Fr. Alexander Schmemann on Socialism

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Socialism: “Man’s nature is to reject it, because it can only be thrust on people by force. The most fallen possession is closer to God’s design for man than malicious egalitarianism. Possession is what God gave me (which I usually (mis)use selfishly and sinfully), whereas equality is what government and society give me, and they give me something that does not belong to them. (The desire for) Equality is from the Devil because it comes entirely from envy.”

– Father Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983, page 330-331.


  1. Paul Campbell says

    I like this, I think! What does he mean by “the most fallen possession?”

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Just anything material I imagine. Even a vanity thing like an I-Phone if it was gotten by my personal efforts, it’s still not all that important in the grand scheme of things. But it’s better than having it taken from you in order for Big Brother to equalize the misery of those who don’t have one.

      That’s my guess anyway.

  2. Socialism and communism (fruits of the same evil tree) demand forced confiscation of the fruits of one’s labor and redistribution. There is no virtue or justice. Socialism and communism while borrowing the Christian language and justifying it via the same moral imperatives enforce it subjectively, often via unjust, punitive, and unfair means.

    These ideologies are based on hatred of other, greed, and covetousness. They glaringly violate two of the Ten Commandments: (1) You shall not steal. and (2) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

    • Paul Campbell says


      Your comment is precisely accurate. I work at a Jesuit high school, and there are many there who simply do not understand this fundamental truth. I struggle to point this out to them, but it is rarely possible to move them from their trust of socialism/communism. They have enormous faith in the reliability of government to rectify social ills. How very sad.

  3. Socialism — any form of government redistribution — negates charity. What does man become when he can no longer love (actively) his neighbor?

    • Paul Campbell says

      Yes, my father maintains that it is easier and better for him to help those who are down and out – not a faceless bureaucracy. He knows the life story better than a disinterested functionary. Socialism may result in material sufficiency (not always, of course), but negative consequences too often outweigh the positive when social “welfare” is in the hands of such do-gooders.

      • Yes! Man shall not live by bread alone! When Christ talked about “feed my sheep” and “feed the poor” He was talking not only about physical nourishment, but also spiritual and moral sustenance. Go and sin no more!

        This key dimension of Christianity is completely ignored by socialist, communist, and other liberal, progressive, and leftist secular approaches to “helping” and “feeding” the poor. The terrible and dark consequences of just providing “material sufficiency” while completely ignoring the moral virtues, the importance of godly wisdom, and the requirement of meaningful work are all around us.

        Tragically, too many Orthodox Christians, including priests and bishops, have embraced socialism/communism and have made it virtually synonymous with the Christian faith. Anyone who dares to criticize socialism/communism and the devastation, corruption, and destruction it has brought to humanity and especially the poor, is savagely attacked and denounced as a hater, persecutor of the poor, and betrayer of Christian principles. The exact opposite of the truth!

        • max percy says

          Government confiscation is bad.

          Our failure as Christians to muster anything more than a Laodicean witness to our love of God and neighbor and instead pursue our own comfort and security takes most of the air out of critiques of socialism, etc… because we are hypocrites. Socialism, liberalism, etc… is a rebuke to our failure to live the Gospel. If we were faithful, then theses ideologies would never gain any traction.

          • Rostislav says

            Show us one instance where a socialist, Left of center state succeeds at “restoring the Life of the Gospel” for the people. One. The Berlin Wall fell for a reason. There is a reason why the Left is amoral, irreligious and persecutes Christianity. That is because it is rising to replace it with a libertine religion of “me” with a totalitarian state architecture. Atheist secular humanism is the enemy and NOT THE FRIEND of Christianity.

            How many more mass graves need to be filled before the “Christian Socialist” owns up to the inherent and degenerate evil of the assault of his never occurring utopia on everything Christian?

            The Right preserves liberty, stands for the traditional family and morality and the creation of a prosperous state which can meet the needs of all. The Left for parasitizing the wealth creation and prosperity of the Right.

            Just one moral, pro Christian, FREE (not technocratically engineered with a sensualist, libertine veneer and very definite militantly anti Christian secularism) state that is better. ONE.

            The American Dream is NOT a vice. There is nothing wrong with working for the fruits of your labor!

            You are preaching the virtues of the Berlin Wall and Fidel Castro while ignoring the tens of millions murdered by Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. That definitely is not Christian. All of it is the FAILED and inhumane gospel of the secular state for the amoral, atheist party over the subjected people with a murderous iron fist.

            • Rotislav,

              AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!

              The claim that socialist and communist governments and societies are somehow more “moral” or “just” or “humane” is a complete fiction, a grand MYTH. Nothing could be further from the truth.

              It is no coincidence that advocates and followers of communism enslaved and murdered the greatest number of people in the history of mankind. Most socialists and communists zealots produced some of the most cruel, violent, and evil tyrants this world has ever known, despots who persecuted and starved their own citizens, imprisoned, tortured, and slaughtered the innocent, and savagely destroyed their own people and the very fiber of their societies.

