Monday, October 18, 2010

Liberal Guilt

I am always curious about mechanisms that explain unilateral, predictable behavior among political liberals and conservatives.  I do not view myself as either one, because I have massive problems with each.  But conservative behavior is more difficult for me to pinpoint.  I am quite sure that depravity is influencing most conservative political behavior and policy, just as I believe it is influencing liberal political behavior and policy.  I am also quite sure at the same time that common grace has its influence upon both as well.

But liberals seem a little easier to speculate about.  It seems to me that government programs  like medicare, medicaid,  health care,  welfare, etc.,  are viewed by so many as the primary means by which the poor should be cared for in this country.  One could easily see how the beneficiaries of these programs would  support these programs.  But what explains the unilateral support of these programs on the part of liberals?

Perhaps an analogy would be enlightening--I remember when I was on staff at a church for a couple of years in the early 2000's that the church gave its mercy ministry money, ie money intended to help people with heating bills, food, rent, etc, to a local clearing house agency, and would let them fool with the difficult task of evaluating needs.   People would call the church asking for assistance, and the standard response was to have them "call Such-and-Such charitable agency, because we support them and expect them to do this work for us."  When I began working there, I worked differently by becoming involved in people's lives, helping them work up budgets, talking them through problems, and when appropriate, giving them the Gospel.  I also asked the church for money to pass directly to people's needs rather than passing them off to an organization.  It just seemed to me that by using the charitable organization, we were passing off an important responsibility and opportunity.  It seemed to me that we were sort of saying to people who called, "Sorry, I gave at the office."  Our consciences were then salved, and we felt like we had done all that we needed to do.  A sort of legalistic love for our neighbors.

Could it be that support for government programs operates much the same way?  So many feel as if the poor are poor unjustly, and maybe they are in many cases.  But the solution to this guilt appears to be that  government agencies should handle the problem.  We pay taxes and support government agencies so that we can continue on with our lives, and our standard of living, while at the same time minimizing our contact with the poor, and feeling as if we have met their needs at the same time--a salve for the conscience.   Is it possible that sometimes this is the hidden, self-deceived motivation behind support for government assistance for the poor?  The liberal version of "I gave at the office?"

Is there any correlation between the statistical verity that liberals, who predominantly support the expansion of government assistance, tend to be less religious than conservatives?  Is there any debate about this?  Of course politically liberal Christians exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Who will most likely take public stands against perceived Christian morals in society?  Political liberals or political conservatives?   Is there a also a correlation with regard to support for government assistance programs?

Note that I am not saying that we should not help the poor. I do in fact believe that we should.  I question though whether the government is the best solution to the problem of our guilt for the injustice of poverty.  It seems to me that the Christian solution would be to have much more direct involvement with the poor rather than merely rely upon government to perform our responsibilities for us.

Thoughts in flux--which means that they are subject to change.

1 comment:

  1. A comment by a friend who could had a difficult time with the comment mechanism on the site:

    Dennis - This was a really insightful piece for me to read this evening. I've always had this sneaking suspicion that the agency our church helps fund with a benevolent contribution was somehow wrong...that the church really had he need to be more involved. I appreciate your insight into that as well as your analogy about the role of the government being a comprable facsimile. It was amazing to me how many of our people were against health care reform on rather un-Christian grounds. I kept saying what you essentially arrive at - if the church was doing its job, maybe there wouldn't be the need for it all. Anyway, I really appreciated the insights. By the way, I'm your classmate at PTS! Jason Bryant