The Church Against the Oppressed | Socialism and the Churches by Rosa Luxemburg 1



hi I'm Damon Garcia bringing you perspectives from the Christian left and today we're talking about how Rosa Luxemburg was right back in 1905 that pastors priests and clergy tend to choose the side of the pressors instead of the oppressed even today even when they don't realize they're doing it so let's talk about it so this is part one of a whole series going through this important article written by Rosa Luxemburg and 1905 published by the Polish Social Democratic Party and so let me read a quick bio here about Rosa Luxemburg she was born 1871 and Russian Poland to a middle-class Jewish family she was a revolutionary agitator by her teens and then she moved to Zurich and part to avoid possible imprisonment she studied at the University of Zurich receiving her doctorate in 1898 from Warsaw Luxembourg tried to help with the Russian Revolution she wrote more than 700 pamphlets articles speeches and books advocating mass strikes by proletariat's she was in and out of prison once for advocating during World War one that German soldiers turned their guns upon the government and overthrow it in 1919 she and two leaders of the German Communist Party which Luxembourg helped found were arrested she was knocked out shot and thrown in a river Rosa Luxemburg why very tragic ending and she's also famous for coming out against Lenin in several ways not from a right-wing perspective of you shouldn't be communist but from a left-wing perspective saying hey yes let's start this revolution let's go for communism but on your way there please don't become like your typical authoritarian fascist government we're not exactly going to talk about those parts of her life even though that's mostly what she's famous for we're gonna talk about something she wrote way before that and way before the Russian Revolution in 1905 called socialism and the churches and during this time in her life she was gathering workers in solidarity to Lee math strikes in order to stop world war one from happening in order to stop Germany from fighting in that war and because of that she was arrested several times and during this point of her life while she was being arrested her and her friends were being constantly criticized by the clergy by the priests and their sermons every Sunday and so she wrote this whole thing seven parts were going through part one today and then will keep going throughout the rest of these videos and she wrote this to critique first off the priests who she says if you look at your entire Christian tradition and especially when you look at Jesus shouldn't the priests be on the side of the exploited workers and not on the side of the exploiters and that is also a very very urgent question today so that's why I find this extremely relevant to talk about today and so as I go through this and as I'm talking about it think about how it applies to today think about the ways she talks about Church and clergy and socialism and how it rings true today and also before we get into this I just want to say my attention was actually brought to this article since it's not exactly part of her famous works it was brought to me by the podcast the Magnificat they did an episode or they went through their favorite bits there's some other leftist Christians that are really great so check out that podcast and after I listened to that I went through this whole thing I'm like this whole thing needs to be talked about and I must say at this day in my life I very much value the Marxist socialist communist ideas of Rosa Luxemburg way more than any other Marxist ideas even of Marx himself I yeah if I had to like stuff myself aggressively inside of a box I don't like doing that I would rather say I'm sympathetic to all these ideas from a very very deeply Christian point of view I don't just fully subscribe to these ideologies just because so that's what we're doing as we go through this don't think you're come in and watch in some super violent communist dude no no no that's not that's not it so try to do the best you can to erase any ideas of what you think social is communism leftism whatever is as we go into this and I bet you you'll be a little bit surprised especially with Rosa Luxemburg way of approaching these ideas so let's get into it I'm gonna read bits and let you know my commentary as we go through it part one from the moment when the workers of our country and of Russia began to struggle bravely against the Tsarist government and the capitalist exploiters we notice more and more often that the priests and their sermons come out against the workers who are struggling it is with extraordinary vigor that the clergy fight against the Socialists and try by all means to belittle them in the eyes of the workers the believers who go to church on Sundays and festivals are compelled more and more often to listen to a violent political speech a real indictment of socialism instead of hearing a sermon and obtaining religious consolation there stop that real quick already I think this rings true how so many people go to church hoping to be encouraged hoping to learn about Jesus and how that leads to more and more life and yet the sermon is filled with critiques of certain groups of people I've come across randomly on YouTube from time to time a whole sermon a pastor will do just against liberals or against social justice people or against the black lives matter or against just any group of people who are protesting and trying to change things and it's obvious it's a whole sermon on just the idea of like chill don't try to change things don't be rowdy don't do anything I assume I've never clicked on any of those sermons I've just seen the titles of thumbnails but I get the vibe immediately she continues instead of comforting the people who are full of cares and