The problem with ‘Collective Salvation’

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about ‘collective salvation’ from the Left and Right alike. The Left embraces this theological construct while the Right condemns it. What’s a Catholic to do? While it is obvious that the Citizen is conservative in his political outlook, the idea of collective salvation is repugnant not simply on the ‘it’s a matter of right or left’ maxim but on the ‘it’s a matter of right or wrong’ principle.

Christ warned us about those who will come after Him and attempt to speak in His name:

For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand. – Matthew 24:24

By contrast, let’s remember the now famous quote “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for”. For more than a decade, Obama has been building himself up to becoming the High Priest of the Church of Collective Salvation. He has preached Catholic theology to Catholics – in our own institutions of learning.  Many of us can recall Obama’s Notre Dame speech, when he interjected himself as an authority of Catholic teaching in his address. The Citizen recalls pundits proclaiming him as the ‘Voice of the American Catholic’. Oh my.

On the other hand, Johnny Cash understood the relationship we all share with Jesus in his American IV album. The amazing thing about Christ’s ministry and sacrifice is that he mounted that cross on Cavalry for each and every one of us – from then to the End of Days. The Council of Trent, convened in 1545, articulated the Catholic doctrine of salvation among it’s many accomplishments. Chapter VII states:

…because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God…

If faith is the root of salvation, then how can we possibly expect salvation to be a community affair? It isn’t. Individual salvation is an unearned gift, bestowed by God and accepted by man – or rejected. Individually. Salvation comes when a person understands and believes in God’s promise to us all, when we accept God’s gifts and seek to live a sanctified life, a life that is modeled after the example Christ set for us.

It is a fundamental doctrine of St. Paul that salvation can be acquired only by the grace merited by Christ (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma)

Collective salvation – like liberation theology and social justice – sounds good on the surface, but is dangerous for Catholics to consider as a sound theological concept. For those old enough to remember the Sixties, Collective Salvation is merely the liberal ‘Social Gospel’ movement retooled. Possessing roots in the reforming movements of the late 19th century, the social gospel movement became a tool of liberalism, allowing secularists and Marxists to create a religious movement that advances socialism while cloaked in pretenses of adhering to Christian thought. The social gospel movement is a Protestant version of liberation theology. Both seem to believe that it takes a village to save a soul. Both use the Christian concepts of charity to justify a variety of social issues – ranging from poverty to immigration to health care to the rights of minorities. According to social gospel/liberation theology/collective salvation adherents, it is only through embracing all that we have a chance of gaining the keys to Heaven.

To the collective salvationist, ensuring gay marriage is a key to win the gates of Heaven. Redistribution of wealth – a key. Embracing illegal immigrants – a key. Accepting that ‘God’s mansion has many rooms’ – a key. Accepting that it is wrong to apply our personal moral values to decisions we make about our money, our possessions, and the actions of our government – a key. In short, their concept of salvation rests in the acceptance of a Marxist lifestyle. Wealth is evil. Possessions are bad. The poor aren’t poor because of their own bad decisions – they are poor because they are oppressed. Drug addicts aren’t responsible for their addiction – we are. People living illegally in the United States aren’t breaking laws – we are the ones who are wrong for withholding the blessings of this nation from the world. It’s not a baby, it’s a choice.

Do Christians have a responsibility to help the poor, the infirm, the stranger? Of course we do. As individuals, it is our responsibility to be good custodians of the riches that God has placed in our hands. The Parable of the Talents is a perfect example of Christ’s belief that we are called to use our gifts wisely and well. Is our salvation linked to the good works of a nation? Of course not. Who sets the agenda for the progress of collective national salvation? Why, Organizing for America. According to one blogger on the OFA site, Barack Obama holds all the cards:

He knows “the Secret” and will meet all challenges (fix our schools, make college affordable, train our workers, invest more in research and biotechnology), use the law of Attraction to transform our country. We know what needs to be done. What’s lacking is the political will. Barack has the will.

Barack himself uttered these words in 2005:

You need to take on the challenge because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

Organizing for America has a program where they ‘educate, train, and organize’ young people to advance the OFA agenda. In short, Barack Obama is taking our young men and women and turning them into his own army of the Faithful, his church of collective salvation. This collective salvation approach is yet another tool that he uses to attract and secure the loyalties of the next generation. The ‘Face of American Progressivism’ is seeking to cement the secular left’s control over the future of America. This is just another tool to sway the religious segment of young America.

Mr. Obama seems to be confusing civic duty with our personal relationship with Jesus. He seems to believe that a life of prayer and contemplation is insufficient to save our souls – please don’t tell the cloistered Carmelite sisters and Trappists monks. Mr. Obama and the OFA blogger – as well as a frighteningly large number of ‘progressive’ Christians – have taken two thousand years of Christian theology and warped it to fit a socialist mold. Why?

