Reaping Calamity: Venezuela and Socialism
Written by Rhett Burns on May 25, 2017
Venezuela is continuing its slide into disorder and mayhem. Protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government have continued for almost eight weeks, and they are growing more violent each day and showing no signs of slowing down. At least fifty-five people have been killed, including protestors, police, and bystanders. Violent protestors doused one young man with gasoline and lit him on fire, while others launched feces-bombs against the police. The country is spiraling out of control.
Desperate economic and living conditions have sparked the latest protests. In recent years the South American nation has seen rampant inflation, famine, medicine shortages, corruption, and violence. Last year, eleven thousand babies died as the infant mortality rate rose to thirty percent. According to one survey, the average Venezuelan adult lost nineteen pounds in 2016 due to malnutrition, in what some have termed the “Maduro Diet.”
The anarchy in Venezuela illustrates a simple fact of life in God’s good world: neutrality does not exist. Everything matters and must be submitted to Christ, and nothing is outside His scope. Here, “everything” includes economic systems, monetary policy, health care initiatives, journalism, police practices, trade agreements, and whatever else a government does. Or, to paraphrase Kuyper, there is not one dotted-i or crossed-t of the federal code over which Jesus does not cry, “Mine!” We will either honor Jesus with our economic policy or we will despise Him with it. We will either defend the cause of the poor or we will make war against them, only with paternalistic platitudes about how much we care. We can do basic math or we can be socialists, but we cannot be both. The standard, as always, is the Bible, and all political actions are acquitted or condemned by the very words of God.
In the case of Venezuela, the Scriptures are once again proved true:
“Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity…”—Proverbs 22:8
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”—Galatians 6:7-8
Venezuela is reaping the consequences of the policies it has sown for two decades. Late President Hugo Chavez rose to power in 1998 making wild promises in support of his Bolivarian Revolution. Free national health care was at the center of his plan, but the country now suffers a medical crisis. Basic medicines like aspirin and insulin are in short supply, and massive emigration and not replacing retirees has led to the country losing over 13,000 doctors in the last eight years. For one mother seeing her obstetrician, the protocol was BYOG: bring you own gloves. The hospital did not even have basic medical supplies like latex gloves or bandages, so patients were forced to provide them.
Nowhere is the biblical principle of reaping and sowing more clear than in the paltry harvest of Venezuelan farmland. The socialist regime nationalized the farming industry, taking control of the land, production, processing, and distribution of agricultural goods. The result is a country that cannot feed itself. Farmers cannot afford fertilizer and animal feed, thus they cannot produce enough food to turn a profit or feed a populace. Further complicating the issue, massive national debt has forced the government to cut back on food imports. Venezuela sowed government-controlled farming and is now reaping wide-scale malnutrition.
The Chavez and Maduro regimes have also been notoriously violent and corrupt. They have worked to silence journalists and opposing political leaders through coercion, imprisonment, and other means of persecution. Maduro’s government has cracked down on protestors with a heavy hand in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the country squandered its oil wealth into the hands of a corrupt bureaucracy.
Venezuela has sown injustice—theft, violence, and massive government overreach—and it is reaping calamity. The country is unstable and unsafe. Chavez sowed socialism, and they are now picking that fruit. Unfortunately, that fruit is not appealing. Socialism is a tree that produces feces-bombs, starving children, and hospitals long on patients, but short on physicians. Because nothing is neutral, the choice in life is always, as former U.S. Senate chaplain Peter Marshall once said, Christ or chaos. Venezuela’s rulers rejected Christ, thus choosing the current chaos.
The lesson for American Christians is to sow righteousness in all spheres of life and in all levels of politics. For example, it is easy for Christians to maintain an anti-abortion position, but fall prey to the siren song of socialism. After all, we are commanded to love the poor and plead their cause. That is exactly what socialism promises. In fact, some would even argue that to be consistently pro-life across all issues we must succumb to the welfare state. Can’t you feel the Bern already? But Christians must resist this temptation and subject every policy to the Word of God. For we will harvest what we plant. If we sow enormous national debt, we will ensure a harvest of slavery for our grandchildren (Proverbs 22:7). If we sow a nanny state, we will reap a nation of perpetual adolescence. Or, as Senator Ben Sasse puts it, the American adult will vanish. If we sow a $15 minimum wage, we will reap unemployment. For the basic laws of arithmetic come down to us from the Father of lights, and we may not defy Him.
We cannot plant the tree of injustice and expect anything other than the fruit of calamity—just look at the tear-gassed streets of Caracas.