wearied by their hard lives who go to church with faith in Christianity the priests fulminate against the workers who are on strike and against the opponents of the government further they exhort them to bare poverty and oppression with humility and patience they turn the church in the pulpit into a place of political propaganda which is an interesting somewhat ironic statement because I'm sure so many pastors who do this even to this day are implying we're trying to make sure this isn't a place of political propaganda so we're gonna talk about how bad the people are trying to make the places into political propaganda are when really they're just trying to encourage people to fight for their freedom and yet this is totally political propaganda when they just spend their whole sermons critiquing these groups who are trying to fight for their freedom and that's so important where I see again and again this idea where they'd never say it straight out but it's a very subtle message underneath all these platitudes this idea just bare your poverty and oppression with humility and patience and vote when you need to don't try to change things don't try to be a rebel Christian's aren't rebels even though when we look back at history we often say the true Christians are the ones who fought against a government who is doing terrible violence in the world this whole image of the leaders of the church being on the side of the powers-that-be which we've seen so much isn't really how Christianity was ever supposed to go Christianity ever since its birth has always been an anti imperial religion and tradition and way of life and yet we often see yeah Jesus got that but so many people were preaching Jesus seemed to not get it and I would even say that several pastors and priests who would give these messages today several of them aren't really doing it on purpose they're just used to this is what a sermon is this is what I'm supposed to teach every Sunday because the past room who trained me did it and the pastor before him did too let's keep going the workers can easily satisfy themselves that the struggle of the clergy against the Social Democrats is in no way provoked by the latter now she often refers to her group as the Social Democrats and I just want to make this distinction real quick when she says Social Democrats at the time the Social Democratic Party was there different it was gathering workers to try to get a revolution going that would eventually lead to socialism and even communism but ultimately when the revolution came the Social Democratic Party just ended up being on the side of capitalism and killed Rosa Luxemburg and then that has just stayed the mo of the Social Democratic Party ever since in all kinds of countries that just always how it ends up when things get tough the Social Democrats justshoez the side of capitalism and don't really want to ruffle any feathers and that today is what Social Democrats are they're not really trying to end capitalism or headed for socialism at all they're they want to keep capitalism intact but just create several social programs so I just want to make that clear so that when I'm reading this you don't think either what why is she praising the Social Democrats aren't they the ones that killed her that's later in life and I want to make that distinction if you're thinking oh so Social Democrats today are socialists now so when I say Social Democrats in this case only think in your head socialists anyway the Social Democrats have placed themselves the objective of drawing together and organizing the workers and the struggle against capital that is to say against the exploiters who squeeze them down to the last drop of blood and in the struggle against the Tsarist government which holds the people to ransom but never do the Social Democrats to drive the workers to fight against clergy or try to interfere with religious beliefs not at all the Social Democrats those of the whole world and of our own country regard conscience and personal opinions as being sacred every man may hold what faith and what opinion seems likely to him to ensure happiness no one has the right to persecute or to attack the particular religious opinion of others that is what the Socialists think so let's make this real clear I know several people who a big reason why they immediately look down on socialists idea our Marxist ideas is because they immediately say oh those are the people who are against Christianity those are the people who want world or governments where they get rid of Christianity where they outlaw Christianity or all religion in general mm-hmm no I know there's several Marxist thinkers who did talk like that Rosa Luxemburg who was an atheist didn't talk like that she recognized that personal opinions and beliefs and conscience were sacred and we should create a society where everyone is free to have the beliefs that they want even if that's Christianity and they should continue to do their thing as long as they're not using their power to go against the workers and be on the side of the oppressors she goes on and it is for that reason among others that the Socialists rally all the people to fight against the Tsarist regime which is continually violating men's consciences persecuting Catholics Russian Catholics Jews heretics and free thinkers it is precisely the social democrats who come out mostly strongly in favor of freedom of conscience therefore it would seem as if the clergy ought to lend their help to the social democrats who are trying to enlighten the toiling people if we understand properly the teachings which the Socialists bring to the working class the hatred of clergy towards them becomes still less understandable and that's what she's going at throughout this whole thing of like not saying look how terrible the clergy are but hey this whole thing that the