The Irony of Being Called a Socialist

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop

I grew up in a small town in Central Texas.  My father was the eldest son of first generation German immigrants.  His father died when my dad was thirteen.  My grandmother was disabled and unable to work outside the home, so my father went to work at the local drive-in restaurant.  He worked there from the age of thirteen until his death at age fifty-five.  He moved from car hop, to fry cook, to manager, to part owner in that time.  Like my dad, my mom became a business owner, starting and building several different businesses over her life time.  At the age of sixty-three, she is still growing her business and creating jobs.  I was born into poverty but watched my parents accumulate a fair amount of wealth.  I am a product of the American capitalist dream.

So as you can imagine, I found it quite ironic that a former friend ( I say former because he unfriended me on Facebook  after insulting me), decided to call me a socialist on my Facebook page.  I had posted a link to a Steven Colbert clip titled “Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice” which I thought was funny.  It was this link and another post I wrote titled “Social Justice is not a Political Statement” that drew criticism from this former friend.  As I have been praying about this, I find it absurd that anyone could see the work we are doing as socialist is nature.

I was at a Communities First Association Conference this week in New Orleans with more than twenty Christian Community Developers from across the country who use Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) techniques in their work.  When I shared my frustration with being called a socialist, another community developer shared that he had received a call from a friend warning him that ABCD was really a part of Obama’s hidden socialist agenda.  Which is equally as absurd as me being a socialist.  ABCD is simply an approach to doing community work that looks first at the assets in a particular community instead of the needs.  In ABCD, you focus on the gifts, callings and capacities of the individuals who live in communities. You then work to link those assets together in a way that the people are empowered to transform their community themselves.  The whole idea is to create systems that empower people instead of creating dependency on the government or outside agencies.  It is exactly the opposite of what the fear mongers are espousing!

My dad “pulled himself up by his bootstraps.”  The reality is that not everyone’s bootstraps are the same length or strength.  As a Christian community developer, all I do is help people and communities discover they have bootstraps and find ways for them to lengthen and strengthen them.  If that makes me a socialist in some people’s eyes, then I think they need new glasses.  The lenses offered by Glen Beck and others are most definitely causing a distortion of the facts.

Apparently sanity has not been restored and fear continues to rage across this nation when people who are simply trying live out Jesus call to care for the poor are being called socialist simply because they think a comedian is funny.

I want to encourage all the other Christians out there who are seeking to live their call to help those with less than adequate bootstraps.  I pray you find others who share your passion and commitment.  I pray also that God continue to fuel the missional movement that is awakening Christians to their call to love all their neighbors, even those who have not benefited yet from our dream releasing capitalist system.

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15 Comments

Filed under missional church, Urban Ministry

15 responses to “The Irony of Being Called a Socialist

  1. Sharon

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, your words are helpful and inspiring. Althought I have not been personally attacked I have felt this type of anger and distortion of information from fear mongers as well. I appreciate your views, it helps me to understand and put it all in perspective. The “boot straps” analogy is perfect and Im glad you had this special time with other Christian community developers. What ABCD is doing is exactly what you have been dreaming for the urban communities of Richmond.

    • wmccaig

      Hi Sharon – Good to hear from you. We have adopted a good bit of the ABCD philosophy but I am really excited about Communities First because they are going to be coaching us on expanding it to additional communities and helping us be more intentional and systematic in how we do our work. I think the work CARITAS Works has envisioned and what we are doing are going to make a significant impact on prevention some day.

  2. Chuck

    Interesting post. I am going to find out more about ABCD. It sounds very similar to a model we are using in West Africa called Community Health Evangelism (CHE). It is a process that helps villages solve their own problems using their existing resources. If ABCD is modeled in a similar fashion it is actually closer to capitalism than socialism.

    Chuck

    • wmccaig

      My point exactly. I am opposed to “entitlements” for those who are able to work. I actually think it devalues the person and works against long-term solutions to poverty. We are trying to find ways of making capitalism work in the communities where we minister by helping people get jobs. I am not familiar with CHE but there is a lot of info out there on ABCD if you are interested. Thanks for your post. Great to know you are out there doing something similar in West Africa.

      • Chuck

        If you want to learn more about what we are doing in West Africa (and CHE) please check out our site:

        http://www.westafricache.org

        Perhaps some links that may be of assistance in your efforts. CHE is a global effort and I am just concentrating on West Africa.

        Best of luck to you. I will check in to read your posts regularly. Like your site.

  3. Wow! So many thoughts running through my head as I read this post.

    This post has helped me pinpoint something I’ve been struggling with. The current economic climate has brought out both the best and the worst in our country. The worst: an overwhelming attitude of stinginess and wanting–a greed borne of fear and a forgetfulness about the God of bounty and ample provision.

    The best: individuals such as yourself and thousands of others who work on an individual, group, organized or informal basis to better the world–who see how the world could and should be.

    • wmccaig

      Thanks Mary, We are just one tiny piece in a much larger conversation. The folks that do the kind of work I do are often not the loudest voices but I think more and more people are getting fed up with the non-sense and are standing up to the bullies. I know you are a woman with a strong voice. Please help educate people about this movement of God and silence those who are driving people into that stingy greedy place with all their fear promoting lies. Our God is a God of love not fear.