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions…

Karl Marx wrote that religion has its place a mechanism to control society. Religion can be twisted into a philosophy that celebrates the need of the working class, glorifies the struggle of the ‘oppressed’, advocates for the redistribution of wealth as a tool of social justice, and places the welfare of the society as a whole as more relevant then that of the individual.

The problem with this concept of collective salvation – in all its various forms – is that is ignores the doctrine of personal salvation as a gift of the Crucified Christ. It ignores the concept of justification. In short form, justification is the theological concept that man can know salvation because God’s grace is infused in the human soul. It is the personal acceptance of this gift and the individual willingness to allow this grace to fill our lives that we can achieve salvation. Collective salvation denies this belief that an individual’s recognition of this grace is sufficient. Collective salvation demands that only through obedience to the instrument of the collective Uber-soul as embodied by the State can we all be saved. This is the next logical step in taking religion from the hands of the Church and putting it into the unworthy hands of the State.

Despite the Obama devotee’s assertion, there is no ‘secret’ to salvation.

Just read the Bible. Fight not for ‘social justice’ but for ‘equal justice’. Advocate not for ‘human rights’ but ‘individual rights’. Place your faith not in ‘collective salvation’ – work to save your own soul.

Cultivate your relationship with your ‘Own, Personal Jesus’.

(Thanks Johnny)

  10 comments for “The problem with ‘Collective Salvation’

  1. July 28, 2010 at 1:10 am

    I was saved, I am saved and I am being saved. Yes, but only GOD knows who they are.

    God bless you
    Michael Gormley

  2. Marilyn Fredrick
    August 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    As a Lutheran whose church is dealing with the gay issues I want you to know how much I appreciate your collective salvation explanation.This has helped me to understand what is happening to our Lutheran theology and inspired me to continue to fight for what is right and biblical. Thank you ,Thank you, Thank you.

    • The Citizen
      August 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      My pleasure, Marilyn. Good luck in your continuing discernment. Rest assured you will be in my prayers.

  3. Mary Hayes
    September 6, 2010 at 3:28 am

    This article was helpful in tying together all the "collectives" I've been hearing of.

  4. Maryellen Bahn
    October 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

    As a Christian and a Catholic by choice, I am shocked at such rhetoric! I can follow the spirit of the Gospel more lovingly as Christ commanded by living and treating others as He taught us in the Beatitiudes. May God bless you in his forgiveness for our misdeeds in words and actions. You are in my prayers.

    • The Citizen
      October 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm


      When you get over your shock, I recommend that you read 'Rerum Novarum' and 'Caritas in Verite'. Both of these encyclicals explain the perils of socialism and the heretical nature of collective salvation. I believe that I explained very carefully the perils of relying on others to do the good works that Christ compelled us to do as individuals.

      Oddly enough, your comments actually march in line with my argument. I have no problem with individuals and the community of believers doing good works – individually and collectively as a body. The tenet of 'collective salvation' – and the reason it is heretical – is the belief that all must be saved if any are to be saved.

      This president promotes a socialist perspective on the role of religion. The body politic is the instrument of bringing comfort and aid to the needy. This is contrary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's also contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

      I also recommend you read about the Catholic teachings on Justification There is actually a good link on an apologetics site that may be useful. The problem with collective salvation as it pertains to justification is that collective salvation relies overmuch on mere faith to ensure your personal salvation. I don't know about you, but I am not willing to have simple faith in my neighbor carrying his share of the community 'salvation quota'.

      If the rhetoric you are shocked at is my criticism of Catholic who support Mr. Obama, I recommend you consult the Catechism. His policies on abortion – as well as his socialist learnings – compel educated practical Catholics to withhold support for this gentleman.

      If the rhetoric you are shocked at is my doctrinal arguments, I recommend you reflect on my suggestions for further reading on this topic. I take great care in crafting political, historical, and theological arguments that are firmly rooted in the Magisterium. I often consult priests when planning an essay to ensure that my train of logic is consistent with Catholic teachings. Perhaps if you were more explicit in your objections, my response would be less … wordy.

      I thank you for your prayers.

  5. July 6, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Here is a solid article on Collective salvation. It is the version before the PC police gutted it on Wikipedia.

  6. Debra
    April 25, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I guess I've had my head in the sand because to me "collective salvation" was never a consideration. This was very informative and I would like to print this article out to share with a friend of mine that is wrestling with this issue. Is that possible?

    • April 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm


      Thank you for your kind words. I have added a 'print' button at the top of the post.

  7. Rock
    October 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Thank you for this article it helps me to articulate my feelings regarding collective salvation and it gives me logical ammo for arguments sake. I will share this with many people.

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