Should Christians seek to help the poor by growing a secular government?

I found a paper (PDF) on the University of Washington web site that makes the case for why Christians ought to care about more than just social issues when it comes to politics and elections.

Here’s the abstract:

What accounts for cross-national variation in religiosity as measured by church attendance and non-religious rates? Examining answers from both secularization theory and the religious economy perspective, we assert that cross-national variation in religious participation is a function of government welfare spending and provide a theory that links macro-sociological outcomes with individual rationality. Churches historically have provided social welfare. As governments gradually assume many of these welfare functions, individuals with elastic preferences for spiritual goods will reduce their level of participation since the desired welfare goods can be obtained from secular sources. Cross-national data on welfare spending and religious participation show a strong negative relationship between these two variables after controlling for other aspects of modernization.

Here’s the conclusion:

It is quite apparent that there is a strong statistical relationship between state social welfare spending and religious participation and religiosity. Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals. People living in countries with high social welfare spending per capita even have less of a tendency to take comfort in religion, perhaps knowing that the state is there to help them in times of crisis.34 As laid out in the theory above, there is likely a substitution effect for some individuals between state-provided services and religious services. Religion will still be there to serve the spiritual needs of people seeking answers to the philosophic mysteries of life, but those who value those spiritual goods less than the tangible welfare benefits churches provide will be less likely to participate in religious services once secular substitutes become available. Given that religious practice and values are often passed down from generation to generation, the weakening of practice in one generation will likely translate into weaker practice in subsequent generations. Does this mean that secularization theory is correct in its prediction that religion will gradually fade away? Doubtful. Realizing that there is still a yearning among many people to understand the mysteries of life, religion is not likely to dissipate at any time soon. Government simply cannot offer credible substitutes for these less tangible, supernatural goods. The explosion in spirituality once religion was made legal in former Soviet bloc countries lends credence to this assertion (Greeley 1994). As religious markets become more deregulated in various parts of the world, it is likely that new religious movements will take advantage of increased liberty and discover ways to expand.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the findings above is that the religiosity of a society is not simply determined by sociological factors. Government policy can play an important role in shaping the religiosity of a nation. Policies aimed at regulating the activities of religious organizations — from tax laws to zoning regulations — have important effects on the firms that supply religious goods and services. Many of these policies are designed consciously to promote or inhibit religious practice. Alternatively, welfare policy has been shown here to unintentionally affect the demand for religious services, likely over the course of generations. And, finally, since an extensive welfare state is considered by many to be a hallmark of modernized societies, the microfoundational analysis presented above provides a way of incorporating a component part of the secularization thesis (which relies heavily on notions of modernization) into the religious economy perspective.

Have you ever heard a sermon that addresses the size of government and individual liberty and prosperity? I haven’t. You’d have to be reading Christian scholars like Wayne Grudem or Jay Richards to find that. The typical church you attend either praises big government or says nothing about it. After all, we can keep making withdrawals on the liberties we have right now without ever worrying about having to make any deposits, right? Everything will be fine, and it’s easier not to have to think about what’s down the road to serfdom, so long as the scenery is nice for us right now. Religion is primarily about comfort, not truth. Right?

The funny thing is that when I talk to most Christians about this, especially non-Americans, they simply don’t have the knowledge of economics to understand how big government affects liberty, prosperity and security. Few of my international friends read people like F.A. Hayek and Thomas Sowell, and there are not that many people reading them here at home, either. Maybe we should be, though.

The Fourth of July reminds us to fight for liberty

This is called a Gadsen flag.
This is called a Gadsen flag.

John Zmirak is my favorite writer on The Stream. Here’s his 4th of July post.

He writes:

The Fourth of July is a time for celebration, but it’s also a time to recommit ourselves to champion those American principles, and to remember that those principles stand over against some very particular evils:

  • Arbitrary seizure and use of private property by the state in the name of the “common good.”
  • A corrupt bargain between the government and religion, with funds and favors flowing to the churches that toe the government line, and taxes and bans restricting the free exercise of religion.
  • Government micromanagement of the economy, with politically connected companies exploiting their crony connections to legislators and restricting the freedom of commerce.
  • Paternalistic government, which saw the common man as a hapless sheep, to be herded and sheared by elites.
  • The concentration of power in a single, national government that bullied colonies, cities and villages, imposing a single uniform policy on a diverse and various country.

