CMN: ‘For someone to see the way I look as art is amazing’
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Gemma Whyatt has birthmarks covering her upper back, neck, chest and ear, with hundreds of smaller marks all over her body.
It’s a rare skin condition called congenital melanocytic naevus (CMN).
The 24-year-old from Cambridgeshire is one of 30 people with CMN taking part in an international exhibition.
“For someone else to see the way I look as art and something to be celebrated is really amazing for me,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
Gemma, a fourth-year medical student in Leeds, was born with CMN, which is untreatable: “I was told they were my brown patches or birthmarks.”
As a child she says her life was like anyone else’s.
“I did normal things and had normal friends and I even did gymnastics and trampolining – which involved a leotard that revealed my birthmarks and I didn’t think anything of it when I was growing up.
“It wasn’t until I became a teenager that it really affected me.
“I realised I looked different and I felt quite self-conscious about it – I didn’t really know anyone else with the condition.
“I used to wear scarves, long sleeves, and I would wear full aussie cozzies instead of bikinis.” Image copyright Brock Elbank Image caption Callum White, 17, from Gloucestershire says he “struggled to connect with new groups at school” because of his CMN
But Gemma tells us she just got “fed up” of feeling self-conscious and when she was around 17 she booked a holiday to Spain with her friend where, for the first time in years, she wore a bikini.
“No-one even stared or said anything. It was kind of like exposure therapy in a way.
“I started enjoying life more to the full. It made me realise it’s not that big a deal and I didn’t need to limit myself.” Image copyright Brock Elbank Image caption Brazilian Mariana Mendes has CMN on her face
Gemma was the first person to sit for the photographer behind the How Do You C Me Now? exhibition and tells us it was “scary and nerve-racking”.
“I was only wearing my pants, with someone I’ve never met. I wasn’t wearing any make-up and I didn’t do anything with my hair.
“Usually I like to be in control of how I look and how I’m perceived, especially when taking pictures. But to give all of that to someone else did make me feel quite vulnerable.
“In doing so, it made me come to terms more with how I look and that I can’t always have control over how other people see me.”
Photographer Brock Elbank says: “It’s about celebrating unique individuals and to have hair and make up detracts away from their natural beauty.” Image copyright Brock Elbank Image caption Agnieszka Palyska is from Poland
CMN charity Caring Matters Now worked with Brock to find those who were willing to take part.
It took three years to complete and features children and adults from 13 countries.
Gemma says people from around the world have already contacted her.
“It’s not only about how it’s making me feel – people have got in touch and it’s given them their confidence. Or parents of young children that hope it’ll make their child feel better about themselves.
“I just really hope that when people look at these images they can feel challenged in the way they perceive beauty and see the beauty inside and outside.
“It’s not beauty despite the birthmarks, it can be beauty because of the birthmarks.
“It’s something interesting and different and unique and I really hope it might change the way they might think of people with visible differences.”
The exhibition is running from 14-24 March at the Oxo Tower gallery in London before going on a global tour. Follow Newsbeat on Instagram , Facebook and Twitter .
Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 every weekday on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra – if you miss us you can listen back here . Related Topics
Marks and Spencer slashes £10 off colour changing gin for Mother’s Day
Marks and Spencer slashes £10 off colour changing gin for Mother’s Day Not picked up your Mother’s Day gift yet? Marks and Spencer’s has you covered Share Harriet Flook Content Commercialisation Editor 12:55, 11 MAR 2019 The perfect gift this Mother’s Day (Image: Marks and Spencer) Get the biggest Money Deals stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email
Mother’s Day is on the 31 March, and if you haven’t got your present sorted yet don’t worry, as Marks and Spencer’s has released a range of products for the big day, including delicious treats, beautiful flowers and even colour changing gin.
They’ve even slashed £10 off the gins, making them £15 until the 1 April in stores now .