clergy is doing is not understandable when we look at the tradition that come from the Social Democrats proposed to put an end to the exploitation of the toiling people by the rich you would have that the servants of the church would have been the first to make this task easier for the Social Democrats yes I've often heard that plenty of times when it comes to any social justice or justice issue in general like the Christians the ones who believe that this whole world is sacred and including everyone and everything in it shouldn't they be like death first people to care about a particular justice issue and yet so often it's like they're the last so that's the point she's making here back in 1905 did Jesus Christ whose servants the priests are teach that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven yes he did say that the Social Democrats try to bring about in all countries social regimes based on the Equality liberty and fraternity of all the citizens if the clergy really desire that the principle love thy neighbor as thyself be applied in real life why do they not welcome keenly the propaganda of the Social Democrats the Social Democrats tried by a desperate struggle by the education and organization of the people to draw them out of the downtrodden states and which they now are and to offer a better future to their children everyone should admit that at this point the clergy should bless the Social Democrats for did not he whom they serve Jesus Christ say that you do for the poor you do for me yeah Jesus did say that whatever you do for the least of these you do for me and you'd think people who follow that kind of guy would therefore first and foremost care for the poor and the downtrodden and the least of these and try their best to bring them up and condemn everyone and everything that's trying to bring them down however we see the clergy on the one hand excommunicating and persecuting the Social Democrats on the other hand commanding the workers to suffer in patience that is to let themselves patiently be exploited by the capitalists the clergy storm against the Social Democrats exhort the workers not to revolt against the overlords but to submit obediently to the oppression of this government which kills defenseless people which sends to the monstrous butchery of the war millions of workers which persecutes Catholics Russian Catholics and all the believers thus the clergy which makes itself the spokesmen of the rich the defender of expose tation and depression places itself in flagrant contradiction to the Christian doctrine the bishops and the priests are not the propagators of Christian teaching but the worshipers of the golden calf and of the now twitch whips the poor and defenseless yeah it's pretty powerful stuff and I've seen again and again just hearing stories but also seeing for myself pastors preach this idea whenever something happens whenever a certain group is treated unjustly somehow the pastors aren't on the side of the group that was treated unjustly it's like a person of color is shot and then there's a black lives matter protest and then the next Sunday the pastor says let's all pray for our brave police out there way before they would ever say let's all pray for the people who are being shocked by the police or let's all pray for our soldiers out there we're fighting for our country without ever praying for the innocent civilians in our country is guilty of killing everyday I'm not saying pray for one group and don't pray for the other but I'm saying why are you only praying for the group that is doing the violence and not for the groups that are having violence done to them so ridiculous when you actually read the New Testament when you actually read about the life and teachings of Jesus so ridiculous and that's the realization that Rosa Luxemburg is making here too as a Jewish atheist she goes on again everyone knows how the priests themselves make profit from the worker extract money out of him on the occasion of marriage baptism or burial how often has it happened that the priest called to the bedside of a sick man to administer the last sacraments refused to go there before he had been paid his fee the worker goes away in despair to sell or pawn his last possession so as to be able to give a religious consolation to his kindred now today of course those things such as marriage and burial it doesn't always have to be done by the church these days so it's a little bit easier on people but when they had a monopoly over those things and they would charge a large fee on families were poor and couldn't afford it but it felt like they had to do it through the church in order to be on God's good side terrible terrible all right last paragraph here's a little somewhat disclaimer it is true that we do meet church men of another kind there exists some who are full of goodness and pity and who do not seek and gain they these are always ready to help the poor yes there's several great pastors priests ministers out there who are not in it for themselves who are not on the side of the oppressors who really are on the side of the poor the downtrodden and are doing good and she says but we must admit that these are indeed on common and that they can be regarded in the same way as white black birds the majority of priests with beaming faces bow and scrape to the rich and powerful silently pardoning them for every depravity every iniquity with the workers of the clergy behave quite otherwise they think only of squeezing them pity and harsh sermons they condemn the covetous of the workers when these latter do no more than defend themselves against the wrongs of capitalism it's like they hear their people say it's messed up how the government is doing this to us it's messed up how we are stuck in this terrible situation while they're people over there who are way richer and are