Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Slander from the Religious Left: On not Bearing False Witness Against Your Conservative Neighbor

From the religious left, one often hears the old canard about how cruel and unlike Jesus politically conservative Christians are because they oppose government welfare programs.  But that notion is (1) unbiblical, (2) ungrounded, and (3) flatly false.
(1) Unbiblical:  As demonstrated throughout His life and teaching, Jesus has a heart for the poor, and He commands the same of us.  But you’ll notice that nowhere does Jesus slough off the demands of Christian charity onto the Roman Empire.  Those obligations He reserves for the Christians themselves.  He demands sacrificial charity of us, and He illustrates how it ought to work with a story about a good man from Samaria, not a good leftist from government.  The good Samaritan, not the good bureaucracy, embodies Christ’s understanding of brotherly love.
Jesus does not direct his followers to consider their tax bill as their tithe, or even a part thereof.  He knows that governments can never be, and never have been, an agency of Christian love or a suitable substitute for individual or church involvement.  As her proper duty before God, the poor widow freely and graciously placed her last mite into the religious offering plate, not into the public coffers where it would be consumed by government, not by the hungry (Luke 21: 1-4).  No; Jesus knows better what governments are for and how they actually work.  He never once indicates that the state is the proper locus of Christian compassion and charity.  Instead, He tells you to help the poor, not to delude yourself into thinking that government bureaucrats can do it for you, as if higher tax brackets mean greater outpourings of Christian love.  He’s not the prototype of modern religious leftism.  Indeed, far from being an economic egalitarian, He tells stories, like the parable of the talents in Matt. 25: 14-30, in which the actual moral is sometimes to take from those who have little and give it to those who have much, not the other way round. (A talent, by the way, is not a personal ability, but an amount of money worth about 20 years of a day-laborer’s wages).
The New Testament view is that governments are supposed to be a terror to evildoers (Romans 13: 3, 4), not a channel for religious charity -- unless, of course, the state is your church and government is your god, which must never be.  As has been argued repeatedly by scholars like R. J. Rummel in his shocking Death by Government, in the 20th century alone (an ostensibly civilized century), governments have killed nearly 200 million of their own citizens.  That is, on average, nearly 2 million persons are slaughtered every year at the hands of their own ruling elite.  In other words, the secular, modern nation-state is adept at distributing death, not love.  If you think you can turn government into an agency of Christian love, you are historically and politically delusional.  That’s not the biblical view, and that’s not the lesson of history.  Stop acting as if it were; and stop castigating others for not wallowing in your pool of error.
(2) Ungrounded:  I will not repeat here what I and many others have published repeatedly and at length elsewhere.  I simply say that government welfare programs -- those soul-crushing and abortive attempts at social engineering that we conservative Christians are criticized for not supporting -- have demonstrably injured the very persons they were intended to help, driving up unemployment, poverty, illegitimacy, broken homes, crime, drug use, incarceration, recidivism, and intergenerational dependency on government.  In so doing, they have produced a permanent underclass, wards of the state.  Yet, conservative evangelicals are criticized for not supporting those social and cultural mechanisms of devastation, as if we were obligated by our faith in Christ to make more victims rather than to affect the healing and escape of those already victimized.  I simply point you to Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion, Doug Bandow’s Beyond Good Intentions, Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground, and countless works, both large and small, by Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, among many, many others.
(3) Flatly false:  Far from being uncharitable and unkind, those conservative believers who oppose government welfare programs are not selfish, unchristian, or uncompassionate.  Quite the opposite:  As Arthur C. Brooks and James Q. Wilson has demonstrated in the carefully researched and copiously documented book Who Really Cares?:  The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, the most generous folks in America, those who give more to charity -- both secular charity and religious -- are precisely those politically conservative Christians whom the left criticizes as unloving.  Nobody, simply nobody -- no group in the history of the world -- gives more consistently and more sacrificially to charity of all sorts than do they.  And if the government tax code were not so relentlessly confiscatory, they’d give even more.  Yet, for all that, leftist Christians slander those generous folks as opposed to Christ.
And who gives least?
You guessed it.


Anonymous said...

And not a single reference to Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians? Surprising.
"For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" 2 Thes 3:10.

Unbiblical indeed.

Dennis said...

Excellent post! I agree, but would make one qualification. In Ezekiel 34 God condemned the leaders of Israel for not taking care of the sick or binding up the injured. It sounds to me like God expected the leaders of Israel to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. Granted, the U.S. is not Israel, nor is the U.S. a theocratic state so we have to be careful about applying passages to the United States that were originally directed to Israel. But it seems to me that if the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, expected the leaders of Israel to care for those who could not care for themselves, it may be that God expects the same from other governments as well. I presume this would involve taking care of those who are so elderly or physically disabled that they cannot work (as noted in the comment above, if someone can work, God expects them to work). Ezekiel 34, however, a far cry from the Left's theft from the "rich" to give handouts to so many who will not work. As you know, in ancient Israel the poor did not get handouts--they actually had to go out to the fields to work for their food by picking up what the "rich" were required by law to leave in the fields. Thanks for a great post!