Helping the Poor the Biblical Way

Even in an age that denigrates Christian faith when it comes to basic morality, we have politicians (and others) who fall back on it for whatever expansion of government they want to see.

The whole Religious Left is like this. They point to Scriptures that tell us to help the poor and disadvantaged, but with a twist—we are to use the power of government to carry out Jesus’ commands.

The problem becomes more complex when it shows up in those who claim to be conservatives. Take Ohio governor John Kasich, for example. As he runs for president, he hits conservatives over the head with his version of the Bible:

Medicaid Expansion

The Biblical admonitions to help the poor are real; the method whereby that should happen are real as well. In every case, the command is to individuals, as God wants to work on our hearts. And in the Old Testament, it is clear that the poor are not to receive mere handouts, but they are to do some work toward what they receive. We’re told when we reap the harvest of our field, we are to leave the corners for the poor so they can come in and glean for themselves.

That’s the principle.

Yet today we’ve set up a system that mechanically hands out checks without any regard to the character of those who get the checks. The government is a huge dispenser of funds that people, over time, become accustomed to receiving, and if the dispenser slows down at all, they become enraged.

We have created a culture of dependency, which is the opposite of what God wants to develop in the hearts of both givers and recipients.

Those on the Religious Left are doing a disservice to the Gospel with their constant demands for more government aid. They are helping lead people away from the Truth and are erecting an idol of government power.

You know what else I see? Sometimes, those who yell the loudest at conservatives for being hardhearted toward the poor are hardhearted themselves toward the most deserving of our care—those innocent children in the womb. They rail on about helping the poor, yet turn a blind eye and a deaf ear toward the atrocity of abortion.

Take the log out of your own eyes, please. Not only will you then see who deserves help, but, hopefully, the best way to offer that help. The true Christian spirit is that of giving from the heart, not depending on a government bureaucracy.

Romney’s Gaffe: Otherwise Known as Telling the Truth

Since I devoted all of last week to laying out the case against President Obama’s reelection, I didn’t have time to comment on some of the happenings in the campaign. For instance, there was this big hullabaloo over a remark Mitt Romney made about how 47% of the electorate is getting some kind of government assistance and won’t be as amenable to his message. He said they were basically in the tank for Obama.

That comment brought a storm of criticism from the media—the same media that is working actively on behalf of the Obama campaign. You would have thought, given the extent of the coverage of what they considered a “gaffe,” that this was the most shocking statement ever to come from a political candidate. They did their best to put his remark in the worst possible light and create anxiety in the electorate.

I do believe Romney exaggerated the numbers a bit, simply because he also counted those who are receiving Social Security, which is primarily getting one’s money back from the government after being without it for most of our lives. However, even those on Social Security often don’t want any boat rocking. They want nothing to touch what they were forced to hand over to the government all those years. That makes some of them skittish about any talk of real change in government spending and taxation. What Romney was really doing was pointing out a sad fact of American life in the twenty-first century: we are creating a nation of people who feel they are victims and who need the government to bail them out:

Therefore, Romney was correct in principle: those who receive a benefit want it to continue; they are more closely tied to the ones who are offering the benefit. In this case, the giver is the Obama money machine. Never mind, of course, that anything he gives first came from the people of the country—or from the printing press, as we churn out more of the greenbacks to pass around. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the job:

Unfortunately, this bad example could become contagious:

I’m impressed that Romney hasn’t backed down on the principle. The message needs to be spread far and wide, and with passion: it’s time to turn the corner away from government paternalism. If we accept the role of government as our father and provider, we regress into helpless children. We are in deep need of maturity. It’s time to reject paternalism and regain our self-government and self-respect.

Christians, the Government, & Welfare

Time to tread lightly. I don’t intend this post to be a diatribe against government welfare. Rather, I want to approach the subject Biblically, constitutionally, and practically. There’s an accusation floating around in the political arena that politically conservative Christians/Republicans-at-large [take your pick of descriptors] are uncaring individuals who don’t want to help those in poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From the Biblical angle, what can be said about our responsibility toward the poor? There is no question that God expects us to help those who are truly poor through no fault of their own. But a couple of caveats must be added: first, a distinction must be made between those in poverty who deserve to be helped and those who do not [the book of Proverbs is replete with examples]; second, none of the admonitions to help the poor are directed to civil government, but instead focus on individuals. No matter how hard you may look in Scripture, you will find no Biblical mandate for redistribution of wealth by civil government dictate.

God wants help for the poor to be a real help, not a fake solution that creates further problems. His goal is to work on the character of both the persons in poverty and the persons who come to their aid. He wants giving to be a highly personal type that engenders true compassion on the one side and a desire to be raised out of poverty on the other. No government system that depersonalizes aid can ever achieve those goals.