The 50cl spirit comes in two flavours. British Rose Dry Gin which ‘has a subtly fragrant and elegant flavour’ and changes from pale gold to vibrant pink when tonic is added, and British Lavender Dry Gin, a ‘fragrant, calming gin’ which turns from purple to pink.
Marks and Spencer’s has also released a number of Mother’s Day special items, including a ‘Mum’ Sourdough, Citrus Gin truffles, some tasty cakes and a number of beautiful bouquets. There’s also plenty of flowers on offer (Image: Marks and Spencer)
The high street favourite has released a number of bouquets for Mother’s Day, with gift bags of blooms available from £15 online and in store.
Both the Celebration Gift Bag, priced at £15, and the Collection Sweet Love Bouquet for £25, are avaiable in store.
If you’re looking for more gift inspiration, including beauty, fashion and homeware gifts then make sure you check out Marks and Spencer’s dedicated Mother’s Day page here. Read More
Disney launch huge 50% off sale – and it even includes clothes for adults
Whether you’re buying an adorable outfit for your little one, or yet another Princess mug for yourself, you just can’t beat the Disney store . The only downside? The often extortionate prices. So we got seriously excited when we spotted the famous shop was currently offering a huge 50% off sale.
Currently live on the Shop Disney website (and potentially also in stores), there’s hundreds of items included in the discount event, including everything from clothes, toys, kitchenware, jewellery and even luggage.
Originally spotted by bargain hunters on deals forum hotukdeals, we’ve listed out some of our favourite sale items below.
As for delivery, it’s free on all orders over £50, or £3.95 for standard.
Snow White Gold Plated Charm Bracelet, £7.49 (was £15) Move over Pandora Disney Store Winnie the Pooh Baby Costume Body Suit, £8.50 (was £17) How adorable?! Danielle Nicole Oh My Disney Eric Crossbody bag, £22.49 (was £45) We love everything in the Danielle Nicole collection Read More Mothercare launch huge 50% off sale – including hundreds of pounds off pushchairs Disney Minnie Rocks the Dots Shirt for adults, £14.99 (was £30) There’s even half price adult clothing – plus lots and lots of pjs Disney Store Oh My Disney Prince backpack, £9.99 (was £20) We NEED this Read More Disney Why cartoon characters wear gloves 25 facts about Disney’s The Lion King How Tarzan and Frozen are linked Secret codes of Disney cast members Tragic truth behind Beauty and the Beast The mystery of Andy’s mum is solved Three things banned from Disney films 21 secrets about Mickey Mouse
Jesus Was a Socialist | Chuck McKnight
Conclusion Jesus was a socialist
It’s not uncommon to hear people claim that the early church practiced a form of socialism. After all, the Book of Acts does seem to describe something along those lines:
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. … Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32, 34–35; NRSV)
But Christians of a capitalist bent tend to brush this aside with a stock response. The Book of Acts, they point out, is descriptive rather than prescriptive. That is, these early believers acted voluntarily, and Acts merely records what they did, but the book stops short of actually instructing other believers to follow their example.
Fair enough. On a technicality, they are correct. The Book of Acts does not explicitly instruct its readers to follow the example of these believers who sold their possessions, held all things in common, and provided for the needy.
For some, that’s enough to make this an open-and-shut case. They happily dismiss socialism and move on. However, the more curious might not be content to leave it there. We might venture to ask: Why did the early church act in this manner to begin with? Where did they come up with these radical ideas?
I believe the answer is that the early church was acting directly on the teachings of Jesus because Jesus was a socialist . That being said, I should acknowledge a few things about this claim before defending it.
First, the idea that Jesus was a socialist is obviously somewhat anachronistic. Socialism as a formal economic system did not originate until long after Jesus walked the earth. But as I will demonstrate, Jesus taught (and the early church modeled) principles very much in line with socialist thinking.
Second, socialism has always been a broad concept covering multiple variations and many different aspects. And I have little interest in debating what constitutes “true socialism.” However, I do need to specify what I mean by making this claim.
