This has been floating around Facebook (“The second most popular word beginning with F and ending with K”). The first time I saw it, I was annoyed by its stupidity. Now, by the third time or so, I’m in full-bore pissed. Bumper-sticker-style non-arguments are bad enough; such arguments involving my Lord are beyond the pale. You should be glad I’m not a Muslim.
Some of the people posting this are Christians, or at least claimed they were the last time I checked in. And using the image of Christ to sell something (like socialism) is a pretty clear 2nd Commandment violation. In this case, it’s literally “taking the Name in vain”, because nobody is going to be persuaded. Really, if you want to sin that flagrantly in public, why don’t you just put up nekkid pictures of yourselves? They’d be more fun, and you wouldn’t embarrass yourself any less.
Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with using the teaching of Jesus in defense of socialism. I know some people of good conscience who make Biblical arguments. They’re wrong, but they’re working from the proper source; we should all be asking “What would Jesus do?” in regard to all human action, which emphatically includes governance. The only problem with that is that it’s theocracy…at least that’s what it’s called when the Right does it. Apparently there’s a difference between enforced charity and enforced chastity that transcends r,s, and t. You don’t get to pick which things are sins; that’s what got us here originally. So if you’re going to argue for wealth redistribution on the basis of Jesus feeding the multitudes, you have to argue for Sunday store closings on the basis of Jesus keeping the Sabbath, if you’re intellectually honest, and not just using Jesus as your personal Ron Popeil.
Only “one of these things is not like the other”; the feeding of the 5000 is not like socialism. Let’s take a look at John 6. In verse 2 we see that “a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.” Now, if these guys actually were the diseased, they wouldn’t have been able to follow him that far, so these guys didn’t start out being there for the bennies; they saw the miracles, and believed, and were there seeking enlightenment. Passover was near (this is of symbolic more than practical import, I think; folks are soon going to have the ultimate Passover sacrifice explained to them). These folks need to eat. And money is not going to solve the problem; it’s way too big for the available funds (sort of like now). There’s a kid with some barley bread and a couple of small fish. His mom probably said, “you aren’t going to go wandering off to check out this prophet guy without packing a lunch.” Now, the passage is unclear about why we know that. Maybe the disciples polled the crowd. Or maybe the kid just came up and said, “My mom always overpacks; I could share this stuff.” Kids do that, a lot more easily than adults sometimes. There’s nothing to suggest they took the kid’s food by force. And surely somebody else must have had some pita or goat jerky or something. But if they did, Jesus wasn’t working with it, which further suggests that this was a voluntary offering, and the others were holding out.
So Jesus multiplies the food thousands of times, so much that there are more leftovers than what He started with. He is producing what He is distributing; it is His, because He is the source of all supply. When people see this, they want to make Him king. Vote for the guy who will give us free food. Now we have something which actually resembles socialism. And Jesus isn’t having it; he heads for the hills. When the crowd finally finds Him, He points out that they’re following Him because He’s a meal ticket, rather for the right reason, which is that He is the Son of God. They’re starting to feel entitled, as the followers of Christ, the folks involved with “the next big thing.” And Jesus proceeds to stop them from thinking with their stomachs, by turning their stomachs, by literally telling them to “eat Me”. And they leave, because the dude is just too weird.
Now, how would this have played out were this actual socialism? They would have collected everyone’s food, even the hidden stash of pita and goat jerky; Rocky and the boys might have to rough people up a little, but they’d get it done. They’d have distributed it “equitably”, meaning that the disciples would get more, since they were the ones doing the actual work of getting food to the people. And even if the Keynesian multiplier effect exists, it doesn’t multiply thousandfold. So everyone would get one bite, and still be hungry. And there wouldn’t be leftovers for the next day, so they’d still be starving.
Now, it’s clear that the 5000 weren’t necessarily grateful or worthy proletarians. They just want the free cheese. Jesus reminds them of the manna (which Israel grumbled about too), and wants them to go to the next level for spiritual nourishment. That’s OK though. We all want the free food, because we sense there was a time when it was always free, and when man did not have to earn bread by the sweat of his brow. That time will come again, under King Jesus. The folks arguing for socialism now won’t want to participate, because that would be a literal theocracy. That’s fine; God doesn’t force you to go to Heaven, or anywhere else, and you’ll finally be able to escape God’s Grace. But you can’t make Heaven be here, under your terms, because you aren’t God, you can’t repeal the laws of economics, and you can’t produce food by praying… even monks have to work. If you do feel the need to play God, leave my God out of it, ‘mkay?