Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Political Counsel for Soft-Hearted Evangelicals

A friend passed along this letter from an Evangelical Christian man whose politics are shifting leftward as he follows what he thinks are the practical implications of his faith.

He writes:

The biggest thing pushing me to Obama (or the Democratic Party as a whole) is a political paradigm shift I've had with regard to a solution to help me "love my enemy." I am willing for my taxes to go to help those less fortunate...those my church and other private organizations may not be able to reach. And while the Republican party tries really hard to protect life inside the womb, once you're out of the womb they could care less about you. Don't abort that baby born into a life of crime and poverty, but sure don't help him get out of that!

Well, where does one start? Vote Democrat, and kill the baby before he even has a chance? Barack Obama voted against a bill (3x!) that would protect babies born alive who were supposed to be killed by abortion. That IS a paradigm shift.

The Democratic approach is to treat people as though they were helpless children and do as much as possible for them. The Republican approach (when Republicans are true to their principles) is to treat people as adults and to help them help themselves. That is not saying, "You're on your own." Effective prosecution of crime (a Republican priority) and policies that promote broad prosperity through healthy free markets (oh, another Republican priority) will help that boy more than Democratic efforts to give him ever more entitlement programs, ensuring that he and the generations that follow him are reduced to being wards of the state. And where are the kids this confused brother describes? They are in cities the Democrats have controlled for the last 50 years.

The difference between the parties is the difference between liberty and paternalism. Liberty frees you to serve God; paternalism offers itself in place of God. The Biblically stated purpose of government is to "punish evil and praise what is good" (I Peter 2:14). That is to say, it is to secure the governed in their liberty so that they can live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness (I Tim. 2:2). It is to provide a secure environment so that they can go about their business providing for themselves and one another.

Having said that, even if it were the government's place to provide for people in that situation, Democrats want all power concentrated at the highest level, furthest away from the people where it is least responsive to the people and least responsible to them, instead of at the local and state levels. Democrats don't like the people getting in the way of the government "helping" them, for example when poor inner city parents want to be able to choose what school they use for educating their children. Foolish parents, thinking that they have a better understanding of what’s best for their children than the wise Democrats in the government school system.

Lastly, if this brother wants to spend his money helping specifically situated people in specific ways, there are private organizations to which he can give his money (whose effectiveness he vastly underestimates). What he should not do is use the coercive power of government to force others to make the same judgments.

(Never mind the fact that what he and those organizations do is charity, i.e., loving service perhaps even in Jesus’ name, whereas what the government does is entitlement. On that point, he must read how entitlements morally corrupt both the recipients and those who otherwise would be givers in Tocqueville’s "Memoir On Pauperism."* While he’s at it, he should read Tocqueville’s Speech on the Right to Work. I know of nothing better than these two writings to cure a kind-hearted man of his socialist confusions.)

* (This links to a pdf file, and does not work directly from the blog.)


Anonymous said...

You have nicely differentiated between the two approaches. The Liberals seem to be oblivious to the importance of decentralized government and the importance of federalism.

Bradford Myers said...

Just to be clear, the person you quoted is not evangelical, but but a confessionally Reformed and Covenantal Presbyterian. ;)

Bradford Myers said...

I read Tocqueville's Speech on the Right, but the "Memoir on Pauperism" link was dead. I agree with Tocqueville, socialism's three undergirding traits (as he posited) are horrific, none of which I hold: (1) "extreme appeal to the material passions of man," (2) "an attack... on the principle of private property," and (3) "a profound opposition to personal liberty and scorn for individual reason."

I think a *form* of national healthcare is as socialistic as our other public services, whether they be education (pre-collegiate and collegiate institutions), fire, or police. Citizens realize the state's taxes should benefit and fund these public institutions, though I dare say they are socialists for doing so. I think the Government's bailout is more socialistic than any of these, as the government nationalizes a bankrupt company at the expense of the tax-payers. However, there are other factors to consider, such as all those people who, though through personal, poor decisions, would be devistated by the government's failure to regulate such corporations while the CEO's make millions and are then shown corporate WELFARE to safe-guard citizens from their greed and corruption.