When I say that Jesus was a socialist, I am not referring to the communal ownership of the means of production. This aspect of socialism is certainly consistent with Jesus’ message, and one could argue that it is a logical outworking from it for an industrial society, but it is not something Jesus ever specifically addressed. However, the socialist principle that positively saturates Jesus’ gospel is the idea of fair distribution of wealth, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” And that is what I will be defending in this article.
Third, in the interest of full disclosure, I am myself a democratic socialist and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America . I advocate this variety of socialism in no small part because I see it as being so well aligned with what Jesus taught. However, democratic socialism is an ideology particular to our time and culture, and I do not presume it to be exactly one and the same as Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a socialist in principle, but he left all manner of room for us to figure out the specifics of applying that principle today. The kingdom of God
To lay the foundation for this discussion, we first need to consider the kingdom of God (also called the “kingdom of heaven” in Matthew). Jesus framed all of his teachings within this concept. The gospel itself—the good news that Jesus preached—is explicitly about this kingdom (Mark 1:14; Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16).
The kingdom is the reign or rule or influence of God in the world. This should not be understood as a theocracy where Christians take over and impose their beliefs on others, but as the spread of Jesus’ love-based ethic in all areas of life. So what does that look like? As Jesus began teaching, he provided a sort of mission statement for his ministry. Composed mostly of quotes from Isaiah, it summarizes Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18–19, NRSV)
Of note, that last bit about “the year of the Lord’s favor” is probably a reference to the year of jubilee, described in Leviticus 25. Every 50 years there was to be a release from all debts, a restoration of property that had been sold, and a pause on farming to allow the land to recover. This would indeed have been good news for the poor and the oppressed. It would have prevented anyone from acquiring excessive wealth, and it would have ensured that everyone received their fair share.
We hear echoes of similar themes in portions of Mary’s “Magnificat,” her song of praise to God for having chosen her to bear Jesus:
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52–53, NRSV)
And these same reversals of power to care for the poor can be found among the blessings and woes Jesus pronounced:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. …
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” (Luke 6:20–21, 24–25, NRSV)
At its most basic level, the kingdom of God means justice—for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the outcast—and such justice demands that the rich and the powerful be brought low enough that everyone else can have enough.
Jesus taught that the kingdom is in our midst (Luke 17:21), but that it is also like a mustard seed—starting small but growing ever greater (Matt. 13:31). Therefore he taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come,” which means “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
And yet the kingdom is not something we can simply pray about and then wait for God to accomplish. We’re meant to partner with God to bring about these kingdom purposes:
And in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28, REB)
When we say that “Jesus is Lord,” we are proclaiming him to be the head of God’s kingdom, and we are pledging our service to the spread of that kingdom. We are responsible to work for the changes that advance God’s kingdom within the kingdoms of this world, until we can one day say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” (Rev. 11:15).
So let’s look a little closer at some examples of Jesus’ teachings about this kingdom. The rich ruler & Zacchaeus
We’ll start with the story of the “rich ruler.” It’s found in Mark, Matthew, and Luke, but we’ll quote the latter for now:
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:18–25, NRSV)
In all three accounts, the basic story is the same. The rich ruler had lived by the letter of the law, but he had failed the spirit thereof by accumulating so much wealth that should have been used to help others. So Jesus told him that he must distribute his wealth to the poor if he wanted to enter the kingdom of God.
At this point, capitalist Christians are quick to point out that while Jesus gave this instruction to a specific individual, he did not make it a universal mandate. As with the story of the early church in Acts, they are again correct on that technicality. However, Jesus did follow it up with a universal statement about how hard it is for such wealthy people to enter the kingdom of God. Per the comparison of a camel going through the eye of a needle, it’s impossible. There is no place for excessive wealth in God’s kingdom.
