Sojourners, a progressive Christian blog site I followed, offered a quote from Paulinus of Nola (c. 354-431 AD):
We have no right to our possessions; they have been entrusted to us for the good of all. Let us then invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from [God]: we are dependent upon [God] for our very existence. And we ourselves particularly, who have a special and a greater debt, since God not only created us but purchased us as well; what can we regard as our own when we do not possess even ourselves?
I don’t go in for all the “you were ransomed from sin so you owe God forever” bit, which seems a little too… well, almost Calvinist. I’ve seen where that utter depravity line of thought can get really icky. But I found it very interesting to see a Christian writer saying that essentially nothing comes from nothing, that whatever we think we have was originally created by God. Which makes the idea of personal property iffy at best. It’s not that we shouldn’t take pride in what we do and we shouldn’t work hard, but we should re-evaluate the idea that what we earn is really all our own creation. We don’t own it in an absolute way, and we should recognize that fact.
Which gets very close to socialism, at least as I understand it. You can’t really own personal property because it is built on other peoples’ development and raw resources that are really held in common by the society, not by you. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what socialism is all about but to modern American Protestants, this can seem… radical. But in a good way, at least IMO.
Maybe the old meme was right after all.