              All communists subjugated the liberty and property of men to the absolute power and control of the state. All were enemies of God and blasphemers of His Holy Scriptures. All viciously persecuted the most devout and religious members of their societies, primarily the religious Christians who righteously and faithfully followed the Lord.

              The Communist Holocaust stands as a testament and reminder to everyone to where socialism and communism always lead. In less than 100 years, Communism has claimed more than 100 million lives. Today, it continues to enslave one-fifth of the world’s people.


              • Rostislav says

                I believe I once read a statistic that had Lenin and Stalin not have come to power, the population of the USSR in 1960 would have been over 300 million while it was recorded at roughly 200 million. Just a thought.

                I totally agree with you. The Left is fundamentally motivated toward the overthrow of humanity: it is the enemy of all the hopes, dreams, aspirations, faith, prosperity, liberty of all of us.

            • max percy says

              Dear Mr. Rotislav,

              If your reply was intended towards me, I think you missed my intended point, and perhaps I expressed it poorly.
              If it was not intended towards me, please forgive me.

              My point is not that socialism is good. I am not sure how you got me “preaching” communism from what I wrote.

              My intended point is that the hypocrisy, mediocrity & lukewarmness of our, American & Western European, witness to the Gospel creates the circumstance where socialism, communism can arise. If we lived the Gospel, these horrors and other liberal progressive distortions would not likely have the “space” and conditions to spread. It is because we do not live & practice the Gospel except in a severely diminished way that our critiques of contemporary ideologies tend to ring hollow.

              I am not sure how or what the “Right”, or “left” for that matter, has anything to do with the Gospel, as those designations are really post-enlightenment developments and are freighted with the deficient anthropology of the liberal tradition.

              • Rostislav says

                Well, the RIGHT promotes the family and traditional observance and supports religion. The Left promotes atheism, immorality, the collective, the party, secularism, and Leftist political philosophy simply degenerates into socialism once it has starved a nation of wealth creation. Thus, the RIGHT supports communities which want to “preach and live by the Gospel” while the Left acts to repress them and destroy them.

                The Right in the West supports the liberty to reep the fruits of ones labor, the family, church going and traditional morality. The Left in the West supports relativism, non traditional families, secularization to “combat fanaticism”, gay rights, sexual liberty, the village, the “communal good” expressed at first in the welfare state leading to the soviet, the commune, the collective.

                Let’s remember that the Communist states of the Pre Berlin Wall era held that they were “socialist”, for “true Communism could only be attained when mankind had profoundly been changed by the party and been delivered from its ‘greed, superstitions, bourgeois tendencies and sentimental modes of thinking, when the true homo sovieticus would emerge”. Thus, left of center philosophies have a teleology: they may begin with “New Deals” but they end with militant atheism, genocides, gulags and collectivization, the execution of “counter revolutionary, religious agitators”.

                If I misunderstood you it wasn’t me addressing you personally. It was me addressing the gist of what you were saying. Thank you for your corrective and clarification. Since this topic is Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s view of socialism, it rightfully includes discussion of Right vs. Left and the political process.

                My name is R-o-s-t-i-s-l-a-v: I am sure you meant no disrespect. But as I do not misspell your name, make it an effort to not misspell mine or simply not to use it at all.

                • max percy says

                  Dear Mr. Rostislav,

                  Thank you for taking the time to correct my typing error. Thank you for your presumption of no disrespect. I certainly did not intend any with my typing error and I will strive to proof read more thoroughly in the future. If you prefer me to not use your name at all, I am, of course, happy to accede to your preference.

                  I am not sure there was a “gist” to what I was saying as I made a fairly specific observation. Perhaps it was false or deficient, however, that was not really addressed. Rather, the straw man of my being a proponent of socialism was soundly discredited with the approbation of attorney Banescu.

                  It appears that you are something of a proponent of the “right” from your posts on this topic. It appears you may be committed proponent of the “right”. Do you think a Christian can really be a proponent of either “right” or “left”? Given the vast difference in anthropologies proposed by Christians versus the post-enlightenment political theorists, it seems to me that political support of any candidate is an ad hoc balancing of “lesser evils” so to speak. I am not sure that Christians should be in the business of being proponents of either “right” or “left”.

                  By way of example, as you are clearly very knowledgeable of Fr. Schmemann’s writings, are you aware of Fr. Schmemann’s proclivities with regard to the American political spectrum or to being a proponent of “right” or “left”?

                  • Rostislav says

                    In another post, I addressed some of Fr. Schmemann’s political work. The very fact you are commenting on a topic which details his disdain for socialism says alot about what his ideological predispositions were, at least topically.

                    There were neither strawmen nor presumption in my treatment of Left vs. Right, but restatement of the positions accompanying both ideological postures which show how one is compatible with Orthodox Christianity (Christianity and religion in general) and the other is a catalyst for nominalism, secularism, atheist repression and oppression, totalitarian evil. I addressed what you said and challenged it and then went on to state the pitfalls of the Left which aren’t present on the Right. Your initial post did indeed have the “gist” of the “social justice” position of what is considered “Christian Socialism” or in our day, the “religious Left”. Thus, there was no presumption. You were taken at what you had written while the “strawman” was no such thing, but, rather, the ideological positions of certain orientations which promote the views you shared.