Then there’s the constitutional issue. Where did the Founders give authority to turn the federal government into the great provider for the citizenry? Even as you cannot find a Biblical command for the government to be that provider, neither can you find a constitutional provision that grants such a power. Of course we do it all the time. Money to help the poor and/or the infirm and the aged has become the largest portion of the federal budget. Those who say we need to spend less on defense and put it toward the poor don’t realize that the percentage of our budget that goes to defense, even during the War on Terror, has continually decreased.

What did the Founders believe about welfare? They relegated it back to private individuals, churches, other organizations apart from the government, and, as a last resort, to the local government. The only government that should ever be involved is the one closest to the need, so that it can be clearly analyzed to ensure that the need is genuine indeed. That goes back to the Biblical concept of distinguishing between those who should and should not be helped.

I’ve covered—in a cursory manner, to be sure—the Biblical and constitutional perspectives. It still remains to comment on the practical side. We’ve had a lot of time now to see how the federal welfare system has worked. Unbiased studies show it has not worked well at all. Those studies reveal a few key problems with the system: people develop an entitlement mentality that leads to resentment when they don’t receive what they believe they are “owed”; many are trapped in the welfare-recipient mode from one generation to the next; and there is no personal accountability or connection between the recipients and the nameless, faceless bureaucracy that hands out the checks.

That’s why both Republicans and Democrats, back in the mid-1990s, supported a welfare reform bill that sought to end welfare as a lifestyle. If we continue on the welfare-mentality path, we will become just like the European nations that are literally going up in flames right now. We have overspent and are on the verge of a financial meltdown. Cutting back is absolutely essential, and it can be done in such a way that we don’t throw people out on the streets or have them die from lack of support. And it’s really amazing what individuals can do if they are forced to take responsibility for their own well-being. If they don’t have to, they won’t. If they must, they can become quite entrepreneurial.

The conservative Christian/Republican model for helping the poor is to have a safety net at the local level along with empowering individuals, churches, and other organizations to step to the plate. The church as a whole must share some blame here when it concludes that since the government is “taking care of the poor,” the church doesn’t have to bother with it anymore.

The conservative Christian/Republican model also frees up the market to create prosperity and opportunity for all. The goal is to enable those who have become dependent on the government to enter the market themselves and succeed. One of the prerequisites for accomplishing this is to remove the impediments the government places on those who wish to start their own businesses or other creative endeavors. Some people think it is a cliché to declare that a rising tide lifts all boats, but it goes beyond any cliché—it is a reality.

For those who say that this approach will still leave many poor, I can only comment that there will be poor people in every society regardless of the economic system.When Mary, the friend of Jesus, anointed him with a costly oil, Judas Iscariot [someone with rather bad judgment, wouldn’t you say?] objected that the expensive perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Interestingly, Jesus disagreed, and noted that there always would be poor people around to be helped. He didn’t have any naive notion that poverty would ever be eradicated on this earth. Only those who have unlimited faith in the power of government to solve all problems fantasize about that. Yet it certainly is a fantasy.

History has shown that the highest standard of living for the greatest number of people comes only from a society devoted to liberty. In such a society some do well, while others don’t. If someone is left behind because of fraud or other misdeeds, the government then has a proper role in prosecuting those who commit those misdeeds and compensating those who were unfairly hurt. But most failure stems from personal character flaws and/or mistakes in judgment. If people learn from their mistakes, they can try again and do better the next time.

History has also shown something else, if one is open to learning from history: the socialist worldview always—and I emphasize the word “always”—leads to economic collapse for the entire society in the end. Why follow that path when it so clearly violates the Biblical mandate, our constitutional authority, and the lessons learned from practice?

A Modest Proposal for the Voting Privilege

Yesterday’s post was a critique of the American electorate. To summarize, I shared my view that far too many voters don’t really know enough to vote intelligently. Their worldview might best be illustrated in this way:

I’d like to extend my remarks today.

The Founding Fathers were concerned about who would be voting. That’s why they only allowed a popular vote for the House, which would serve to represent the people directly. The Senate was to be chosen by state legislatures and the president by special electors, something we now call the Electoral College. This guarded against emotional upheavals instigated by demogogues who could whip up a frenzy with crowds.

In all states, at the beginning of the Republic, there was some kind of property qualification for voting. Nowadays, that is looked upon as archaic and backward. However, there were excellent reasons for that qualification. It kept transients in communities from helping pass laws that they would never have to live under; it also allowed those who paid the taxes, i.e., the property owners, to direct the level of taxation and how the money should be used.

As Jacksonian democracy arose, property qualifications disappeared. Now just being a white male at least twenty-one years old was all that was necessary. The Fifteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War, extended the franchise to black males, and at the end of WWI, women received the vote as well. Later, in the Vietnam era, the age was lowered to eighteen because young men were being drafted to serve and it only seemed fair to let them vote.

So what does it take to be able to vote now? All you have to do is reach your eighteenth birthday and you qualify.

