Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Back, again, to my primary social concern: Marxism. No surprise there.

The first impression of Marxist motives usually leads us to the idea of statism. The principle that Marx proclaimed, that religion is the opiate of the people, sets the church beneath the state. That may seem more Hegelian than particularly Marxist, but still plays into the goals of Marx.

Today’s popular Marxists, like the ACLU, proclaim the state and church as separate entities. That is, there is to be no reciprocal relationship between then. The church is best of being outside the control of government and likewise the government must not approach anything resembling the old theocracies. So the question becomes plain: How do we fit this into the Marxist paradim?

It is a simple error to miss the revolutionary intentions of Marx and his end game. In the end the Marxist intends that the church serves the interest of the state. To get there, that’s another story. It goes to Marx’ view of virtue and ethics, of what is real and what is unreal. For to Marx only the material is real and that leaves all religion and faith unreal. And what is unreal is to be rejected, to be set aside and replaced with his materialism.

The process winds its way through two general steps. The first is to marginalize the church. The second is use this marginalized position to present the Marxist alternative to a church that is impotent.

Marginalization came by way of a redefinition of theology. By employing Freuerbach and others of similar persuasion, religious belief was changed from the immanent God who is involved in human affairs to something unreal and merly emotional. Bockmuehl states it this way (p. 31, The Challenge of Marxism):

Is Christianity real? This attack leveled by Marx and Engels is of special concern to Christians because the slogan “real humanism,” which sums up the attack, was also used to point out the alleged unreality of Chrsitian theology. “Real humanism” was the battle cry shouted at the thin spiritualism of contemporary Protestant theology as well as at speculative, idealistic philsophy. bot of these never got anywhere near the actual situation of the proletariat, because they were so occupied with more spiritual things. Therefore, Marx and Engels looked at this kind of “religious inhumanity” as one of their main enemies.

This approach is part of the Marxist criticism. His “critical thinking” was not what we would probably term “critical analysis.” For Marx it was an intentional attack on what has been heretofore assumed to be true. Critical thinking was and his the Marxist method for tearing down obstacles for the establishment of his world view as a system. This was his “ruthless criticism of the existing order” that we might today read on bumper stickers as Subvert the Dominant Paradigm.

The door has now been opened to replace an unreal and impotent Christianity (or any other religion) with a strictly human way of doing things. As Lennon said, and employing many of the core principles of a Marxist world view:Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

This criticism of religion is Marx’ foundation. Again, as Bockmuehl says (p. 51):
In 1844 Karl marx published his essay entitled “A Contribution to the Critique of hegel’s Philosophy of Law: Introduction.” Contrary to its abstract title, this piece carried significant concrete weight: It was the manifesto of early Marxism. the very first sentence contained a two-point thesis: For Germany the criticism of religion is in the main complete, and criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.”

This is intended to leave religious faith vulnerable, and that was his goal throughout. But while we may philosophyically prove the assumption to be in error, the step that we must take is to raise our theology above the compromise of pluralism and to make Christianity more and more real — practically beneficial — to the world around us. Calvin did this in Geneva. Rome did this by ending slavery in Europe during the first millennium. English protestantism initiated the end of secularism’s slavery through Newton and Wilberforce.

And, looking back on the heritage of Marx, we can clarify the impotence and abuses of his world view despite the rantings of Obama and Schaeffer. The compromise of faith is a plain dismissal of that faith, for the acceptance of Marxism is an acceptance of its atheism.
Today gods from the right and the left compete to impress the church and persuade it, causing it to reduce itself to nothing but the moderate expression of the accepted opinions of the day. In contrast to this the first task of the church is to find and keep its identity. (Bockmuehl, p. 21)

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles