I realize that the discussion of socialism and capitalism have taken us far from the starting point of this stream. However, we cannot understand how the poor are blessed and why the gospel is good news to the poor if we do not understand what the prevailing world system of Mammon does to the poor. Furthermore, we must understand that the prevailing economic dualism does not offer Christians alternative ideologies from which to choose. We are to live apart from the ideologies–not as hermits or communists (in the most literal sense)–but as present, enfleshed testimony to the Kingdom of God present with us–the rule of the King by, in, and for whom all the world systems were created–as witnesses or, in the literal Greek, martyrs.
In this sense, the gospel is good news to the poor because it holds out to them the reality of their blessed state. The poor are blessed because they more easily recognize the fact that they have nothing. There is no deceptive wealth hiding from them the reality of their own need and fragility. The really impoverished need not be told by Jesus that they are week, naked, poor, and blind. The wealthy–like those in Laodicea–must be told that frequently, and they hate to hear it. (Try reminding a hard-working descent fellow that thinks himself the “self-made man” of the fact that everything he has came from God.)
In the end this is in part why I find socialism far more dangerous than capitalism. Capitalism will ignore the poor, abuse the poor, or tempt the poor (perhaps all three simultaneously), but Socialism denies the poor their blessing–it hides from them their real poverty. As one of the writers in Under the Rubble notes, in one sense capitalism is primarily an economic system, socialism is an ideology governing the whole of life.