                    I spoke of the “teleology of the Left” which has a historical witness in our time and my assessment was true to the Left’s sorry history.

                    Yes, it is safe to say that I endorse the Right and not the unreliable Center and certainly never the godless Left, for I am Christian and the tenets of my Orthodox Faith do not allow me to promote godlessness or nominalism. Thus, I find the environment of personal liberty and self responsibility and traditional values that which promotes Orthodox Christian witness and life. These things are persecuted on the Left and become nominal, secular “religiosities” in the Center where Faith is not active but constantly nominalized/secularized.

                    I have more respect for my Faith (and my integrity) than to be what is understood today as a “Centrist”, and I have an understanding of the danger and thorough incompatibility of the Left (and its incompetence and brutality and totalitarian character) as to ever continence the Left which has historically stood for genocide and religious persecution.

                    If I had to label my political orientation, I would call myself a “Traditionalist Libertarian” with a Straussian outlook and Classical as well as Thomist (political not theological) tendencies.

                    Thank you for your reply. I hope in reading what I have written on this topic and on others, you find the answer you might be looking for to your queries of myself.

                    • max percy says

                      Dear Mr. Rostislav,

                      I am not sure why you are insisting on labeling/dismissing my point as “Christian Socialist”. I used the straw man metaphor differently than how you are reflecting it back. Again, those political labels add nothing to living the Gospel, distort Christian witness more than illumine anything, and seem to serve primarily in this context to allow you to return to a script of “right” v. “left”. I must be having a particularly difficult day expressing myself clearly as your response is to nothing I recognize as being my point, so I will give it a rest.

                      I am grateful for your time and effort in responding.

                    • Rostislav says

                      I can only allude to what I have written, where I have stated my case of Right vs. Left. I believe it was elucidated to a degree which allows one to get what I am saying.

                      As far as Christian Socialism, social justice and the “religious Left” are concerned, if you are unfamiliar with how their postures and your own coincide, I would suggest you consider the various “papers” and “statements” available on the net to acquaint yourself, for in actuality, my response was an answer to the developed points that you alluded to from their perspective.

                      I think the greatest misunderstanding here may be an assumption on your part of the moral equivalence of these ideological orientations and a lack of recognition of their very real differences vis a vis religious liberty and witness in culture. There is a chasm between Left and Right. Thus, for an Orthodox Christian, even secular Right regimes provide the necessary freedom and superstructure to practice ones Faith while even Christian Leftist regimes end up nominalizing the practice of ones Faith and subjecting it to “the times” and the “needs of the state” of “politically correct multiculturalism”, culminating in a nominalist outlook with an implied self criticism which leads to religious persecution. That is a best case scenario of the “Christian Left”.

                      Thank you very much for your consideration.

                    • max percy says

                      Dear Mr. Rostislav,

                      Thank you for acknowledging that you were not responding to me but to “the developed points that you alluded to from their perspective”. I do not have a Christian Socialist perspective therefore it is unlikely I was alluding to that perspective.

                      I confess that I am flabbergasted by what seems to be your technique of ascribing positions to me that I do not hold and then commenting on which of them you have ascribed to me is the “greatest misunderstanding”. A bit of epistemic modesty would be courteous. I am sure you meant no disrespect. But as I do not ascribe positions to you that you do not hold and then elucidate how they are wrong, make it an effort to not ascribe them to me.

                      Best regards and well wishes for your joint venture with Atty. Banescu.

                    • Rostislav says

                      I stand by what I have written. Be well.

                    • max percy says

                      The re-assertion fact of the standing by what you have written is not a reply.

                      A joyous Sunday of the Holy Fathers.

                    • Rostislav says

                      It was all that was needed to be said. I addressed the weight of your position and elucidated its problematic character. I went further to link what you have said to its antecedents of which you still plead no full appreciation.

                      Thus, I have no more for you. I stand with what I have written. Be well.

                    • max percy says

                      “What I have written I have written.”

                • Rostislav,

                  May I compile some of your excellent comments and observations about the Left vs the Right and re-publish them on the OrthodoxNet Blog? I believe others needs to see them. What should I use for the author “Rostislav” or something else?

                  • Rostislav says

                    “Rostislav” is fine enough of a name, and if you find what I have written worth sharing, please feel free to do so.

                    Thank you for your kindness.

                    • You’re most welcome! Thank you for bearing witness to the truth and boldly speaking out against the evil and corruption that is endangering the Orthodox Christian faithful and the whole world. Too many have still not learned the lessons of history or heeded the warnings of Christ and the prophets, martyrs, preachers, and teachers.

                    • Rostislav says

                      Yes, a simple enough rebuttal to any atheist or leftist is to start reading from Father Arseny or any of the myriad lives of the New Martyrs of the Soviet Atheist (Leftist) yoke.

                      HNM Benjamin of Petrograd is one of my favorites.

                      You are quite welcome.

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