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The Summit Lecture Series: Making Sense of Your World with John Stonestreet, Part 19 (Marxism)

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To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to summit.org

Let’s talk about Marxism.

The key work of Marxism is the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Its controlling idea boils down to class struggle and Materialism. Now, Materialism is similar to Naturalism, but they put all their weight on “stuff” and “resources”.

So, what Marx believed was that the entire history of the world could really be understood through the lens of “those who had resources and those who did not have resources”… in other words, the struggle between the upper class (bourgeoisie) and the lower class (proletariat). His idea was that the bourgeoisie has always controlled the proletariat and the proletariat has always tried to get the stuff that the bourgeoisie has, as they felt they deserved. Marx was looking to achieve Utopia by getting rid of the socioeconomic classes altogether.

He believed that if a society would take all the collective resources and redistribute them according to each individual, then the society could live in Utopia. Everyone would give according to what they could give and only take according to what they need. Then, if everyone had what they needed, then everyone would be happy and the world would be a perfect place.

This may make sense in Marx’s theory… but this has never worked out in real life.

You see, Marxism assumes that all humans are good and all they want is their fair share. But, human history has proved that if you give any person their “fair share”, they will inevitably want more. Also, if people know that no matter how hard they work, they will be compensated the same, they will almost always will not put their best efforts forward.

Image: Mark Thoma

Image: Mark Thoma

On top of this, if a society is going to redistribute its resources, there must be people doing the redistributing. Throughout history, these redistributors have always been dishonest and self-serving. When Communism fell across Eastern Europe, it was discovered that the dictators had storehouses of rotting food while their people were starving. You see, Marxism misses the target in regards to human nature.

One of the best critiques of Marxism that I have ever seen was depicted in the World Ware II movie Enemy at the Gates. Now keep in mind, during WWII, we were allies with the Soviet Union, which had just recently become a Communist nation. In the movie, there is a sort of cat-and-mouse game between a Nazi sniper (Ed Harris) who is taking out all the Soviet leaders one-by-one and a Soviet sniper (Jude Law) whose goal is to take out the Nazi gunman. Inevitably (as Hollywood stories go) the Soviet sniper and the Soviet leader (Joseph Fiennes) who recruited him fall in love with the same girl (Rachel Weisz)… and she chooses Jude Law. At the apex of this love triangle, Joseph Fiennes’ character offers a monologue – not about love, but about why Communism and its Marxist ideals are doomed to fail. Upon conclusion, he stands from his hidden spot in the battlefield, takes the bullet from Ed Harris’ gun, which reveals Harris’ position so that Jude Law can take out the Nazi. Now, as if the love triangle/throws of war/historical aspect wasn’t enough… what I find extremely phenomenal is Joseph Fiennes’ monologue:

Man will always be a man. There is no new man. We tried so hard to create a society that was equal, where there’d be nothing to envy your neighbor. But there’s always something to envy. A smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to appropriate. In this world, even a Soviet one, there will always be rich and poor. Rich in gifts, poor in gifts. Rich in love, poor in love.”

You see, as Fiennes said, even such things as a smile, a friendship, or love will always be envied. Yet, they are not physical. That’s the problem with Marxism. To a Communist, everything looks like material resources, just as to a hammer everything looks like a nail. Yet, so much in life is not material. There is family, there is love, there is belonging and purpose. Often, the things people want most are not physical but meta-physical. Categorically, Marxism does not have room for non-physical things. And by missing this part of reality, Marxists and Communists miss out on a whole aspect of the world. They try to set up social and government programs to fill these voids, but they have been and always will be unsuccessful.

This is why the 20th century was the century of failed utopian visions.

Why? Because you can’t fix the world. The world has to be redeemed. Redeemed is vastly different than fixed, and only Jesus Christ can redeem it… not any of us.

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