From Robespierre to Stalin (himself a former seminarist), leftists have traditionally been opposed to all religion, viewing it as a threat to their own revolutionary schemes. But in recent decades — in fulfillment of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci’s prediction that communism would gradually make its “long march through the institutions” of culture — leftists have entered the religious arena and made churches throughout the developed world into captives of radical politics.
One early warning of this evolving movement came in the late 1960s with the appearance of liberation theology, a movement founded on the belief that God makes Himself known particularly through the poor, and that the Bible can be fully understood only when interpreted from the perspective of the impoverished. Centered in Latin America and especially influential within Roman Catholicism, liberation theology advocated political activism, even including revolutionary activity, as a means of applying the tenets of Christian faith.
When socialism and communism had presented themselves candidly as essentially godless doctrines aiming to seize a secular version of the power enjoyed by religion, they enjoyed only limited appeal among a traditionally religious population. But now, reframed by liberation theologians, socialist theory had a new power in church going populations because of its vision of transforming socioeconomic structures — generally meaning capitalism — that caused social inequities around the world.
Since the 1960s, the religious left has expanded its reach to embrace the tenets of leftist doctrine in a host of spheres, including: radical environmentalism (depicting capitalism and industry as inherently destructive to the natural world); feminism (supporting “pay equity” and, in some cases, universal access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand); gay rights (supporting a radical redefinition of marriage and family); anti-war movements (viewing the United States as the chief cause of international strife); open borders (supporting amnesty and expanded rights for illegal immigrants); human rights (classifying the United States and Israel as the world’s foremost transgressors); civil rights (characterizing the U.S. as an irredeemably racist nation where preferential policies are needed to counterbalance this intractable trait); criminal justice (viewing crime as a by-product of corrupt social institutions like capitalism); and economics (again, depicting capitalism as an exploitative system that harms the vast majority of the world’s population for the benefit of a small, powerful elite).
Many Christian churches seek to justify the foregoing views by asserting that Jesus Christ himself, were he alive today, would have adopted these same positions. Thus religious leftists propose to combine the teachings of Jesus with the teachings of Marx as a way of justifying a socialist revolution designed to overthrow the economics of capitalism and greed. They re-render the gospels not as doctrine impacting on the human soul but rather as windows into the historical dialectic of class struggle.
In the religious left’s ideal, the Marxist State serves as a substitute for Christ, offering a theory of sin (private property) and salvation (collective ownership); a church that dispenses grace (the State, as administered by the vanguard of the proletariat); and a litany of saints (socialists) and sinners (capitalists). And the eagerly anticipated Marxist “revolution” takes the form of wealth redistribution rather than violent looting.
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