Communism and Post-Millennial ChristianitySubmitted by NowOrNever on Fri, 11/15/2013 - 18:41
The millennium is the 1000 year kingdom of God on Earth referenced in the Bible. The terms post-millennial, pre-millennial, and amillennial refer to three distinct theological positions within Christianity. Amillennialism is the orthodox position, which asserts that the millennium is only a metaphor for the Catholic Church, not a real kingdom that will exist on Earth, and that Christ will return according to his own schedule, as it were: with no way to predict when, or to alter the date. Amillennialism has no politician implications.
Pre-millenialism is the view that Christ returns first, and then the millennium is established. Pre-millennials often try to predict the return of Christ, by looking for signs and so forth; it also has no important political implications.
Finally, post-millennialism is the idea that the kingdom of God on Earth must be established first, and by human agency, and only then will Christ return. This view has enormous political implications, since post-millennials often want to use the government to create their earthly paradise. Many revolutionary political movements have a post-millennial foundation: including communism. The articles below focus on the historical connection between post-millennial Christianity and communism.
From "Messianic Communism in the Protestant Reformation"
Sometimes Martin Luther must have felt that he had loosed the whirlwind, even opened the gates of Hell. Shortly after Luther launched the Reformation, various Anabaptist sects appeared and spread throughout Germany. The Anabaptists believed in predestination of the elect, but they also believed, in contrast to Luther, that they knew infallibly who the elect were: i.e., themselves. The sign of that election was in an emotional, mystical conversion process, that of being "born again," baptized in the Holy Spirit. Such baptism must be adult and not among infants; more to the point, it meant that only the elect are to be sect members who obey the multifarious rules and creeds of the Church. The idea of the sect, in contrast to Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism, was not comprehensive Church membership in the society. The sect was to be distinctly separate, for the elect only. Given that creed, there were two ways that Anabaptism could and did go. Most Anabaptists, like the Mennonites or Amish, became virtual anarchists. They tried to separate themselves as much as possible from a necessarily sinful state and society, and engaged in nonviolent resistance to the state's decrees. The other route, taken by another wing of Anabaptists, was to try to seize power in the state and to shape up the majority by extreme coercion
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From "Millennial Communism"
The key to the intricate and massive system of thought created by Karl Marx (1818–83) is at bottom a simple one: Karl Marx was a communist. A seemingly banal or trite statement set alongside Marxism's myriad of jargon-ridden concepts in philosophy, economics, history, culture, etc. Yet Marx's devotion to communism was his crucial point, far more central than the dialectic, the class struggle, the theory of surplus value, and all the rest. Communism was the goal, the great end, the desideratum, the ultimate end that would make the sufferings of mankind throughout history worthwhile. History is the history of suffering, of class struggle, of the exploitation of man by man. In the same way as the return of the Messiah, in Christian theology, would put an end to history and establish a new heaven and a new earth, so the establishment of communism would put an end to human history. And just as for postmillennial Christians, man, led by God's prophets and saints, would establish a Kingdom of God on earth...so for Marx and other schools of communists, mankind, led by a vanguard of secular saints, would establish a secularized kingdom of heaven on earth.
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PART II, American Progressivism and Post-Millennialism
Post-millennialism provided the impetus for communism, as demonstrated above, but it also provided the impetus for American progressivism. From "Origins of the Welfare State in America":
Perhaps the most fateful of the events giving rise to and shaping the welfare state was the transformation of American Protestantism that took place in a remarkably brief period during the late 1820s. Riding in on a wave from Europe, fueled by an intense emotionalism often generated by revival meetings, this Second Great Awakening conquered and remolded the Protestant churches, leaving such older forms as Calvinism far behind. The new Protestantism was spearheaded by the emotionalism of revival meetings held throughout the country by the Rev. Charles Grandison Finney. This new Protestantism was pietist, scorning liturgy as papist or formalistic, and equally scornful of the formalisms of Calvinist creed or church organization. Hence, denominationalism, God's Law, and church organization were no longer important. What counted was each person's achieving salvation by his own free will, by being "born again," or being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." An emotional, vaguely defined pietist, non-creeded, and ecumenical Protestantism was to replace strict creedal or liturgical categories.
The new pietism took different forms in various regions of the country. In the South, it became personalist, or salvational; the emphasis was on each person's achieving this rebirth of salvation on his own, rather than via social or political action. In the North, especially in Yankee areas, the form of the new Protestantism was very different. It was aggressively evangelical and postmillennialist, that is, it became each believer's sacred duty to devote his energies to trying to establish a Kingdom of God on Earth, to establishing the perfect society in America and eventually the world, to stamp out sin and "make America holy," as essential preparation for the eventual Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Each believer's duty went far beyond mere support of missionary activity, for a crucial part of the new doctrine held that he who did not try his very best to maximize the salvation of others would not himself be saved. After only a few years of agitation, it was clear to these new Protestants that the Kingdom of God on Earth could only be established by government, which was required to bolster the salvation of individuals by stamping out occasions for sin.
Continued, re the political program of the post-millennials:
The pietists quickly took to statist paternalism at the local and state level: to try to stamp out Demon Rum, Sabbath activity, dancing, gambling, and other forms of enjoyment, as well as trying to outlaw or cripple Catholic parochial schools, and expanding public schools as a device to Protestantize Catholic children, or, in the common phrase of the later 19th century, to "Christianize the Catholics." But use of the national government came early as well: to try to restrict Catholic immigration, in response to the Irish Catholic influx of the late 1840s; to restrict or abolish slavery; or to eliminate the sin of mail delivery on Sunday. It was therefore easy for the new pietists to expand their consciousness to favor paternalism in national economic affairs. Using big government to create a perfect economy seemed to parallel employing such government to stamp out sin and create a perfect society. Early on, the PMPs advocated government intervention to aid business interests and to protect American industry from the competition of foreign imports. In addition, they tended to advocate public works, and government creation of mass purchasing power through paper money and central banking. The PMPs therefore quickly gravitated toward the statist Whig Party, and then to the vehemently anti-Catholic America (or "Know Nothing") Party, finally culminating in all-out support for the Republican Party, the "party of great moral ideas."
Toward the end of the 19th century, the religious faith of these people began to wane, some even became overt atheists, but they retained their belief in the ability of government to bring about the millennium - though this was increasingly a secular millennium (as in Marxist communism). Rothbard continues:
A critical but largely untold story in American political history is the gradual but inexorable secularization of Protestant postmillennial pietism over the decades of the middle and late 19th century. The emphasis, almost from the beginning, was to use government to stamp out sin and to create a perfect society, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth. Over the decades, the emphasis slowly but surely shifted: more and more away from Christ and religion, which became ever-vaguer and woollier, and more and more toward a Social Gospel, with government correcting, organizing, and eventually planning the perfect society. From paternalistic mender of social problems, government became more and more divinized, more and more seen as the leader and molder of the organic social whole. In short, Whigs, Know-Nothings, and Republicans were increasingly becoming Progressives, who were to dominate the polity and the culture after 1900; a few of the more radical thinkers were openly socialist, with the rest content to be organic statists and collectivists. And as Marxism became increasingly popular in Europe after the 1880s, the progressives prided themselves on being organic statist middle-of-the-roaders between old fashioned dog-eat-dog laissez-faire individualism on the one hand, and proletarian socialism on the other. Instead, the progressive would provide to society a Third Way in which Big Government, in the service of the joint truths of science and religion, would harmonize all classes into one organic whole.
....to be continued