Fact, Opinion and Annoyance

A Conservative Tract
February 22, 2009, 4:37 am
Filed under: Christianity, Politics | Tags: ,

I am a conservative.  To me, being a conservative is about freedom, self-determination, and hard work.  It is about acting out my Christian faith in a practical way and only “imposing” my beliefs on others in that I cannot support things that are counter to my own convictions.  I’m not interested in living in a theocracy that makes everyone be Christian, go to church, and live by a Biblical standard.  I think history shows that this is the quickest way to denigrate Christianity to a set of rules, rather than a relationship with God.  The Bible makes it clear that Christianity must be chosen freely and individually or it is not feasible.

The natural progression in my mind is to a government that allows people to make free and individual choices.  That means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail.  The benefits of success are obvious.  But people often learn more when they fail.  Or at the very least, they learn that they don’t know what they think they do.  You fail your Algebra test because you didn’t grasp the concepts.  You hit the books so that next time you do better.  Lesson learned – you have to work harder at Algebra than you thought.  Passing the next test – priceless.

However, I seem to be in the minority.  According to a recent poll (see questions 32-37) the majority of Democrats and Independents seem to think that it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide food, health care, housing, and jobs to all Americans who want or cannot afford these things on their own.  The Republican numbers aren’t much better.  Apparently none of these people have lived in government housing or tried to get their brand name medicine approved through Medicare.

Let me now state what should be obvious; there are not enough rich people in the United States to subsidize 1,500 square foot houses, upper 5-figure incomes, state-of-the-art medical care, and 3 meals a day for everyone who wants it.  And lest I be accused of exaggerating the basic needs of Americans, please tell me what size house would be acceptable, what salary would be deemed fair, what constitutes adequate medical care, and how much food is required to keep from going hungry.  I think you will find it difficult to make an objective standard.  I used my own standard of living, which while definitely sufficient is not excessively comfortable (at least in New Jersey, where we suffer the highest tax burden in the country).  I lived in Camden, NJ for years where people relied on the government for their shelter, income, food, and medical care.  Those people lived in squalor.  No thanks.

What is less obvious to many is that rich people shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the lifestyles of other people at all.  When you take somebody’s money and give it to someone else (also known as redistribution of wealth) that’s called stealing.  Now I come back to “imposing” my faith on other people.  My conviction is that stealing is wrong regardless of who is doing the stealing or for what purpose.  Don’t ask or expect me to support it.

This is the part where I’m accused of being greedy and insensitive to the needs of the poor.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The church in Acts sold what they had and gave to everyone who had need (Acts 2:45).  Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  But I can’t find one instance in Scripture where a secular government is petitioned by Christians to take money from non-believers and use it to fulfill any of God’s commandments.  I wonder what Peter and Paul would have thought of going to the Roman governor and asking for subsidies to feed the widows and orphans.

Of course what we do is even worse.  We don’t ask the government to give us money to help the poor – we just ask the government to help the poor.  Take money from the rich, take a little from us too, but help them.  We have just removed the most important aspect of any help that we could give – the message of the love of Christ.  I’m not suggesting we should only help those who accept our faith – but I am saying that we should always share it.  Unless you hold the belief that all paths lead to God, at which point I guess the conversation is over.  I’m going to “impose” my belief on you and say sorry I don’t agree.

I have some liberal Christian friends who are interested in social justice.  According to Wikipedia (first Google hit, I’d be happy to hear other definitions), social justice “refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law.”  Sounds great.  My issue is with their method of achievement.  Expanding a secular government beyond it’s understood purpose (the administration of law) into other aspects of society to achieve social justice is, in my opinion, naive at best and disastrous at worst.  I can’t figure out why anyone would choose to give power over his means, his choices, and even his life (not to mention those of their fellow citizens whom they purport to help) to a group of politicians they don’t even know.  Especially given the general track record of politicians when it comes to essential concepts in justice such as honesty and integrity.

And given that our government is secular, how do you know that its definition of social justice is even the same as yours?  Or that it even cares about social justice in the first place?  Perhaps the response is, “I’ve really informed myself about this candidate and he or she holds the same values I do so I trust him.”  Fair enough.  But we elect new people all the time.  You expand the power of the government under a leader you trust, but what if the next guy is a despot?  Or the guy two elections down the road?  History and experience have made me too familiar with the shortcomings of human nature to place my trust in anyone but God.

In conclusion, I want what everyone wants (well, maybe not everyone, but probably everyone reading this piece).  I wish everyone had a comfortable home, enough food to eat, and a good doctor to visit when they are sick.  However, I have no faith in the government to provide it for me or for anyone else.  Show me one government that ever has.  I can show you countless people who have provided it for themselves and have helped their neighbors too, given the freedom to act on their own behalf and the respect that they know best how to use the fruits of their labors.

1 Comment so far
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Very well done!

Comment by Digital Publius

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