Of course we must use wisdom to discern the point at which wealth becomes excessive. The next chapter (Luke 19) contains the story of Zacchaeus, and the placement of these two stories in such close proximity is probably no coincidence. Jesus had just said that the rich ruler must sell all of his possessions. But for Zacchaeus—who was rich, but likely not quite as wealthy as the ruler—a slightly different solution would suffice:
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8–10, NRSV)
In both cases, what is clear is that excessive wealth has no place in the kingdom of God. As for how much is too much, we can’t say exactly how much either had in the first place, but the principle at work is something Jesus said earlier in Luke:
“Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:48, TEV) God & wealth
Jesus elsewhere put it simply, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19). This warning is found in his “Sermon on the Mount.” And from start to finish, this famous sermon is all about what life should look like in the kingdom of God. While it covers a wide array of ethical teachings, Jesus’ views on wealth sit right at the center of it all. A few verses after the above statement, Jesus goes on to say the following:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:24–33, NRSV)
I’ve always heard this passaged explained to mean that we should put our efforts into our spiritual life with God, and that God would then take care of our physical needs. The extreme “prosperity gospel” version would have us donate our every last cent to megachurch pastors with the promise of God’s blessings in return, while a more moderate version would view this as less of an absolute promise than a general principle. In either case, it’s a transactional understanding of how God’s blessings work.
Can we be honest for a moment? Can we admit that this just isn’t true? Can we accept that it doesn’t work this way? Can we own up to the fact that the devoutness of one’s spiritual life has no effect on whether or not they are physically provided for?
Millions of people around the world do not have access to the basic necessities of life, and some of the most sincere Christians are among them. The last thing they need is to be shamed into believing that their lack of faithfulness is the cause of their suffering.
Not only is the traditional interpretation of this passage absurd on the face of it, but it is also contradicted by Jesus’ own words from a few verses earlier. He taught that God, far from transactionally giving or withholding provisions, blesses all people equally, “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). And yet it remains an indisputable fact that people go without.
So what did Jesus mean in this passage? Why did he say that we have no need to worry? Was Jesus wrong? Or could it be that we’ve missed the context for his statements?
I would again suggest that the necessary context is that of the kingdom of God. Inasmuch as the kingdom of God is in effect, all people will be sharing their possessions, and thus everyone will be provided for. Therefore, we must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (better translated as “his justice”) by working to bring about this reality.
It is our job to work with God to bring about the kingdom. And once God’s kingdom is fully in place, then “all these things will be given to you as well.” In the kingdom, where wealth is distributed fairly, we will not need to worry about our basic necessities. The rich fool
In Luke 12, we find a parallel version of this passage from Matthew. The section on worrying is nearly identical, but in Luke’s version, Jesus prefaced it by telling his parable of the “rich fool”:
“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16–21, NRSV)
Here we see exemplified the kind of excessive wealth that Jesus says has no place in the kingdom of God. The land of this man produced an abundant crop, and that’s a wonderful blessing in itself! But then he stopped to consider what to do with it. And by now, the answer Jesus would give should be clear. This rich man ought to have used what he needed and given the rest to others in need. Instead, he chose to store his excess wealth in new barns, where this blessing intended to provide for many people would be of no use to anyone.
With this parable in mind, Jesus’ words that follow make even more sense: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear” (Luke 12:22).
Jesus surely wasn’t suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and pretend we have nothing to worry about, despite all evidence to the contrary. Freedom from worry means that we truly have nothing to worry about. That will be possible once we live under kingdom economics that ensure our most basic needs are always met. And for this to happen, the rich must stop hoarding their excess and start sharing it with the poor.