Each of these things our forefathers denounced, defied and defeated. Each generation of Americans has had to re-fight the American Revolution in one way or another, hefting the leaden weight of our fallen wills that drags us down toward vice and tyranny. Ben Franklin, when asked what manner of government the infant Constitution offered, said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Like each fresh crop of Americans before us, we find republic-keeping a bold and arduous duty. Sometimes we keep it safe in wars, at other times we keep it back from the brink of a cliff. And now we keep our republic faithful to its principles by resisting it, by refusing to obey unjust laws that betray our nation’s honor.

I think the general consensus among my friends about how to respond to the threats from the secular left is to act according to your conscience and be willing to go to jail. Then talk about what happened to you. And in the meantime, while you are not yet in jail, take the opportunity to get an alias and speak out. Studying is important so that you can learn how to speak intelligently about the issues we face. Right now, the left is winning because they speak in emotional, irrational ways. If we can articulate the reasons for our views, with evidence, that helps people to remember what liberty is and why our Founders fought for it.

I keep seeing statements about the problems we are likely to face from so many writers, and every time I see them, I think of this one Christian woman I knew long ago who told me that my speaking accurately about this threats “scared her”, and that the right response was to not be scared. Every time I asked her which fear scared her, she would not name one. So I started explaining them to her and she said that she didn’t want to hear the details. Well, surprise! Our respected conservative leaders are now joining me in being scared, and because they know the details.

John Zmirak says:

This is not the easiest time to be an American Christian, or a Christian American. The core elements of our creed are under attack from without and within, while our nation’s civic religion has been rewritten by the Supreme Court to exclude every orthodox Christian. A cabal of radicals has gained control of the government. They wish to control all our churches, and find willing collaborators in all too many pulpits. Has the American Revolution been reversed and replaced with the French Revolution?

Unless Christians stand up, unite and fight, this may be one of the last Fourths of July we can celebrate as full citizens, and the last election in which we have any meaningful voice. If the federal government moves on to punitively taxing Christian churches, how fitting would it be for us to raise the red, white and blue and shoot off fireworks to honor that government? We might be forced instead to mourn our vanished republic.

Ben Shapiro says:

With God safely shunted to the side in favor of Justice Kennedy, the next step in the gay rights movement will be the smashing of idolators — namely, those who cling to their religion and church in spite of Justice Kennedy’s New New Testament. Leftists have already moved to ban nonprofit status for religious institutions that refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages; leftists have already sued into oblivion religious business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. It will not stop there. Religious schools will be targeted. Then, so will homeschooling programs. The secular religion of the left has been set free to pursue its own crusade against the infidel.

Matt Walsh says:

I believe strongly that real persecution awaits us down the road. I think my children will face hostility and opposition and maybe even violence on a level I haven’t yet seen. We are heading into very challenging times, but if we keep our families together and our hearts with God, we’ll be OK. No matter what happens, we’ll be OK. And, by extension, if we pour ourselves into our families and into our faith, we might be able to rescue this culture and this country from the clutches of progressive annihilation. It won’t happen quickly, and I don’t know if it will happen at all, but I know there’s a chance. America is not lost completely. Not yet.

Dennis Prager says:

Moreover, the war to replace God, Judeo-Christian values and the Bible as moral guides is far from over. What will this lead to?

Here are three likely scenarios:

1. Becoming more and more like Western Europe, which has more or less created the first godless and religion-less societies in history. Among the consequences are less marriage and the birth of far fewer children.

2. More and more ostracizing — eventually outlawing — of religious Jews and Christians, clergy, and institutions that refuse to perform same-sex weddings.

3. An America increasingly guided by people’s hearts.

If you trust the human heart, you should feel confident about the future. If you don’t, you should be scared.

You should be scared. I am scared. And yet Dennis Prager is not about to stop fighting, and neither am I. In fact, I am better equipped to fight this intellectually and financially than many of my other friends who are not scared. It’s not wrong to be scared when there really is a threat, and usually, the people who study these things more have more a more accurate view than the people who just feel confident. Blind confidence is stupid – it’s a mental disorder to be blindly optimistic in the face of a threat. Invoking spiritual language to dismiss a legitimate threat is ineffective, and therefore unwise. The right thing to do is to see the reality and then engage it and defeat it. I have been blogging about the threat to religious liberty since this blog started in 2009, and it was one of my 3 arguments in my post arguing against same-sex marriage in June 2011.

This is not the time for us to be thinking of fun and thrills. We have work to do.

Happy Independence Day 2015!

The Stars and Stripes
The Stars and Stripes

The Declaration of Independence

Here’s the complete text of the Declaration of Independence here.

And now let’s take a look at an article at The Federalist which talks about what the Declaration of Independence tells us about the character of America.

