Venezuela has been at the back of my mind for the last few years, as headlines below the fold of most major publications have quietly documented the growing chaos and disorder there. This week, however, I decided to dig in a little deeper to understand what was going on. And what I discovered only confirmed what I had suspected all along: what is happening there is a shining example of everything wrong with socialism.
You see, I’m a Christian, and this is why I now reject socialism. I used to be a huge proponent of socialism, but while there are many Christians out there who think that socialism is perfectly consistent with Christianity, and with all due respect and hippie-Jesus kindness to these well-intentioned people, they’re dead wrong.
Let me explain.
What is happening in Venezuela is, in short, a terrible economic crisis, which is in part the result of the government of Chavez and his successor, Maduro, devaluing the bolivar, Venezuela’s currency, and nationalizing the potentially lucrative oil industry.
You see, like many countries in Latin America, Venezuela is incredibly resource-rich. In fact, it is the most resource-rich country in Latin America. The impression I was given of modern Latin American history in my studies as a socialist was that it was full of resources that the people could have their share of, but that rich, greedy American businessmen came in and stole, and that the Marxist revolutionaries only wanted the people to have their fair share of the resources of their own country.
I understand this premise and also understand opposition to crony capitalism and monopolies. I have further thoughts on this topic, but right now I will just say that this isn’t necessarily the whole story, of course. Like all history, the leftist narrative I received and actively sought out as a teenager and young woman was quite slanted in the favor of Marxist revolutionaries.
The Ironic Outcome of Venezuela’s ‘Revolution’
The heartbreaking irony of what has become of Chavez’s revolution in Venezuela is that it seems to have created the very thing it set out to destroy. As Chavez and then Maduro worked hard to nationalize the oil industry and seize private property, all in the name of giving back to the poor, they ultimately created a stunted economy which limited public spending.
See, the pesky reality of any economy is that in order for wealth to be given to the poor, it has to be generated in the first place.
In short, by poorly managing the vast resources of Venezuela, the socialists ended up doing exactly what the fat cat Americans had supposedly always done: limiting the people’s access to the riches of their own country.
Socialism is Immoral
I find that many Christians I have encountered who are in favor of public welfare programs and soft on socialism are often ironically quite anti-government and anti-American. This is ironic because, as any quick glance at a timeline of what the Venezuelan government has done in the last few years will tell, socialism requires strict government control.
The more the people in Venezuela protest moves made by the Maduro regime to restrict free speech, seize private property, and expand their own power, the more the government, well, expands their own power. Just yesterday, a new constitutional assembly granted itself superiority over all other members of the government. This is, quite literally, dictatorship.
And before you try to argue that it’s the fault of the US that Venezuela can’t prosper, let me just share that I distinctly remember reading in the New York Times that Chavez intended to restrict the sale of Venezuelan oil to the US, and thought that was fantastic.
You might try to rationalize away the true intention of socialism vs. how it has played out in history as I used to, but the truth is, the history speaks for itself. While capitalism has contributed to economic growth, prosperity, and healthy GDP’s in many modern societies, socialism almost always comes with repressive governments and full-on massive dictatorships. Where socialism supposedly succeeds, like in many Northern European countries, it either comes with massive taxation combined or an intact free market capitalistic economy, or both.
At the end of the day, when the government takes something that you have earned or built yourself, regardless of who they give it to, that is theft. Period. And theft is quite definitely not moral.
Socialism is Not Christian
At the end of the day, Venezuela proves to me once and for all that socialism is not Christian. Why? Because when charity and caring for the poor is enforced by harsh taxation, massive fines, or your personal property being seized and given to someone else, it’s not charity, it’s simply a massively restrictive government.
One of the principal aspects of our Salvation in Christ is in liberty, the liberty to give to whom we feel compelled by Christ to give to. You might say that as Christians we are required to love the poor, and it is true that the Bible is full of commands to give to those in need. But is it by these works that we are saved, or through our belief in the Lord Jesus and the work He did on the Cross?
I have one question for you: if your God would not punish you if you failed to be charitable enough in your life, why would you consider a government virtuous if it takes over private businesses and taxes you whether you want to help the poor or not?
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, I abandoned socialism because I realized there was no way to impose it without restricting freedom. And, as a Christian, I believe in liberty. I do not believe the government ought to have the capacity to determine my personal morality, only God dictates what is moral, but I would also prefer a government that derives its morality from God, not Marx or any other man.
If I chose to live a life of charity, I want it to be led by the Holy Spirit, not by the government.
My heart breaks for the people of Venezuela, it really does. And to be honest, as someone who used to passionately support the cause of many Latin American Marxists, it does honestly make me really sad to see their vision fail. Not because I support their original vision anymore, but simply because I understand that they are trying to work, as so many unsaved people work, to try to make the world a better place for the oppressed.
But being oppressed does not make one moral, unfortunately. It doesn’t excuse theft, or sin, or aggressive violence against those you perceive as oppressive. This is another leftist lie that I have repented of, and that the Bible has an answer to:
“Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.” Exodus 23:3
While every single person has the natural right to life given to them by God, and every single person is made in the image of God, they all need Jesus more than anything else.
Please join me in praying for the people of Venezuela, that they can have peace and ultimately, the resource they require the most: Salvation.