Is Marx's gospel a dead letter?

By Simon Barrow
May 16, 2007

Responding to Pope Benedict's strictures on Marxism and the Christian message, Jordan Tchilingirian, researcher for the religious thin-tank Ekklesia, commented today that peoples’ views of Marx “are still clouded by popular spin, misreadings of his work and mythology.”

He said: “It is a mistake to confuse Marx’s essentially moral protest against the injustices of capitalism with his misappropriation by those who perpetuated the evils of Soviet and Eastern European totalitarianism. The Pope is correct; much done in the name of Marx has been terrible. But this is also true of much that has been done in the name of Christ and the Gospel.”

Tchilingirian added: “Binning everything about Marx is ridiculous. His critique of the dominant ideology has resonances with the way Christian scripture speaks from the perspective of the poor and Jesus condemns 'Mammon'. You don’t have to buy Marx’s precise economic prescriptions or his philosophical positivism to acknowledge and learn from this.”

Marx has at times been described by academics inside and outside the churches as ‘the last great Hebrew prophet’, because his attack on injustice parallels those of the Old Testament prophets.

But his appropriation by 'command communism' and the violent and oppressive legacies of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky have put him 'out of bounds' since the collapse of the Eastern bloc.

[In exploring the political nature of Christian belief around issues such as restorative justice, anti-poverty action and nonviolence, Ekklesia seeks to challenge many conventional left-right assumptions, and to examine the potential of the church as a radical 'contrast community' within civil society.]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.