Jesus has been adopted by the Marxists. In a history exhibition organised as part of the Kerala State level meet of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Thiruvananthapuram, the picture of Jesus occupies a prominent place along with Karl Marx, Engels, and Che Guevara. The biographical sketch of Jesus as given by the Marxist history is:
Birth: Between BC 2 and 7
Parents: Carpenter Joseph and Mary of Bethlehem in Judea
Received baptism from John the Baptist at the age of 30
He was a social reformer who tried to liberate the Jews from their bondage to the Romans. The religious leaders of the time did not like the teachings of Jesus who tried to teach modern living style to the people of Jerusalem. He questioned the evils of the ruling classes. With the help of the religious leaders, the Roman Empire crucified him in 26-36AD.
This is not the first time that Jesus is being portrayed as a Communist. Even within the Catholic Church, there were movements like Liberation Theology which discovered the Communist in Jesus. To a great extent, the claim is valid too. Jesus asked his followers to emulate the example of the birds in the sky and the lilies in the garden which do not sow or reap, do not amass the grains (wealth) in granaries, but live a carefree (free from material cares) life. He would have certainly favoured a communitarian kind of life where people live together caring for and sharing with one another.
But would that kind of a life be “modern life style,” as claimed by the CPM? The answer depends, of course, on what one means why modernity.
It is interesting, anyway, that Jesus is being added to the Marxist pantheon. Sometime ago the Marxist leaders in Kerala like Pinarayi Vijayan shot their mouths off calling the bishops in Kerala names that bordered on the abusive. Is the party now trying to curry favour with the sizeable Christian population in the state by adopting Jesus as their historical predecessor?
I’m not sure whether Jesus was trying to propagate a political ideology. The birds and the lilies of Jesus sound more spiritual than political. I think Jesus wanted people to rise above material concerns to the realms of the spirit, the realms where man would find his true greatness.
I’m more inclined towards the theology of Hans Kung, a famous Catholic theologian who fell out of favour with the Church due to his unconventional views. Kung says that Jesus brought a different kind of God to the people. Let me quote Kung in extenso.
No. This Father God is different: [says Hans Kung, Does God Exist? Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1980, p.676]
- Not a God of the hereafter at the expense of the here and now, at the expense of man and his true greatness
- Not a God of the ruling classes, of the unjust social conditions, of a distorted consciousness and of empty promises (Marx’s opium theory)
- Not a God produced from resentments, not the supreme head of a pitiful loafers’ morality of good and evil
- Not a tyrannical superego, the product of wishful thinking based on illusory infantile needs, a God of obsessive ritual arising from a guilt-and-father complex
Hans Kung then goes on to present what Jesus’ God really was.
- A God who sets himself above the righteousness of the law, has a “higher” righteousness proclaimed and justifies the lawbreakers
- A God who makes the existing legal order and with it the whole social system – even the temple and divine worship – purely relative
- A God who makes man himself the measure of his commandments; who wants to see the natural frontiers removed between comrades and noncomrades, strangers and neighbours, friends and enemies, good and bad, as a result of endless forgiveness, service regardless of rank, renunciation without any return, as a result of love; who thus identifies himself with the weak, sick, poor, underprivileged, oppressed, even with the irreligious, immoral and godless.
Yes, such a God has much to do with Marxism/Communism too. Nevertheless, that is a God, not a political ideology.
The Marxists in Kerala (or anywhere for that matter) are free to take whatever they want from Jesus. But it may not be possible to do it without a certain distortion of Jesus’ views.