An early socialist community


The following is a description by a socialist historian in the 1800’s of an attempt at a socialist community in Cincinnati OH in 1823 founded by the father of socialism Robert Owen:

“The Community, as finally organized consisted of seventy-five or one hundred families; and included professional men, teachers, merchants, mechanics, farmers, and a few common laborers. Its economy was nearly as follows: “The property was held in trust forever, in behalf of the members of the Community, by the original purchasers, and their chosen successors, to be designated from time to time by the voice of the Community. All additional property thereafter to be acquired, by labor, purchase, or otherwise, was to be added to the common stock, for the benefit of each and all. Schools were to be established, to teach all things useful (except religion). Opinion upon all subjects was free; and the present good of the whole Community was the standard of morals. The Sabbath was a day of rest and recreation, to be improved by walks, rides, plays, and pleasing exercises; and by public lectures. Dancing was instituted as a most valuable means of physical and social culture; and the ten-pin alley and other sources of amusement were open to all. “But although Christianity was wholly ignored in the system, there was no free-loveism or other looseness of morals allowed. In short, this Community began its career under the most favorable auspices; and if any men and women in the world could have succeeded, these should have done so. How they did succeed, and how they did not, will now be shown. “For the first few weeks, all entered into the new system with a will. Service was the order of the day. Men who seldom or never before labored with their hands, devoted themselves to agriculture and the mechanic arts, with a zeal which was at least commendable, though not always according to knowledge. Ministers of the gospel guided the plough; called the swine to their corn, instead of sinners to repentance; and let patience have her perfect work over an unruly yoke of oxen. Merchants exchanged the yard-stick for the rake or pitch-fork. All appeared to labor cheerfully for the common weal. Among the women there was even more apparent self-sacrifice. Ladies who had seldom seen the inside of their own kitchens, went into that of the common eating-house (formerly a hotel), and made themselves useful among pots and kettles: and refined young ladies, who had all their lives been waited upon, took their turns in waiting upon others at the table. And several times a week all parties who chose mingled in the social dance, in the great dining-hall.” But notwithstanding the apparent heartiness and cordiality of this auspicious opening, it was in the social atmosphere of the Community that the first cloud arose. Self-love was a spirit which would not be exorcised. It whispered to the lowly maidens, whose former position in society had cultivated the spirit of meekness—”You are as good as the formerly rich and fortunate; insist upon your equality.” It reminded the favorites of former society of their lost superiority; and in spite of all rules, tinctured their words and actions with the love of self. Similar thoughts and feelings soon arose among the men; and though not so soon exhibited, they were none the less deep and strong. It is unnecessary to descend to details: suffice it to say, that at the end of three months—three months!—the leading minds in the Community were compelled to acknowledge to each other that the social life of the Community could not be bounded by a single circle. They therefore acquiesced, but reluctantly, in its division into many little circles. Still they hoped and many of them no doubt believed, that though social equality was a failure, community of property was not. But whether the law of mine and thine is natural or incidental in human character, it soon began to develop its sway. The industrious, the skillful and the strong, saw the products of their labor enjoyed by the indolent, the unskilled, and the improvident; and self-love rose against benevolence. A band of musicians insisted that their brassy harmony was as necessary to the common happiness as bread and meat; and declined to enter the harvest field or the work-shop. A lecturer upon natural science insisted upon talking only, while others worked. Mechanics, whose day’s labor brought two dollars into the common stock, insisted that they should, in justice, work only half as long as the agriculturist, whose day’s work brought but one. “For a while, of course, these jealousies were only felt; but they soon began to be spoken also. It was useless to remind all parties that the common labor of all ministered to the prosperity of the Community. Individual happiness was the law of nature, and it could not be obliterated; and before a single year had passed, this law had scattered the members of that society, which had come together so earnestly and under such favorable circumstances, back into the selfish world from which they came. “The writer of this sketch has since heard the history of that eventful year reviewed with honesty and earnestness by the best men and most intelligent parties of that unfortunate social experiment. They admitted the favorable circumstances which surrounded its commencement; the intelligence, devotion, and earnestness which were brought to the cause by its projectors; and its final, total failure. And they rested ever after in the belief that man, though disposed to philanthropy, is essentially selfish; and that a community of social equality and common property is impossible.”   – History of American Socialism by John Humphrey Noyes (1870)

The faulty philosophy of socialism is on display right in this description. Socialism is based upon a fundamentally flawed belief that human nature is basically good and if only society could be changed then social problems and ills would go away. As you can tell from the description above this belief is flawed.

The Bible tells a different story about human nature.   The book of Romans explains that all are sinners and that no one is good.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

“There is none righteous, not even one;
 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
 And the path of peace they have not known.”
 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  – Romans 3: 9-18

The Bible says that man has a sinful nature.   Because of the fall of Adam, we are all born with a sinful nature that longs for sin and a heart that rebels against God. The Great King of Israel David laments the fact and confesses that he was born with a sinful nature.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

The heart of each one of us is sinful.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:19

The truth of this sinful nature is all around us.  Turn on the nightly news and watch it unfold before you.  Watch this video compilation of black friday shopping to see how this selfish nature is not limited to gangs and  hardened criminals.
(Warning it may contain some foul language)

The Bible lets none of us off the hook, we are all sinful.  And this sinfulness is deserving of hell and death.

For the wages of sin is death. . . Romans 6:23

This is and was the fate of everyone but God saw us in our state and had mercy on us and gave us grace.  He sent Jesus to die in our place for us and to pay our penalty of sin.   By Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection we can get a new nature.

 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3-8

Because our natural birth brings us into the world with a sinful nature then in order for us to enter the kingdom of God we must be born again by the Spirit into a new nature.  A prophet in the Old Testament said that God would change our nature.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. – Ezekiel 36:26  NLT

How is one born again?  How does one gain a new heart.   The Bible tells us it is not by our effort to do good but instead it is by faith in Jesus that one is saved.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  – Romans 10:9

If God gives you this faith and you accept him, then you will receive a new nature.  This nature will work inside you to transform you by the work of the Holy Spirit.  You will be a new creation.   The evil human nature will still combat you through your life but the Holy Spirit working in your new nature will over come.  At the end of your life or when Jesus returns, he will complete the transformation he began in you  and your selfish rebellious nature will be finally cast aside once and for all.  You will then be filled with virtue, love, and compassion because it will be your only nature to do so.

But until that time, the bible warns us not to fall prey to false philosophies and ideas that will lead us nowhere.   Don’t fall into the trap of socialist thinking, no governmental system* can fix all the social ills caused by our human nature.  That is something only Jesus can do.

*(Good government takes into account human nature and works to protect freedom and liberty against this human nature by a system of checks and balances while keeping power separated and decentralized so that no one person or group of people can control everyone.)

2 thoughts on “An early socialist community

  1. Great post. I’d recommend reading God Vs. Socialism by Joel McDurmon. Really shows how Socialism has risen to widespread acceptance in the supposed “free world”. May more Christians stand up to the godless humanism it represents, and be prepared to share the truth and wisdom of Christ to our community!

  2. Pingback: National Time of Humiliation and Fasting and Prayer « theswordandthetrowel

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