Timothy Dalrymple over at Patheos has an excellent post on the political/religious debate over government spending and the role of religious faith in public policy.
One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy. A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.” But we don’t need to protect the programs. We need to protect the poor. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs. Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations. Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?
It is immoral to ignore the needs of the least of these. But it’s also immoral to ’serve’ the poor in ways that only make more people poor, and trap them in poverty longer. And it’s immoral to amass a mountain of debt that we will pass on to later generations. I even believe it’s immoral to feed the government’s spending addiction. Since our political elites have demonstrated such remarkably poor stewardship over our common resources, it would be foolish and wrong to give them more resources to waste. What we need are political leaders committed to prudence and thrift, to wise and far-sighted stewardship, and to spurring a free and thriving economy that will encourage the poor and all Americans to seize their human dignity as creatures made in the image of God, to be fruitful and take initiative and express their talents and creativity.
I’ve been saying for ages that too many Christians have mistaken the government for their church. Jesus commands Christians, aka the church, to care for the poor and needy, not the government. The modern welfare state has usurped this role that Christ commanded the church to serve that we get far too many Christians simply voting the “compassionate way” and going on about their business.
We need to have a social safety net, but we’ve gone far past that minimum point—definitely since Johnson’s “Great Society” and possibly all the way back to FDR’s “Fair Deal.” Welfare programs have destroyed the black family and driven the illegitimacy rate through the roof. That observation isn’t mine—it’s that of the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.