January 22, 2010

Inside the Christian Mind: Government Should Not Help the Poor

6a00d83451df4569e200e551f758248833-800wi.gifWe atheists know a little something about stereotypes, how much work it can be to correct them, and their power to shape perceptions. Those of us in the U.S. are used to being demonized by many Christians. Again and again, we find ourselves wishing that those who want to discuss atheists would pose their questions to us rather than making up their preferred answers on their own.

We should try to avoid making similar errors when it comes to how we portray Christians. One effective way to do this involves examining what Christians are actually saying. This is one reason I like to visit Christian blogs and read Christian new sources from time-to-time. It enables me to check my perceptions against the reality.

The first post at the first Christian blog I happened to visit today was rather enlightening, and I'd like to share it with you. The author of the blog, Faithful In Prayer for America Blog, wrote a post titled "Equal Rights not Equal Things." The opening caught my attention because it appeared to be an anti-socialism rant where the author was failing to distinguish between socialism and communism. As it turns out, that was not the interesting part.

The author of this post provided an explanation for a question I have often asked: how can those who call themselves Christians seem so hostile to ideas such as caring for the less fortunate among us and even redistributing (as opposed to hoarding) wealth? I found my answer:
As a Christian, I’ve often been asked by progressives how I can be Christian and not want good things for those less fortunate, like healthcare, food stamps, Medicaid, etc. I struggled with the answer to that until I realized that the Bible does NOT say anywhere that the government should help the poor, hungry, and un-clothed. It says that Christians should.
That's it, isn't it? Government has no place caring for the needy because the Christian bible does not explicitly say that this should be government's role. Christians should bear this burden.

How then does a government dominated by Christians who were elected because of the manner in which they marketed their Christian values to the electorate fit into this picture? If these elected officials really are Christians, don't they share the biblical obligation to care for the less fortunate? Shouldn't they seek the massive expansion of public welfare programs?

The author argues that we need to elect more conservatives who will reduce the size of the government, but it would seem that the only way this would work would be if those elected were all non-Christians who bore no responsibility for caring for others. That would allow the government to be unburdened by any biblical need to care for others, leaving this role solely to the Christian community.

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