According to this minister, Jesus was a commie


DETROIT - Sound provocative? According to the Rev. Tim Yeager it's not: "I've been saying that for years. If anybody wants to know what this priest's position is, the answer is 'yes.' Look it up, it's in that secret book, you know, the black one."

The book Yeager was referring to is the Bible. He added, "People who claim to follow Jesus ought to read that once in a while."

Yeager, an Episcopal priest from Chicago, was in Detroit this past Saturday to discuss Jesus Was a Commie, a 15-minute short film directed by the actor Matthew Modine. In the film Modine poses questions about the life of Christ and its meaning in the 21st century. The People'sWorld hosted the discussion, attended by an enthusiastic crowd of believers and non-believers.

The priest cited the Biblical parable of the laborers in the vineyard. In his words, the landowner (who is God) made several trips to the town square during the course of a day to pick up workers for his vineyard. While the first group worked the full day, the last worked a much shorter time. Despite some grumbling from those who had worked longer hours, all were paid a full wage - a "living wage," Yeager added.

As he put it, "In the Kingdom of God you will be expected to contribute what you can and you will get what you need ... That's also how the early church in Jerusalem operated after the crucifixion. Look at Acts 4:32." He compared this sentiment to Karl Marx's description of an advanced communist society where the motto "from each according to their ability to each according to their need" will guide society.

Matt Modine "is reclaiming the history of what the early church practiced in the first centuries after the crucifixion," said Yeager. "That's a useful thing when you hear the name of Jesus being invoked to defend all sorts of things such as denying women the right to choose, contraception, or to invade another country, not likely something Jesus would have approved of."

The priest said, "Throughout the New Testament, we find Jesus tearing up the old rules of society." Examples he cited included these: Jesus stopped the stoning of the woman accused of adultery. While men were not supposed to speak to women - they were seen as property - Jesus talked to women all the time, including women who were not Jewish. When Jesus was crucified the disciples were nowhere to be seen, but the women braved going to that dangerous spot. "Women saw in him their liberator, much more than the men," Yeager added.

The Episcopalian minister asked the audience what phrase is most often said by Jesus in the Bible. After hearing numerous wrong answers, he replied that it is, "Fear not."

"Jesus called upon his people to be bold for justice," said Yeager. "He says the same thing that Karl Marx says at the end of the Communist Manifesto: fear not, stand up, move into this new era, be free, you have nothing to lose but your chains."

The Episcopalian minister is also a United Auto Workers organizer. He told the audience, "When I talk to my union members, I say the God of your upbringing is not neutral. We should not be neutral. God is on the side of the oppressed, on the side of justice, on the side of working people."

At the same time, Yeager said, all who profess some faith or ideology should have "humility."

"The sins and the crimes committed against humanity in the name of the Prince of Peace would fill a concert hall, but don't hold that against him," he said. "I don't hold the crimes of the crusades, or of the white slaveowners, or of the Methodist pastor who led the Colorado militia to slaughter the Native Americans at Sand Creek, against Jesus.

"Just as Christ should not be responsible for all actions of his followers, we should have an understanding that neither should Marx be held responsible for the crimes of Pol Pot or Joe Stalin. There is no philosophical tradition or ideology or religious faith that is without its detractors, without its distorters, without its criminals."

Finally Yeager said, "The U.S. has a heavy interweaving of Christianity and theology throughout the fabric of our society. Whatever your philosophy or ideological orientation, if you are dealing with Americans, you have to deal at some point with this subject."

Modine's film highlights the themes of forgiveness and nonviolence, the priest noted. "As we fight the struggle to make a better world, this approach allows us to find the common humanity that unites us all," he concluded.

Photo: John Rummel/PW

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  • I've been saying the same thing for years. Christ's philosophy could be indeed labeled communist............If one were so inclined to label or it could just be thought of as righteousness.