It says:

The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, was “intended to be an expression of the American mind.” Although not intended as such, it was also an expression of the American character. Woven throughout the text are insights into the minds and virtues of those Lincoln called the “once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors” who fought for the independence we still enjoy.

This aspect of the Declaration of Independence receives scant attention from scholars and citizens, yet it must be understood. The theory of government elaborated in that text presupposes the existence of citizens who know how to govern themselves and are willing to assert their rights. The American character is the unstated premise of the argument, without which the theory, though still true, doesn’t work in practice.

So, what’s the American character?

What sets us Americans apart is that we do not merely declare for liberty. We staunchly stand for it. To be an American is not only to know that you are born free, it is to have the courage to defend your freedom. This admirable aspect of the American character is evident in the fifth grievance the Declaration levels against the king.

It reads: “He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.” The king acted as monarchs are wont to do. Our forefathers, although they were subjects, did not take his abuses passively. They resisted—with manly firmness.

Today, King George III is long gone. Our representative houses are no longer dissolved at will (although they have unconstitutionally been declared to be in recess). Our rights, however, are still encroached upon, whether by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Environmental Protection Agency. Thankfully, courageous Americans still push back, like the Green family, who challenged Obamacare’s abortifacient mandate, or the Sacketts, who fought the EPA’s effective seizure of their property.

No charter of liberties or Constitution—not even one handed down by God himself—could ever, on its own, protect the rights of the people. James Madison, the father of our own Constitution, was not so foolish as to place his trust in mere “parchment barriers against the encroaching spirit of power.”

In Federalist No. 57, Madison takes up the question of “what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society?” His answer: “the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America—a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”

The 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence set the example for their fellow countrymen and for future generations. They did not simply proclaim the universal rights of man. They also pledged “to each other, our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” And they meant it. Twelve served as combat commanders during the Revolutionary War. Five were captured and imprisoned by the British. Seventeen lost part of their fortunes.

America is not a country for servile men and women. We not only have a right to be free, but a duty to be free. For “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Free as we are, we have no liberty to choose despotism—even if it is sugarcoated, as it is today, with material comfort and license.

[…]Two centuries later, the American character endures, battered and bruised though it may be. It has been corroded by the Progressive faith in government, the sixties ethos of “if it feels good, do it,” and the mindlessness and vulgarity of pop culture. But we can still readily discern among many Americans the habits of mind and the virtues of a free people. For this, we should be grateful on this Fourth of July.

To love liberty means to be willing to stand up for liberty, and that can mean something as simple as 1) not voting for bigger government just because they are handing out money to you and 2) not voting for bigger government because they are letting you do immoral things.

Standing up for liberty means standing up for your own personal responsibility. It means looking primarily to yourself for earning a living. It means choosing to behave morally so that you don’t create a situation where you need the government to bail you out of your own immoral decisions with someone else’s money.

Gay man fakes hate crime against himself

Young, unmarried women celebrate gay pride
Young, unmarried women celebrate gay pride

Here is a story from the left-wing Associated Press.

They write:

A man who reported someone beat him and carved a homophobic slur into his arm staged the attacks, authorities in rural Utah said Tuesday.

Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Rick Jones, 21, could face charges after officers investigating the series of reported attacks found inconsistencies in the evidence. The Delta man eventually acknowledged faking the harassment, Dekker said.

[…]Jones has since begun mental health treatment, the lawyer said.

The purported attacks began with a beating at his family’s pizza business in April that left Jones with head and facial bruising.

Five days later, the family’s home was found spray-painted with a homophobic slur. On June 10, a rock and a molotov cocktail were thrown through the window of the home. That same day, the business was spray-painted, broken into and robbed of $1,000.

Jones told KSL-TV earlier this month he believed he was targeted because he is gay.

Dekker said prosecutors are considering possible charges including filing a false report and reckless burning.

Previously, I blogged about a case where a gay activist claimed that allowing a pro-marriage event would cause gay people to commit suicide.

That story came from Life Site News.

Excerpt:

“Their viewpoint kills people,” Jeffrey Cohen, vice president of GradQ, a homosexual advocacy group for graduate students, told the GSC.  “There’s a lot of research published in top psychology journals that have looked at university environments, both positive and negative. An event such as this would be a negative event, [and] in schools that have negative events there is a statistically significant increase in suicide.”  He said the last time a pro-marriage speaker visited the campus, someone told him “they wanted to kill themselves.”

