Political Idolatries

Recently my wife asked me something to this effect: Is there a biblically explanable reason that so many are drawn to socialistic political schemes? I thought the answer was worth making public if for no other reason than having us think “worldviewishly” about politics.

It should be noted that there are 2 extremes that should be avoided politically; and both stem from fundamental idolatries of the sinful human heart. To the left there is statism. To the right, there’s totalitarianism.

Let’s think through why these extremes are undergirded by idolatry.

Communism is statism taken to it’s logical conclusion. It aims to abolish private property in the attempt to

  1. level the economic playing field, and
  2. end the cruel injustices inflicted upon the working class by the ruling class (these were the goals of Karl Marx).

This utopian vision finds it’s “kingdom of God” in the classless society where no business, no distinctions between rich and poor, and no government remains. Each man rules over himself, working for the common good. Socialism is the halfway house between “corrupt” capitalism and fullblown communism. In a socialist society, according to Marx’s original vision, the central government takes over all private property and equally redistributes both land and wealth for the mutual benefit of all citizens.

The problem with socialism and communism is summarized in one word: reality. It doesn’t just fail as an economic theory, it’s taken the lives of between 85-100 million people in practice. The twentieth century served as a grand experiement in the laboratory of world history on the merits of communism, and it’s failed…miserably. Socialist regimes have murdered and starved millions, and a true communist society has never emerged. Why? Because once the government bloats to a point where it owns and controls everything it’s not about to peacefully relinquish that kind of power.

But let’s not forget the other end of the spectrum, totalitarianism. In a totalitarian government, again, the state has complete power. But whereas in socialism the goal is to have power diffused, in totalitarian governments power is consolidated. Usually some real or perceived national crisis drives the people to place their faith in a savior figure, either the messianic state or the messianic political figure. This messianic figure is trusted to solve all the governments problems and protect the people. This has historically led to the rise of dictators. Clearly this is rank-and-file idolatry, a functional denial of the first commandment, “You will have no other Gods before me.”.

For a great introduction to political theory from a Christian perspective, see:


Posted on May 29, 2010, in Politics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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