The idea that compassion is the essence of morality, entered history – to become in time a significant ethical philosophy – with the teachings of St Paul.
St. Paul, the author of Christianity, preached to his converts that they must “love all”. How to do this was explained by the writers of the gospels. Forgive them if they harm you. Turn the other cheek. Love the sinner though you hate the sin. It was an ethos that preferred love to justice (in contradiction to Judaism which held justice to be the highest value).
St. Paul went to extreme lengths in explaining how a follower of “Christ Jesus” must conduct himself in relation to other people.
He must humble himself until he was no more in his own eyes than “the filth of the world, the scum, the muck that is scoured from things.” He must live for others, sacrifice himself for others, the only use of his life being for others. Not only every other individual, but the collective of mankind was of more value than the Christian’s own life. The plight of others is what matters, never your own predicament. Your only legitimate happiness must be a product of your giving and yielding to others.
So fanatically against self-consideration was St. Paul that his ideal Christian society was one in which there was no private property. Share all you have, he told his followers. And the reason he gave for this is particularly pertinent: So that you’ll all be equal in worldly possessions.
Disdain for private property, and the idealizing of equality also entered history with Christianity.
St. Paul went even further. You must be prepared to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” You must not be privileged above others. As a Christian you must renounce your individual wants, talents, aspirations to serve the collective. That way, you are buying the approval of “Christ Jesus”, by whose grace – and only by whose grace – you may be “saved” to live eternally with him. Yet all your efforts to be good according to Pauline precepts might not after all, however painstakingly pursued, buy you that ticket to heaven. And since God is all-knowing, your fate is pre-determined.
To the Christian, this life was only a time of preparation for eternity. What mattered for the Christian was what happened to his “soul” after his bodily death. Naturally, it became a cult of martyrdom. Christians took up their crosses to follow their Lord; joyfully sought crucifixion for themselves, or death in the lion’s mouth in the Roman arena. Some wore hairshirts. Some sat on the top of tall pillars for years. Some died for “Christ Jesus” in battle with followers of other faiths, or with rival claimants to the certain knowledge of Christian “truth”.
And while human life continues, the Church will be the only power on earth. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches became totalitarian tyrannies whose spies tirelessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed.
When would the eternal life of bliss – or agonizing punishment – begin? Immediately upon your own death, or at the end of time when “Christ Jesus” will judge the quick and the dead? The answer remains unsettled. But there will be an Apocalypse, a cataclysmic event which will change everything, marking the end of days, and then – if not before – the chosen will live happily ever after in the perfect state of heaven, ruled over by the all-powerful government of the Triune God; while the rejected burn in hell.
What other ideology claims the moral high ground by justifying its every deed by claiming it to be in the service of the weak, the exploited, the injured, the underdog? Or to put it another way, Justification by Compassion?
What other dogma has it that the plight of the collective matters above all? What other teaches that it is it the duty of the individual to sacrifice himself, his personal wants, talents, aspirations to the greater good of the collective?
In what other ideal society is private property abolished – “so that all will be equal in worldly possessions”? Who decries “privilege”? Who holds equality as the highest ideal?
Where do we find revered texts predicting a cataclysmic event that will change everything, after which the chosen will live happily ever after in a perfect state, under the rule of an all-powerful government, while the rejected will be excluded, condemned, punished, and destroyed?
In the name of what political orthodoxy were totalitarian tyrannies established whose spies ceaselessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed?
The answer is Communism, learnt from the unquestionable authority of Karl Marx.
Marxist Communism insists that the only power must be the Communist Party.
It predicts an inevitable Revolution as its all-transforming Apocalypse. After the Revolution the faithful – those whom the Communist Party spares – will live happily ever after in a perfect Communist state.
While Communism posits no divinities, it declares that something superior to man’s will determines what must inevitably happen – an hypostasis named History.
It rejects the notions of a supernatural authority and a non-material existence. But the rest of Marxist Communism’s essential doctrine is derived from only one source – Christianity. Though neither Marx nor any of his apostles seem to have been aware of it.
The current head of the Pauline Christian Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has tackled this subject.
AP reports (January 11, 2015):
Pope Francis is insisting that his concern for the poor and critique of the global economic system isn’t some novel, communist-inspired ideology but rather the original and core “touchstone” of the Christian faith.
