, which both doctrines wish to bring about.