    Posted by Gervais Campbell, 02/22/2012 10:44pm (4 years ago)

  • John Rummel should be greatly commended for this provocative and excellent article which has commanded an excellent response.
    Jesus is the way.
    John 5:17, Acts 15:11, Matthew23:4, are the supports.
    Inviting all commentators to join the CPUSA today, in deed, and challenging that Jesus sacrificed his body to lift the whole people to wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, exactly as our example Karl Heinrich Marx did, that the working class would live and never die.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 02/22/2012 1:20pm (4 years ago)

  • I would not consider Jesus a commie since Communism is an atheistic economic system based on the collective not accountable individualism. Now to say he was a socialist in orentation I could hang my hat on that one.
    I would certainly agree with his points of helping those with less power and vulnerbility. He certainly turned the Priesthood on its ear by challeging their power structure.
    All of our -ISM'S certainly could benefit by living by th ecentral message of Jesus by mpsrtaitreating others as we would like to be treated which includes an economic system that is fair and just.

    Posted by SwampFox2U, 02/21/2012 5:25pm (4 years ago)

  • As a progressive person of faith, I am grateful to see coverage of the film and Rev. Yaeger. Progressive elements in the church have been the backbone of nearly all movements for social change in the US, from abolition to peace. Currently in NYC, the Living Wage movement is a vibrant coalition of faith communities and the labor movement, specifically the RWDSU.

    Religious progressives usually have to fight on several fronts: against reactionary forces within their own ecclesial traditions, against religious authorities who benefit from the status quo, and other progressives who (understandably) lump us all with the religious right.

    Thanks again for the excellent article.

    Posted by pinkjohn, 02/21/2012 4:34pm (4 years ago)

  • Dear Comrades:

    I, myself, am a Christian and I agree with the Reverend Tim Yeager. Jesus was a Communist and He was the first Communist. I totally agree with this. Jesus commanded His followers to help the needy and Jesus helped people that no one else wanted to help. Jesus was a great man just like Karl Marx and others who wanted to help the poor, sick and suffering. I think more Christians should read Christ Jesus' words in red in the Bible and read what He commands. Too many Christians fall short of doing this. Jesus would also condemn religious nuts like Rick Santorum. Jesus wanted people to follow Him. He did not want religious nuts.

    In Solidarity,
    Brandon Harris

    Posted by Brandon Harris, 02/21/2012 3:33pm (4 years ago)

  • In todays world, we seem to be all about "brands". There are billions of dollars spent in the media promoting your brand. Be it the automobile companies to political affiliation - it seems to be all about "your brand". Brand equals label. Same differance. We label people as say a conservative or a liberal. Brand name or generic. So I look at the "label" Jesus was a commie - and I understand what is trying to be conveyed. But commie is a brand that has been tarnished with a brutal history behind it. Sterotyped AND for real, the history of Communism - as practiced, has been rift with corruption, genecide, anti-union, anti-democracy. And yes so has other orders of social displine. The Dark Ages, Inquisition, Salem witch trials - hell, the list is endless. But the stigma attached to communism is too fresh - too recent, to be loosely attached to the humanitarism practiced by Christ. My point - brand Jesus as a socialist - probably an apt apprasial. Brand him a commie - and you have a hurdle of definition most people are not willing to accept.

    Posted by Micheal W Smith, 02/21/2012 12:41pm (4 years ago)

  • Very good. I believe reality is a workable situation. The truth is found by dropping the extremes of nihilism and eternalism. Everyone believes in something. Stay strong , keep the faith.

    Posted by Ken Parks, 02/20/2012 8:10pm (4 years ago)

  • I just had a discussion with a Comrade the day before yesterday about most paths of Christianity not being monolithic groups. if more Christian leaders were like Rev. Yeager, I admit i would stop railing so hard against Abrahamic religions. excellent article.

    Posted by Nicholas James, 02/20/2012 1:42pm (4 years ago)

  • W.E.B. Du Bois named four books all truth searchers must know:

    The Bible

    Critique of Pure Reason

    Origin of Species


    Jesus is the Word, Jesus is the Life. Jesus is the poor, oppressed, the exploited.

    Who are the communists?

    E.E.W. Clay

    Posted by , 02/19/2012 7:23am (4 years ago)

  • Great article John on Tim's work and the film. Karl Kautsky, long before he got mixed up with a bad crowd and attacked Lenin, made such points about Jesus for socialists through the world over a century ago, before there were movies(although the term "commie" is something that one would expect from the Romans).
    I remember the old IWW song, "Jesus Got His Red Card."

    Posted by norman markowitz, 02/18/2012 10:32pm (4 years ago)

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