He is right about that. Communism is inspired by Christianity, not Christianity by Communism.
Some U.S. conservatives have branded the first Latin American pope a Marxist for his frequent critiques of consumerism and focus on a church “that is poor and for the poor”. But in an interview contained in a new book, Francis explains that his message is rooted in the Gospel and has been echoed by church fathers since Christianity’s first centuries.
Again, he is right.
“The Gospel does not condemn the wealthy, but the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry that makes people indifferent to the call of the poor,” Francis says in This Economy Kills, a study of the pope’s economic and social teachings. …
Wrong. Early Christianity did condemn the wealthy. The Gospel of Luke, for instance, tells a story to make that very point.
Specifically, Francis summarized a verse from the Gospel of Matthew which is the essential mission statement of his papacy: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me.”
And overlooked the question why “I” was in prison.
“Caring for our neighbor, for those who are poor, who suffer in body and soul, for those who are in need: this is the touchstone. Is it pauperism? No. It is the Gospel.”
He cites church fathers dating to St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom as expressing the same concerns, and noted somewhat wryly that if he had said the same “some would accuse me of giving a Marxist homily”.
Well recognized! Though I cannot resist mentioning in passing that the two saints, Ambrose and John Chrysostom, whom he cites as being especially zealous about caring for the suffering, did not extend their compassion to everyone, they being among the most vicious preachers against the Jews in all history.
How interesting it is that the Pope felt moved to say, not that Marxism and Christianity are different, but merely that of the two similar ideologies, Christianity came first.
To be compassionate is not of course morally wrong. But as a cause so high that in its name human lives may be sacrificed, moral superiority hypocritically claimed, a monopoly of power be instituted, and the unique possession of Truth asserted, it is hideous.
And hideous is the history of both Christianity and its daughter Communism.
Afterword on Charity:
The “first” letter of St. Paul “to the Corinthians”, chapter 13, is a rather good poem declaring love, or charity, to be the highest virtue. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. … And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Whether the poet meant “love” or “charity” has been a bone of contention in Christendom. William Tyndale was sentenced to be burnt at the stake by the Church of Infinite Compassion for translating it with the one word rather than the other.
As an aside, I don’t believe that St Paul was the author of the chapter. It is far too well written to be from the pen of such a clumsy writer as he was. For an example of his poor writing, see his authenticated letter to the Romans.
But what of charity – regarded by Christians as love in practice? Though I am not against it, I do not see it as a great virtue. It is no solution for poverty – just prolongs it.
I do think charity is preferable to Communism/Socialism as a means of redistributing money from those who have earned it to those who have not, private enterprise always being preferable to government control.
But still it is unjust.
To give it is very satisfying to the ego. And contrary to Christian dogma, there’s nothing wrong with self-indulgence.
But as self-advertisement it is repulsive.
Ideally, charity would be practiced only by consenting adults in private.
Jillian Becker January 14, 2015
1. Love one another, love all. 1 Thess.4:9 , Rom.13:8, 1 Cor 13. All quotation is from the King James Version of the New Testament.
2. 1 Cor.4:13
3. 2 Cor 8:14
5. Become the lowest of the low. Phili.2:3; Let us abase ourselves; be fools; 1 Cor.4:10; Be humble, and associate with the lowly. Rom.12:16; Do only the most menial work for a living. 1 Thess.4:11,1 Cor.4:12; Bear affliction – persecution, injustice – with patience. Rom.12:12-14, even with joy. 1 Thess.5:16,18
6. It is well documented that numerous loyal members of the the Communist Party, in the USSR and its satellite states, were persuaded by the Party to let it kill them for the sake of the Party. An interesting account in English of how the Communist Party thus devoured its own is Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovály, whose husband Rudolf Margolius was a martyr to the greater, humaner, compassionate cause in Communist Czechoslovakia.
7. Luke 16:19-31
8. 379 A.D. Vicious writing by St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose in Milan who said: “The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the Devil. Their religion is a sickness. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jew must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is essential that all Christians hate them.” He was called the Bishop with the Golden Tongue. St. Ambrose, Bishop of the Church offered to burn the synagogue himself. St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies against the Jews may be found here.
9. eg. of St. Paul’s confused thinking and poor writing, Rom. 5:12-18: “12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”