In an ideal world, here is what I would propose:

  1. If a person pays no income taxes, that person should not be allowed to vote. He or she should not have the power to say how other people’s money is to be used or how much is to be taken. Only those who contribute to the national treasury should be given this privilege. Right now, over 40% of citizens pay no income taxes.
  2. Related to that, no one who lives solely off the government via welfare programs should be allowed to vote. Those on the dole will always vote to continue the dole. When you have a significant minority in this category, their personal interest can sway an election, yet they make no contribution to the tax base at all. Those living on Social Security will be exempt from this restriction; they are not receiving welfare but merely getting back some of the money they’ve been forced to contribute their entire lives to this Ponzi scheme.
  3. I don’t think most eighteen year olds have enough knowledge of governmental principles to be voting. I speak from experience: I didn’t have enough knowledge when I was eighteen, and neither do most of the students I teach at the university. While ideally I would like to see the voting age raised to at least twenty-two, I recognize that many men and women serve in the armed forces at a younger age; therefore, they should have some say in choosing who their representatives and the commander-in-chief will be. Anyone else between eighteen and twenty-two who work and pay taxes should also be allowed to vote. Those in college who are working their way through also should have the vote. However, college students who depend entirely on loans and are not earning enough to pay taxes should wait until they graduate before being granted this privilege.
  4. Everyone should be required to show ID before voting. Democrats fight this all the time, but it’s only right that we police the polls to ensure against voter fraud. There is nothing racial about such a requirement.

Yes, I know there will be objections to a plan such as this, and I freely admit it will never become reality. Recall that I said this is what I would want in an ideal world. That world doesn’t exist. But it would be nice if we would stop and think once in a while and realize that voting is not an inalienable right. It is a privilege granted to those who have met certain qualifications. Perhaps then we would take that privilege and treat it more seriously.

The Plight of the Moderate Muslim

I’ve been offering samplings of Mark Steyn’s America Alone over the past few weeks, and today I’m up to chapter five, “The Anything They’ll Believe In: Church vs. State.” There’s just so much meat in this chapter that I’m going to cover only the first part today and save the latter half for another time.

Steyn writes about how Islamists have selectively assimilated into Western culture. What he means by that is they pick and choose what they will adopt as it suits their purposes. He says they have done an excellent job of mastering the following aspects of the West: legalisms, victimology, and the entitlement culture. They sue in court to get special treatment. For example, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled “that the state prison system has failed to justify denying a Muslim inmate special feast-day meats, such as oxen and camel.” While American soldiers have to stomach typical MREs, Muslim prisoners can sue for camel.

The prison system in Britain is now remodeling the bathrooms because “Muslim inmates have complained that the toilets face Mecca and that therefore they’re obliged to ride sidesaddle, which can be very uncomfortable.” Wait a minute. Aren’t they prisoners? Since when do prisoners get special requests? Are we even aware this is happening or will we awaken to a new reality someday?

With respect to the entitlement mentality, Steyn notes, “While it’s not true that every immigrant on welfare is an Islamic terrorist, the vast majority of Islamic terrorists in Europe are on welfare, living in radicalized ghetto cultures with nothing to do but sit around the flat plotting the jihad all day at taxpayers’ expense.”

He then takes aim at the concept of the “moderate Muslim.” If you thought he was being controversial with his earlier statements, he definitely challenges political correctness on this topic:

Still, as we always say, the “vast majority” of Muslims oppose “extremism.” These are the so-called “moderate Muslims.” One is tempted to update the old joke: a ten-dollar bill is in the center of the crossroads. To the north, there’s Santa Claus. To the west, the Tooth Fairy. To the east, a radical Muslim. To the south, a moderate Muslim. Who reaches the ten-dollar bill first?

Answer: the radical Muslim. All the others are mythical creatures.

He goes on to explain why that joke is on target:

The “moderate Muslim” is not entirely fictional. But it would be more accurate to call them quiescent Muslims. In the 1930s, there were plenty of “moderate Germans,” and a fat lot of good they did us or them. Today, the “moderate Muslim” is a unique contributor to cultural diversity: unlike all the visible minorities, he’s a non-visible one—or, at any rate, non-audible.

Steyn then quotes a Muslim apostate who, he says, makes an important distinction: “there are moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islam.” It is true that millions of Muslims simply want to live quietly without causing trouble to anyone. The problem is that “all of the official schools of Islamic jurisprudence commend sharia and violent jihad. So a ‘moderate Muslim’ can find no formal authority to support his moderation.”

Further, why should any moderate Muslim challenge the establishment? What help will he get from the West?

The Iranians declared a fatwa on Salman Rushdie and he had to go into hiding for more than a decade while his government and others continued fawning on the regime that issued the death sentence. The Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh spoke out and was murdered, and the poseur dissenters of Hollywood were too busy congratulating themselves on their courage and bravery in standing up to Bush even to mention their poor dead colleague in the weepy Oscar montage of the year’s deceased. To speak out against the Islamists means to live in hiding and under armed security in the heart of the so-called “free world.”

Steyn doesn’t stop there. He pinpoints the underlying problem that allows this abject cowardice to flourish. What is that? I’ll come back to it in a future post. Return here for the answer.