I am definitely not a Christian Socialist. But I would gladly call myself a socialist christian. The order of those two single labels makes a world of difference.
“Christian Socialist” is one of those odd couplings of two “labels” that create brackets with question marks inside. Labels like “Progressive Conservative” or “Military Intelligence” that hold up the ends of opposites trying to capture some sense between. But if I switch the order of those labels, I discover new creatures I am much more compatible with. I could live with a conservative Progressive or an intelligent Military much more easily.
The reason that the label “Christian” and the label “Socialist” can’t go together in that order – from my tiny perspective – is because to be a Socialist is to put humanity first and foremost. A socialist is someone who follows the naturally inherent laws of justice, dignity, truth, hope and peace that belong to no particular segment of the human race. These natural concepts are born and grow within all souls of all varieties of race, creed, and intelligence. They require no teaching or training. They are watered by the moon and grow in the sun.
Even to call them God-given is a dangerous label. For those who have troubles with religion’s power will shrink from my attempt to label what really needs no words to tell. Suffice it to say, with a nod and wink, that to be alive is to know these natural laws. Just as we know – naturally - how to get air in our lungs & how to open our eyes - we know we are born to be free, we know that freedom is a condition to be shared. We also know that the intimacy of this common bond is strong enough to feed us yet too fragile to protect us. A spider’s gossamer web.
We might say these natural laws are instinctual, or even genetic – to use scientific for the same mysteries that priests and shamans and artists and artisans have spent centuries attempting to describe, portray, reveal, evoke and….label.
So to label myself a Christian Socialist – defining a particular brand of Socialist - is to create a small cabin to live in within a universal concept that has no doors or windows. Since it is a harsh and scary thing to live wide open and exposed to the elements, we – again naturally – I seek the shelter of a particular code that seems to me best suited to house the sacred gifts born within us.
But even the greatest and most grand temples of religion, or art, or even commerce cannot house what is means to be fully human. What I will choose to label Socialist.
Abraham was a Socialist.
Zarathustra was a Socialist.
Confucius was a Socialist. As is the Bhudda and the Christ and all the many manifestations of the Hindu’s Brahman.
Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jesus, Mohammed, Saint Francis, Ghandi, Jefferson, Mao…
What about those Socialists who we still need first names for? Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Stephen Lewis? Notice how they’re all men? Notice how my knowledge of the world’s prophets is mainly Eurocentric? Hmmmm, seems that my education has been limited.
Most five year olds are also good prophets of the truths of Socialism. Ask them what makes the world go round. They’ll tell ya. As they absorb and observe the world around them – the first and simple truths they arrive at are the truths that I’m labelling Socialist. You’ll find that five year olds the world over can tell you about how to live & share together. Then they go to school and get trained in what it takes to succeed.
Maybe you’ve got a better name for what I’m talking about. How bout Human? That works for me – with just one little problem. The label Human also contains all the naturally existing and loathsome qualities of the divine and evil creature we label Human. We don’t have to look far to find daily evidence of the depravity humans inflict on one another – stealing, robbing and raping from one another the freely offered gifts of dignity, freedom & voice. What is especially saddening is these crimes are often committed under the banner of truth, justice & peace.
So, I’m back to the universal concept of Socialism. I am a believer in the great Socialist experiment. I believe it is the road we are on as human beings. I believe it is the road that every great civilization has pursued – only to lose it’s way – eventually, tragically – when it’s leaders’ adult children become drunk with power & addicted to it’s privileges.
As every alcoholic household knows – the innocent suffer until the house finally burns down. For the healing in the new beginning to take hold - a surrender to the un-nameable power of the Redeemer must become an moment by moment daily discipline.
I believe it is the road of Socialism that forked in the last century between the two great experiments of Communism and Capitalism. I believe that the people of the earth can see – already know from the scars we bear on planet and soul – that neither system succeeded in finding the promised land they both claimed to seek.
I believe that this century is our last chance.
It scares me that Americans in the United States are afraid to label Obama’s efforts as “Socialist”. As if Socialism is a great evil. But I understand the fear. It’s only the same reaction that so many of my own friends have with calling their own efforts “Christian”. We’ve been burned by leaders who’ve turned trust into torment – hope into hate – allowing success to twist their socialist cause into sectarian failure.
Until we find better labels to describe the travelers on the road that leads back to Garden - the same road where the poorest walk and the richest ride – I will continue to call it socialism. And I will continue to walk on it as a Christian with companions from all different walks and ways.
One little hint about the new label that’s emerging. Because the road we walk to protect humanity’s fragile web has taken us to the place where first and foremost we must preserve life on Mother Earth – we are beginning to listen closely to those who still live in the Garden. Those who have kept close to it’s wisdom while civilizations plundered earth’s eternal wisdom for temporary truths.
That wisdom is rooted in each of us. Those roots are best explored in traditions that have remained closest to their roots in the earth. Most Religion is caught up in the branches of wisdom’s tree. But the wisdom to care and keep it growing will always come from those who listen most closely to what our Mother earth – in whom we are rooted - tells us. While we human beings have many fathers; many traditions, tribes, religions, technologies, truths – we have only one Mother.
It is our Mother who gives us the strength we need day by day to walk the road. It is our Mother who takes care of us with gifts of water, land & sun from which we craft clothing, food & medicine. It is our Mother who gives us the good gifts of trees, plants & stone from which we craft everything from homes to rockets. And it is our Mother who tells us – has always told us – how best to share the gifts she gives.
Now what would you call that?