Hat tip to James McGrath for finding this article by Amy Sullivan. I think her title is a little disingenuous; I’m certain Glenn Beck loves Jesus (he’s a Mormon for goodness sakes). He sometimes goes on rants on religion and feels that America was founded upon divine providence. But Beck’s comments betray his ignorance. It is an ignorance shared by a great deal of conservative republicans who have criticized the left for being both antireligious and communists. It makes one wonder if they even know what the New Testament suggests Jesus and his followers taught others?
According to the Acts of the Apostles, the early church was one of communal wealth, shared property, equality, and lacked class structure:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
By the definition of communism (“a system of social organization in which property [especially real property and the means of production] is held in common”), the early church fathers, then, were communists. In Chapter 4, the author of Luke-Acts takes measures to expand on what he meant in Chapter 2 when he wrote “they gave to anyone as he had need”:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37)
In fact, so important was it to the author of Luke-Acts that the sharing of property and wealth be stressed that the next chapter explains what happened to two individuals who did not give all they had to the community.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. (Acts 5:1-5)
When Ananias’ wife came by and lied to Peter amount the amount as well, trying to keep some for herself, she also was struck down dead. The irony here is that what Glenn Beck believes, i.e. capitalism, is in practice what you see Ananias and his wife following. They sell their property, give most of it away to the community but pocket some money for profit, for themselves. It is this practice which offends Peter and, clearly, God, who struck them dead for not relinquishing all possessions.
Jesus himself commanded individuals to give up all they owned and possessed to come follow him; a line which the author of Luke-Acts takes very seriously. Perhaps Glenn Beck should take this just as seriously; if he wants to save face, he should heed Jesus’ command, give up his radio show, and all his possessions.