  4. Wendy,
    Beth posted this article and titled it “setting the record straight.” I suppose calling you a socialist deserves you calling me a fear monger and bully. I’m assuming that your insults are justified as mine isn’t. That’s fine. We all have our labels and most are created by others. I’m often called a Bible Thumper and I’ve learned to wear that label with pride as it seems you’ve done with this. It’s hard for me to watch a video posted by a fellow Christian that makes fun of the cross and having a personal relationship with Jesus to promote social justice. Christ deserves more reverence than that (this is where the Bible Thumper part of me comes into play). As I said before, He’s our Savior not Ralph Nader. Hallowed be Thy name … not used as the butt of a joke. I couldn’t take it any more and I decided the best thing for me was to block you for a while. I accidentally de-friended you and that wasn’t my intention. When I realized what I had done I just decided to leave it alone.

    Concerning your article about me, when did I ever use fear in our discussions? Did I not mention a number of times that I firmly believe you and your work is blessed? Didn’t we all pray nightly for your friend that needed help when it looked hopeless? Didn’t we encourage you when you felt that he was forgotten? I guess there wasn’t room for that in the article.

    Finally, I did say sarcastically “good luck with your socialism projects”. Funny how Colbert can be praised by you, Kristi and Beth for being sarcastic but my sarcasm needs to be called out in an article to “set the record straight.” I’m no genius like Colbert, but I do believe there’s a little hypocrisy there. Your dislike of the church and criticism of charity and other Christian work has a socialism slant that, at times, seems to minimize the good work of others. We have very different views on the role of Jesus concerning social justice, but I’ve never used fear or bullied anyone in my life. This was a one-sided, unfair article that painted me in a light that wasn’t deserved and completely false. There’s many more of us that also work with the underprivileged and I hope someday we can all work together. To use your phrase, ALL of us are working with the limited boot straps, but just because some disagree with your point of view doesn’t mean we don’t care. I’m very proud of my church and the work we do for others in Christ.

    In a previous discussion I mentioned that we need to be encouraging to each other as commanded in Hebrews 10:24-25. I wasn’t encouraging and I apologize for that. I will try to do better. I really do believe your work is a Godsend.

    Sincerely,
    Billy Quinton (Espouser of Fear)

  5. wmccaig

    Billy,

    I saw no hint of sarcasm in your statement “Good luck with your Socialist project.” and it came on the heals of you saying I was “clocking” what I do in Christianity. Two very insulting statements directed firmly at me personally.

    The comments in this post are not directed at you personally. I only mentioned you in one sentence and without naming you. You claimed I had a socialist agenda which is what I was responding to. My friend at CFA had heard a similar slant from one of his friends. I am attaching Glen Beck and others out there who are using fear and labels like “Socialist Agenda” to attack people like myself who are doing the kind of work I am doing. If you took my statements as a personal attack of your character, that is not how they were intended. Your attack was simply a way of me entering into this debate which is much bigger than you or I.

    It was my way of “setting the record straight” as it relates to the kind of work I do and others across the country who are fighting this same battle against lies perpetuated by folks like Glen Beck. Your using the words “clocking in Christianity” and “Socialist projects” echo strongly the lies Beck is fueling across this county.

    You said you are not a Beck supporter and I believe you. Despite your accusations, I am not a Colbert “supporter.” I don’t see him as a political figure, simply a comedian. In this case the enemy of my enemy is my friend for the moment. You were ranting on my fb post about Colbert and honestly I don’t know anything about the man. I even originally gave him the wrong first name in the post until another fb friend corrected me. You obviously watch him more than I do. Other than this one link sent by a friend, I know nothing about him.

    What I appreciated in the comedy skit was how he used humor to show the absurdity of Beck’s claims. I just thought it was a funny way of saying what I tried to say in my post titled “Social Justice is not a Political Statement.”

  6. wmccaig

    My friend Patricia Henfling just emailed me this daily reflection from Father Richard Rohr. Thought it was timely and related to this conversation since Social Justice and what it is and is not is what is at the heart of this debate. Is social justice a biblical mandate or a socialist agenda? Father Richard reflects below.

    “JUSTICE

    I am sorry to report that to use the word “justice” in any conference or lecture series is to be assured of a small audience. How strange, considering that Plato, the book of Wisdom (8:7), and Thomas Aquinas all considered it one of the four “cardinal” or hinge virtues on which the entire moral life turned. One could not practice the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity without first practicing temperance, justice, fortitude, and prudence, but most especially justice.”

  7. Tiffany

    Micah 6:8 says, ” He has showed you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord Require of you? To do justice, to love mercy or kindness and to walk humbly with the Lord.”

    The first thing to understand is these 3 things are not options: they are required of us. Then the question becomes: what is justice? Justice is to make right. I think the struggle comes in with what people measure as making right. There are lots of good works happening in different capacities but making things right sometimes means doing more than putting a bandaid on issues(fixing things temporarily). Jesus upset the system- he flipped things completely around making right the things that were wrong. We have to be willing to do the same things.

    • wmccaig

      Very insightful way of looking at justice. Thanks for sharing. I think you are correct in pointing out that we do not all agree on what “doing justice” actually means even among Christians. Thanks for getting to the heart of the issue.

  8. Tiffany

    You know I believe in Social Justice and the work that you do.

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