Just as the Jewish Theocratic Kingdom in Scripture demanded mercy unto the poor at the cost of the wealthy land owners, we ought to do the same (in principle). (Remember how Ruth was able to glean portions of the field as God commanded land owners to allow.) Was this socialism, providing for fellow citizens at the cost of the wealthy? If so, then God is a socialist. I believe the same basic needs ought to be met by our nations mandates and laws.

If one is concerned about a big, centralize, nationalized health care for whatever reasons, we ought to give the power to the individual states as subsidized by both federal and state income (and possibly sales) taxes. We can find solutions throughout the goal of seeing all our citizens cared for (especially the 40 million working families who cannot afford privatize health-insurance due to unregulated rise of insurance for doctors and the corruption of HMO's as they answer to stock-holders, not the people they are treating). The Republicans simply do not have that goal or any effective solutions. The Democrats don't have it all figured out, but at least that is their agenda. Democrats aren't perfect, just the best bet for such "changes."

I believe it is the duty and burden of our citizens, as fellow country-men, to not only corporately fund health-care for all citizens. I believe children, who even at the fault of their parents, ought to necessarily be provided for in the sustaining of their life (which is a constitutional RIGHT of the citizen that is necessarily to be protected and facilitated by the states). This does not EXCLUDE privatized health insurance for those who wish to continue with an option (generally the wealthier). Just as one's taxes fund public schools even if they do not use the public schools, so it should be for health-care.

Prosecuting crime, though a biblically revealed function of the state, is not the answer, since most crime is directly linked to the disadvantages and poverty of certain social structures and communities. Prosecuting crime does not deter or stop crime, since it's function is not to do, but to exact justice. What deters crime, other than the gospel of Christ transforming people in order to obey out of love and gratitude, is education, for one. How much does it cost to HOUSE those who are punished for crimes and reside in our prisons? How much does it cost the state to publicly prosecute these criminals? It is more than what we'd pay in taxes to better fund public education and state-based community actions funded by our taxes.

As for providing an economy and market so people can prosper, I agree, but we definitely need more regulations. Just as there is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist, libertarian, free market believer in times like these (i.e. AIG). Republicans will not regulate as they ought (protecting their citizens as the bible reveals is a function), due to big business lobbyists (even though democrats are prone to the same follies).

Anyway, in a short space/comment, there are some of my concerns in light of what you wrote. There are so many other issues, points, factors, etc., but this is too small of a forum to cover all of it, I suppose.

In Christ's Love for the poor and Feeding of the Masses,

David C. Innes said...

Thanks for the link alert. I have provided the URL separately, although perhaps you have already found it by Googling the title.

David C. Innes said...

Briefly, you blur over all sorts of important distinctions. I daresay you handling of various Scriptures betrays sloppy inattention to detail.

1. Fire and police protection are public safety issues and thus the proper sphere of civil government. health insurance and education of the young are not. Yes, many Christians support these. They shouldn't.

2. The gleaning law was a moral law, not a civil law. That provision for the poor was private giving, not public welfare. It was charity, not entitlement. The Jubilee law was specific to ancient Israel, tied as it was to specific circumstances of the land and the separate tribes. It was also a foreshadowing of the spiritual blessings of gospel. So no socialist God there.

3. Most of those 40 million uninsured are either illegal immigrants (separate problem), people who could get existing government help but have not registered, or young people who don't want it because they don't need it.

4. Republicans do have an excellent consumer driven plan that empowers individuals and maximizes efficiencies. Obama's plan does just the opposite. Go to my "Health Care" label in the blog's right hand column for more on that.

I'm skipping over a lot of what you said because I have other things to do.

But as for "feeding the masses," let me remind you that we do not have "masses" of ill-clad, unsheltered, starving people precisely because of the virtues of our systems of political and economic liberty. You should look into that.

Once you have read Tocqueville's Memoir on Pauperism, you should read Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. It's a classic. If you have not read the Federalist Papers, you should put that under belt as well, after reading the Declaration and the Constitution, of course.

Your heart appears to be wandering from the God of Israel to the God That Failed but that Barack Obama is trying to revive for this century.

Anonymous said...

This is the most unintelligent discussion I have ever seen.