Marx is Dead! Jesus Lives!

Acts 4:34-35

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.

It used to be fashionable to note that in this passage one could read a Christian rationale for Marxism or communism.  What was not so fashionable was to note that the early Church acted on the formula “from each according to his abilities to each according to his need” on the basis of the love and power of God, not on the basis of state terror and coercion.  Now that communism (at least in Europe) is dead, Castro is getting to be an old goat and the regimes in Asia are getting more and more brittle with each passing year, we can now safely say that reading this passage as a justification for the atrocities of Stalin and Mao and the body and soul-killing experiment of communism was—how to put it?—stupid.  However, in our healthy and wholesome rejection of communism, we must be cautious not to reject this passage.  For in our culture, the problem is not so much state terror as hedonism and an individualism that rejects the claims of the poor upon the well-to-do.  This does not mean we need more coercion.  It means we need more conversion.  In the early Church, Jesus Christ was able to do, through love, what all the guns in the USSR could not do: bring selfish people to abandon their selfishness.  Now we must beg him to help us abandon our selfishness.  Today, ask God to give you a heart for the poor and then put legs on that prayer in some concrete way.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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  • Joe DeVet

    Hear, hear. Conversion not coercion. We have come to assume too easily that problems we identify, and solutions we propose, are up to the government to implement. This leads to what I call a “surrogate Christianity”, or it might be called “surrogate Caritas.” It goes like this: I am my brother’s keeper, and I will take care of him and be very generous to him, while using other people’s resources. I will keep it up as long as I don’t have to touch the “brother” that I am “keeping” or look him in the eye!

  • DWC

    Joe. Good one. Many have confused the personal and voluntary assistance — with the less acceptable “forced redistribution” plan of some.