Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taxes ≠ Charity

I'm currently reading an excellent book called How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt. Christianity has truly shaped our world in ways that people may not realize. Dr. Schmidt shows in this book how dramatically the world changed when the Christians grew in number and influence over the Greco-Romans.

During election season, I remember reading arguments for state welfare that quoted the gospel of Matthew: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matt. 25:35-36). Christians would use this passage as a reason to vote democrat.

This never sat well with me, and the reason why is articulated perfectly by Dr. Schmidt in his chapter on Christian charity. Allow me to quote the book:

While it is indisputably true that modern state welfare is largely the outgrowth of Christianity's centuries-old charity practices, it needs to be noted that there are several reasons why state welfare programs cannot be equated with Christian charity. State welfare today corresponds more to the pagan liberalitis of Rome than to Christian caritas. The latter, as noted earlier, was done out of selfless love, whereas the former was done with the objective of receiving some type of reciprocity. While a great deal of today's state welfare is provided to assist those in need, it lacks genuine love. State welfare programs operate on the basis of coercion; funds are involuntarily gathered by means of enforced taxation, and thus they violate the spirit and method of true Christian charity. Although governmental welfare programs help many of the unfortunate, and while they might be called charity, they are not Christian charity; nor are they Christian compassion.

State welfare programs are also at odds with Christian charity in that they often produce unintended harmful effects by unintentionally encouraging the loss of individual responsibility and even rewarding it.[...]

Another effect of governmental welfare programs at odds with Christian charity is that they often foster political demagoguery by pandering to the voters who are recipients of social welfare. Political demagoguery clearly violates Christian charity, not only because it uses lies and deception, but also because it benefits the selfish interests of the demagogues who, by presenting themselves as advocates of state welfare programs, reap political gain since those who are dependent on governmental handouts will vote for them in order to keep the handouts coming. Such politicians are practicing Roman liberalitis, not Christian caritas.[...]

Christianity...fosters freedom from all forms of slavery. State welfare, on the other hand, tends to create a permanently dependent class, really a new type of slavery. The essence of slavery is being dependent on someone or some entity for one's livelihood, and all forms of slavery demoralize human beings. Thus, enforced social welfare programs, which at first may appear altruistic and generous, are, in the long run, often detrimental (144-147).

There you have it. Ease your consciences, Christians. It's not charity if the government takes your money to give to others. I prefer to choose my charities and not have the government decide who deserves my hard-earned money.


Erich said...

Dr. Schmidt contrasted the Christian caritas with the 3rd Pillar of Islam, Zakaat, on Issues, Etc (see October 8th). He explained how Zakaat--and government welfare--is actually liberalitis rather than true Christian charity. Once you are forced to give, it is no longer Christian or a good work.

Elaine said...

I knew you would enjoy this book, Sus. So often, as I read the book, I was struck and distressed by the realization that this world is becoming--if we're not already there--post-Christian. Lord have mercy!