God intends for the world to work in a certain way. When the world is working as God intends, the birds of the air will always have food, the lilies of the field will always grow into their beauty, and people everywhere will always have their needs provided. The fact that so many people are currently without provision means that the world is not working as God intends. And the reason for this is that some are allowed to hoard their wealth when they should be sharing with those who need it. For those who would see God’s kingdom come, there is nothing optional about the reversal of this grave injustice. The judgment of the nations
At this point, some of my readers will object because they believe caring for the needs of others should be up to individuals—that we shouldn’t involve the government. This is essentially a libertarian position. A Christian variation would suggest that it’s the church’s responsibility to care for the poor.
I can understand the appeal to this position. I went through a libertarian phase myself. It sounds nice in theory, but the fact is that it doesn’t work.
We’ve had hundreds of years of allowing individuals in a capitalist society to take care of others, and we’ve had thousands of years of allowing the church to do the same, and both have proven to be insufficient. I’m not saying that charity hasn’t done any good at all—absolutely it has! And we should certainly, as individuals and as the church, continue doing charitable work. But it’s not enough. Individual philanthropy hasn’t cut it.
However, if we work together as a nation, we do have the resources to eradicate poverty. There’s enough to go around for everyone. The only reason this hasn’t yet happened is that we, as a nation, have allowed individuals to amass excessive wealth and thus hoard what should be communal resources—land, shelter, food, etc.
Jesus’ parable of the “sheep and the goats” is often (and I believe wrongly) explained as a judgment of individuals. But Jesus spoke of nations:
“Now when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left.” (Matt. 25:31–33, LEB)
A number of popular translations replace “them” (referring to “the nations”) with “people,” making it sound as though it were a separation of individual people. But that’s an interpretative choice that the translators have added to the Greek text. And it doesn’t seem to reflect Jesus’ intention.
The parable is often referred to as the “judgment of the nations,” and I believe that’s exactly what it is. The nations themselves are separated, and they are evaluated according to the standards of God’s kingdom. What are those standards?
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you as a guest, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:34–40, LEB)
Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick and the imprisoned—these are the criteria according to which Jesus judges a nation as righteous and as a part of God’s kingdom.
Even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that the judgment of individual people was in view here, then this would still be based on their actions within the context of their respective nations. If individual people are being judged, then they are the people of a given nation being judged on how they acted as that nation.
One way or another, you can’t remove the national element from this parable without fundamentally altering it. Jesus cares about how nations conduct themselves, and he judges them according their treatment of “the least of these.” He gave no indication that such matters should be left up to individuals without any government involvement. The laborers in the vineyard
Another objection is the idea that rich people deserve to keep everything they worked for. Here we’re getting into one of the fundamental myths of capitalism. I don’t want to get too distracted, as this article is supposed to be about Jesus’ views, but suffice it to say that the rich do not become rich by hard work alone.
No doubt many wealthy people are indeed hard workers. That much is not in dispute. But gaining excessive wealth also requires a good deal of luck or the right connections or previous wealth to build upon or shady dealings or any combination of the above. The rich may work hard, but they do not work harder than the poor. And even if they did, it would not entitle them to an exorbitant lifestyle while others can’t afford basic necessities.
In any case, Jesus had some thoughts on this as well. On the one hand, he affirmed that “the laborer deserves to be paid” (Luke 10:7). But on the other hand, Jesus disagreed with the idea that greater work inherently deserves greater pay, as he explained in his parable of the “laborers in the vineyard”:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt. 20:1–16, NRSV)
Even though some of these laborers worked much harder than others, it did not entitle them to greater pay. Rather, the landowner was concerned that they all receive “whatever is right,” which came to a normal daily wage for everyone.
So why was it right for everyone to receive the same wages, even though some worked harder? Because the wages they received were the wages they needed to care for themselves and their families. If the landowner had paid lower wages to the workers who came on later, he would have left them without enough. But if he had paid higher wages to the workers who came on earlier, he would have given them an excess beyond what they needed.