exploiting our people and the pastors and priests are like hey that's that's covetousness hey don't be jealous and envious of others yeah the glaring contradiction between the actions of the clergy and teachings of Christianity must make everyone we're flex the workers wonder how it comes about that the working class and its struggle for emancipation find in the servants of the church enemies and not allies how does it happen that the church plays the role of a defense of wealth and bloody oppression instead of being the refuge of the exploited in order to understand this strange phenomenon it is sufficient to glance over the history of the church and to examine the evolution through which has passed in the course of the centuries so then and that leads to part two where she goes through the history of the early church talks about how did we get here was it always this way how did it change so we'll get into that in the next video when we go through part two but that's it for part one and I just want to reiterate again yes there are several ministers out there several church people have their Christians out there who are doing what they should do who really are following the ways of Jesus who really are on the side of the poor and the oppressors who really do believe whatever you do for the least of these are doing for Jesus one of the people that comes to mind is Phil Schneider he's a pastor and Springfield Missouri with the denomination disciples of Christ and after charlottesville him and several other ministers in the area came out and released a statement against the alt-right and a white supremacy while several other pastors across the country either said nothing about it or was just condemning like Trump there's bad people and good people on both sides but I know several of them just said nothing so yes there are ministers who are telling the truth who are on the side of the poor and the downtrodden in the least of these we just need way more I'm not against the church I'm not against pastors and Christian leaders in any way no way I just recognize how the church needs to change and what we can do better and I I am a part of the church and I am a Christian fully but we just can do so much better I left my position as youth and young adults Minister about a year and a half ago now and one of the reasons I left was this stuff I left because of several disagreements with the doctrine of my denomination and the doctrines that I disagreed with are the same for several evangelical denominations of what is this wasn't exactly my problem with that particular denomination leaving that denomination very much felt like I was leaving all of evangelicalism and one of the disagreements I had among several was that as I've read and studied and researched and gone through my own spiritual journey learning more and more about Jesus and trying to be more like Jesus has led me to be more and more anti-capitalist I think of Pope Francis when he said in his work the joy of the gospel when he said that just like were people who say thou shalt not kill we should also say the same thing for systems that kill and these systems kill through poverty and even though so many churches out there like of course we care about poverty of course we want to help poor people and will donate money and will be a help to charities and do anything we can with that yet they don't want to question the system that makes poor people in general reminds me of this famous quote by Dom hélder câmara when he said 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 and like I said at the beginning this isn't about trying to convert any one socialist or communist or Marxist ideas no no no rather I'm trying to do what Rosa said here to just think about this the glaring contradiction between the actions of the clergy and teachings of Christianity must make everyone reflect so as I go through this and hopefully you stick with me throughout it I just want you to stop and reflect because before we get any real work done we're gonna have to really think about what we're doing here and together come and once we all realize there's a problem then we could do something about it but I guess part of my work also is just trying to get people to realize you know there's a problem and it's way worse than you may think thank you for watching leave a like if you liked it subscribe if you want to see more and hopefully I see you over in part two as we would go through this document socialism in the churches by the lovely Rosa Luxemburg you

4 thoughts on “The Church Against the Oppressed | Socialism and the Churches by Rosa Luxemburg 1

  • Found you out today Christian comrades! I will spread your channel as much as possible. All comrades, religious or not must unite

  • Nice! Thanks for doing this. This is the first I've read of Luxembourg, and I'm glad I did. As you pointed out, it's interesting to note the differences in reading this in 1905, before the Russian Revolution, and now, after the Cold War and furthermore in the U.S., where Marxism and communism have very specific atheist connotations.

    I think about my own upbringing in the evangelical fundamentalist tradition, which in the U.S. has strong apocalyptic strands. That strong view that radical action in this world is ultimately fruitless before the second coming is often used as a first line of defense against social critique and social action. It was in my situation, at least. It's been about a year or so that I left all that behind. I'm still figuring out where God and church fit in my life (or how I fit into them), but like you I find myself sympathetic to Marxism generally.

    Look forward to part 2. I don't know how long it'll take me to get through the parts of your video series, though I just finished reading the original piece.

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