This is from the English miniseries “The Devil’s Mistress,” which is actually a fantastic account of the English Civil War, and highly recommended. The following is a purported conversation between Cromwell and one of his colonels, who was a “Leveller.” Levellers were the communists of their day. Cromwell responds to Rainsborough with a series of questions that modern Christian Distributists need to be upfront about. If you (re)distribute land and wealth, you must admit that you are stealing. Now, I would shed no tears if the fat-cat liberal media elite who make dozens of millions a year, had their wealth redistributed (preferably to me and not you haha). Sinful and degenerate though they be, it’s still “stealing.” (Unless of course, it is during war, then it might not be).
Thomas Rainborough: The land must be a common treasury. That way every man will feed himself.
Oliver Cromwell: Where is that land to come from, Thomas?
Thomas: From those who have too much.
Oliver: You would have us turn to robbery, then?
So, the question for distributists: do you admit you are forcibly taking someone else’s property? Since he will not willingly give it up, you will have to use violence. Will you kill for his property? How is that in keeping with essentially any moral precept in the Bible? Further, how is this any different from Lenin?
The Christian Distributist, though, doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. He doesn’t want to actually kill and take. He has a way out. He will say “The State will do it.” Here is the naivete in that statement (ignore the outright horror for the moment). The only “State” with which you have to do at the moment is the American state. It’s already taking and distributing wealth, yet you complain about current injustices. But on what grounds do you complain, for is not this state the very agent through whom you posit change?
I know some will immediately respond, “The guild(s) can enact these changes.” I hope you truly understand what you just said. The Guild is not the state. When the State steals from me, I have to let it. Romans 13 says so. If a private citizen steals from me (with the threat of violence), the Bible says I can open fire. If a band of citizens together steal from me, I just buy more ammo.
I am not a raw free-market economist. The Puritan tradition condemns usury (Larger Catechism, Q. 142). As Doug Wilson has said many times, free markets demand free people, and true freedom is only found where the Spirit of the Lord is.
So, questions the Christian Socialist-Distributist must ask himself
- Will you commit yourself to the modern, anti-Christian American state as the agent of (re)distribution?
- How is this different from Lenin?
- If no to (1), do you propose the Guild or some other band of private citizens (even more bizarre–do you propose The Church? Kick that hornet’s nest while you are at it) to enact this change?
- These landowners will likely resist you, are you willing to use violence, even to the point of taking a life? (Ponder this point for a moment. When I got my permit to carry a concealed weapon, our instructor made it very clear that if you take the gun out of the holster, you have already committed yourself to killing the perceived threat. It is hard to mentally prep yourself to take someone’s life. Hopefully, the train of questioning will end at this point).
- How does this sound like Jesus?
- If yes to (4), you must realize these people will fight back. Are you truly willing to die?