God’s notion of what is right has little to do with proportionality, but it has everything to do with ensuring that all needs are met. According to Jesus, and according to socialism, it is not right for some people to earn excessive wealth while others do not have enough. It may sound counterintuitive to those of us indoctrinated in capitalism, but this is how the kingdom of God is supposed to work. The shrewd manager
Related to the above objection, some will say that it isn’t fair to take from some to give to others. However, we need to understand that the ultimate goal of socialism—and of the kingdom of God—is not so much taking from the rich to give to the poor as it is restructuring society so that there are no rich or poor to begin with.
That said, as we progress toward that state, one immediate method for reducing income inequality would be to implement fair taxes. The people who earn the most should also contribute the most back into society. For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren have both recently proposed tax plans along these lines.
But Jesus seems to suggest that we go even further than that. In his parable of the “shrewd manager,” Jesus defies our notions of “fairness.” The manager blatantly gives away some of his master’s wealth by cancelling portions of the debts others owed him:
“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:1–13, NRSV)
I’ve witnessed biblical teachers twist themselves in knots to try to get around what this passage seems to say. And I’ve spent a fair bit of time doing so myself. But maybe this isn’t that difficult of a passage at all, and we just don’t like what Jesus said.
The shrewd manager gave away his master’s wealth, and he was commended for it. Jesus then turned to his disciples and essentially said, “Go and do likewise.”
The rich man likely became rich precisely by holding the poor in debt. New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright explains that “Jews were forbidden to lend money at interest, but many people got round this by lending in kind, with oil and wheat being easy commodities to use for this purpose” ( Luke for Everyone , p. 193).
But even if he wasn’t charging interest, the fact remains that he was rich, and his debtors were poor. He had enough that he could have chosen to “lend, expecting nothing in return,” as Jesus instructed (Luke 6:35). So that’s what he should have done. Instead, this man who had more than he needed demanded repayment in full from those who did not have enough.
Jesus said that the manager’s method of reducing income inequality was an example of faithfulness. And then Jesus charged his disciples—and by extension us—to likewise be faithful with the “dishonest wealth” that “belongs to another.”
If we’re willing to take Jesus at his word, then perhaps we can accept that he wants us to use other people’s wealth for kingdom purposes. This we are called to do as an act of faithfulness. A democratic “wealth tax” frankly pales in comparison to this radical idea from Jesus. The rich man & Lazarus
Yet another objection claims that socialism is coercive. This view sees God as being non-coercive, and it asserts that we should thus avoid coercion as well. While I agree with the premise of non-coercion, this principle can easily be taken to an absurd extreme if not properly understood.
When I say that God is not coercive, I mean that God does not override free will and that God is not manipulative. God allows us to make our own choices. However, our choices have consequences, and the wrong choices can harm people.
We may have the free will to be able to make harmful choices, but that doesn’t give us free reign to do so. God is not coercive, but Jesus certainly issued warnings related to our behavior. And some of the direst consequences Jesus warned about had to do with hoarding wealth that should be given to the poor:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’” (Luke 16:19–26, NRSV)
As for implementing democratic socialism on a national scale, we’re not talking about threatening the rich with violence to force them to give up their money. We’re talking about using our democratic system to move toward a more just society that works for everyone. This will be no more an act of coercion than any other aspect of government.
I suppose you could argue that a certain amount of coercion is inherent in any legal system. And if you want to be consistent enough to oppose all legislation of any kind, then more power to ya! No more setting speed limits or establishing fire codes or anything of the sort. But if that’s not what you have in mind, then it doesn’t work to oppose democratic socialism on the grounds of it being coercive either. Jesus is Lord
As a final objection, some Christians say that we should stay out of politics altogether. For a while, this was my position as well . Like so many others, I was in the process of extracting myself from the idolatrous relationship between conservative Evangelical Christianity and the GOP. I was coming to understand how the religious right had sold its soul to nationalism and Republican partisanship, and I was determined to have no further part in it. My solution was to have nothing to do with politics whatsoever.
I think that may have been a healthy place for me for a time. I needed the chance to detox from my politically conservative past. But this would not have been a good place for me to have stayed indefinitely.
At the most basic level, opting out of politics is itself a political position. And it’s a position that defaults to allowing evil politics to harm the most vulnerable members of society. As Desmond Tutu famously said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
There’s this fear that we will turn political involvement into an idol. And given the example we see in the religious right, that fear is not completely unfounded. We would do well to avoid partisan politics—giving blind allegiance to a party no matter what direction it may take. But the answer is not to opt out entirely and allow society’s worst inclinations to take hold.
The answer for Christians is to affirm that Jesus is Lord. And if Jesus truly is Lord, then Jesus must be Lord of our political life, as well as our spiritual life.
Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom is intensely political. I hope we’ve established at least that much in this article. To accept Jesus’ theological teachings while neglecting or outright rejecting his politics is to have only half of his gospel.
I’m not suggesting that we necessarily have to affirm socialism itself as a part of the gospel. There’s room for discussion and debate on such particulars. But we must engage in politics that advocate for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the poor. This is absolutely central to Jesus’ message. His gospel simply is not the gospel without it. Conclusion
At this point, whether or not you agree with my claim that Jesus was a socialist, if you’ve at least caught a glimpse of how central economic justice is to Jesus’ gospel, then I’ll count it a success.
This is one of those principles that you can’t unsee after having once seen it. As you read other passages in the Gospels, you just might start noticing little hints in this direction scattered throughout. They’ve always been there, but they may not have been quite as obvious before. Perhaps I’ll cover more of them at some point, but I think this article has gotten long enough for now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I have a request to make. I don’t often beg my readers to share my posts, but then I don’t often put in quite as much effort as I have for this one. If you’ve found this article to be thought provoking, would you mind sharing it wherever your people are to be found? Let’s start a conversation.
Photography exhibition featuring people with rare skin condition seeks to challenge conventional perceptions of beauty
11 March 2019 at 3:07pm Photography exhibition featuring people with rare skin condition seeks to challenge conventional perceptions of beauty Congenital Melanocytic Naevus is rare and untreatable. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
A photography exhibition featuring people with a rare and untreatable skin condition that presents as large, dark brown birthmarks which can cover up to 80% of the body is seeking to challenge conventional perceptions of beauty.
A series of 30 portraits showcases people with Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN), a condition which is not inherited and is instead caused by a mutation in the NRAS gene.
Due to the rarity of the condition – single small CMN are found in 1% of all newborn babies, while large or very numerous CMN are rare, occurring in around 1 in 20,000 births worldwide – people with it can feel isolated and face negative comments about they way they look, causing them to lack self-confidence.
HOW DO YOU C ME NOW? aims to not only increase the confidence of those with the condition, but also challenge conventional perceptions of beauty and show that “visible differences can add to beauty rather than detract from it”.
Many of those photographed as part of the exhibition had never revealed their birthmarks publicly before.
The images of the 30 people from 13 different countries across five different continents were taken by photographer Brock Elbank who focuses on specific physical features.
HOW DO YOU C ME NOW? launches at the Oxo Tower Wharf, London on Wednesday, March 13, with doors opening to the public the following day at 10am.
Admission is free and the exhibition, which is funded and supported by UK CMN charity Caring Matters Now , will run for 10 days. Some 30 people were photographed for the CMN exhibition, some of who had not revealed their birthmarks publicly before. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
These are the stories of four of those featured in the exhibition. Alkin Emirali Alkin Emirali was born with a few prominent moles on his face that have proliferated throughout his life. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
“It might sound off to say it… but I don’t notice my CMN,” Alkin Emirali – who was born with a few prominent moles on his face that have proliferated throughout his life – says.
“It’s not part of my everyday experience.
“As an adult, I rarely get challenged about my visible difference.
“People sometimes stare, I usually just stare back and then they stop.”
Alkin, a screenwriter, director, lecturer and an established martial arts instructor, never met anyone else with CMN until he was in his late-30s, but says he wishes he had seen an exhibition like HOW DO YOU C ME NOW?when he was a child as “to have seen other faces like mine in the world would have been awesome”.
Alkin continues: “My visible difference has defined who I have become on every level, and since I like who I am, I guess I wouldn’t change anything.” Gemma Whyatt Gemma Whyatt says she is ‘growing more and more to appreciate the skin I’m in’. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
When Gemma Whyatt was growing up, she believed she was “from a different species” to everyone else due to CMN covering the top part of her back and chest, half of her neck and the back of her scalp and ear, along with smaller birthmarks over the rest of her body.
Now, at the age of 22, Gemma says she is “comfortable” about the way she looks, but admits it “took a while to get to that stage”.
For many years, the aspiring doctor wore long-sleeved tops and scarves to hide her skin, avoiding swimming, and gave up gymnastics and trampolining – sports which she loved – to avoid wearing leotards.
Through Caring Matters Now, Gemma met others with CMN and began to feel “less isolated”, even going on a beach holiday with friends.
While the Brighton student finds she sometimes gets “ignorant comments”, she also gets complimented on her “uniqueness”, helping her to “more and more appreciate the skin I’m in”. Agnieszka Pałyska When Agnieszka Pałyska was little, some parents would not let their children play with her because she was ‘different’. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
When Agnieszka Pałyska was growing up in Poland, some children were not allowed to play with her because she was “different”, while others would stare at her as they got changed for PE lessons and gossip about the way she looked.
While this doubtlessly affected her confidence, the 32-year-old credits her parents for the “loving” and “supportive” way in which they brought her up, meaning that her childhood was “happy” and helped her build self-awareness, confidence and self-acceptance.
Between 50% and 60% of Agnieszka’s body, including her neck, chest, back and left arm to shoulder are covered in CMN marks.
She also has a large number of smaller CMN marks covering the rest of her body.
While Agnieszka says she often faces stares and questions over the way she looks, she says she has “learnt how to deal with countless comments, criticism of my appearance and overreactions.
“Also, it has taught me how to respond with a smile to other people’s questions and looks, and basically, I have learnt to keep my self-confidence.
“CMN is just a visual aspect of my appearance but not the essence of my life.” Callum White When Callum was younger he would explain to other children that his CMN was ‘just a birthmark’. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
As 17-year-old Callum White became older and more aware of his CMN he says he found it more difficult to join new groups of friends, but says that once he explained “it’s just a birthmark” to other children, “they just got on with it”.
The student was born with CMN covering the whole of his right arm and hand, along with smaller marks on the rest of his body.
Callum was an active child, with a passion for running, climbing and cycling, which often involved many scrapes, but due to the fact that CMN can be more fragile and tear more easily than other types of skin, his skin would break more easily and require bandaging. Does having CMN affect a person’s health? CMN is rare and untreatable. Credit: Brock Elbank/Caring Matters Now
On the whole, no, but those with large and numerous CMN have a 10% increase compared to the rest of the population of developing malignant melanoma, and this peaks during childhood.
Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes, the skin cells which produce pigment and which make up CMN.
However, when someone with CMN develops a malignant melanoma it tends to be aggressive and difficult to treat.
Potentially it can be fatal.
An elevated risk of skin cancer is not the only health issue.
Problems in the brain and spinal cord are the most common complication seen in children with CMN.
The pigment cells of the skin and the brain develop from the same cells in an embryo, and as a result children with CMN can have differences in their brain or spinal cord.
The most common problem is pigment-containing cells (a bit like a CMN) in the brain or spinal cord.
This is called “neuromelanosis”, or “neurocutaneous melanosis” and can cause fits (convulsions), developmental delay, or problems with their limbs.
Support and more information on CMN can be found on Caring Matters Now’s website. Last updated Mon 11 Mar 2019