Cohen said he was especially “bothered by the idea that their conference is trying to create better ways to deliver [the pro-marriage] message. … The idea that they are learning how to deliver their message scares [me].”  Cohen suggested SAS cancel its conference and instead hold a joint event with GradQ in which gay activists would have a chance to promote their message too.

Ben Holston, chair of the undergraduate senate, also threw his weight behind the gay groups. “This is an event that hurts the Stanford community,” Holston said. “To express a belief that, for some reason this event is not discriminatory, is completely off-base. This event as it stands, given the speakers, and given that they have said the event is supposed to ‘promote one-man one-woman [marriage],’ which promotes stripping away rights of people in this room, is unacceptable on Stanford’s campus.”  He urged the GSC to withdraw its funding for the conference.

I don’t know what to say to all of this. Part of me just thinks about what it would be like to have a friend like that. They ask me for my opinion about their decision to do something morally wrong. I say “no, that’s not a good idea, you should not do that”. Then they threaten to commit suicide because I said that. Or they run into a wall, and claim that I made them do it by not celebrating their bad decisions. I’m just not comfortable being bullied into agreeing with someone else’s decisions. Just let me say what I really think, and don’t punish me because I disagree with you. Yet this seems to be a major part of gay activism: agree with me or I will hurt myself.

Polygamy is next: Montana throuple applies for wedding license

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

The Supreme Court redefined marriage so that it no longer means one man, one woman, for life. What follows from attaching the word “marriage” to people who have temporary feelings of love for other people?

Here’s the story from MSN.com.

Excerpt:

A Montana man said Wednesday that he was inspired by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife.

Nathan Collier and his wives Victoria and Christine applied at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings on Tuesday in an attempt to legitimize their polygamous marriage. Montana, like all 50 states, outlaws bigamy — holding multiple marriage licenses — but Collier said he plans to sue if the application is denied.

“It’s about marriage equality,” Collier told The Associated Press Wednesday. “You can’t have this without polygamy.”

[…]The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday made gay marriages legal nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent that people in polygamous relationships could make the same legal argument that not having the opportunity to marry disrespects and subordinates them.

Meanwhile, this lady writing in The Federalist explains how she wants polyamory to come next after the gay marriage. Why? Because she and partner don’t always feel “in love”. Her solution is that she be able to add people to her current relationship so that she can have those “in love” feelings.

She writes:

The problem is, fires don’t burn indefinitely unless you keep adding more wood. They start with a spark, work their way up to a roar, then calm back down to a crackle. When the crackling gets too quiet, someone throws another log on, and the flames flare back up. The cycle repeats over and over again, as long as there are more logs, more fuel.

Our fuel is running out. Brad and I have tried all the tricks. We’ve fanned the flames. We need more logs—new energy, a fresh perspective. It doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, or that we are done with each other. It just means we need something new.

[…]Four years into our relationship, we found ourselves in the typical rut of co-dependence, resentment, boredom, and fighting over the grocery bill. We’d had an unplanned baby, I’d quit my job to do attachment parenting full-time, and Brad was working long hours in a dungeon of a warehouse. I was stuck at home washing dishes, folding laundry and talking to a two-year-old, bored out of my mind. If we didn’t have anything to fight about, we’d find something, just to make life a little more interesting.

Now for the part that’s interesting to me. I have heard this same reasoning from so many formerly Christian women:

I had freed myself from the grips of government, religion, and parents. The only chains left to throw off were those on my sexuality—particularly the chains of monogamy.

The first authority I came to see as illegitimate was government, shortly after discovering Ron Paul in 2008. I stumbled upon his campaign like a rabbit hole that led me to question all of society’s rules. Soon after, I started to question my religion—Christianity. How much of it had been made up, twisted, and contrived—in collusion with the government—to support the powers that be?

Along with the fear of God, I cast off any respect for parental authority I once had. Since the punitive, authoritarian man in the clouds was no longer real to me, who was to say children should obey their parents?

[…]Then, one day, I came across an article about polyamory. One article led to another, and soon I was watching documentaries about polyamorous triads and quads. I became obsessed with the reality TV show “Polyamory: Married and Dating,” and ordered the book “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships.”

“This is it!” I thought. I’d finally found what seemed like a desirable alternative to the wedded misery I saw all around me.

She exchanged the God of the Bible for a reality TV show about polyamory. And do you think it was because she worked through all the arguments for Christian theism? No – it was because she wanted to throw off the authority of God and her parents.

This focus on self-centeredness and personal autonomy will work for her for a while, too. It will work until she hits 40 and loses the only thing that gives her value to the men she prefers – her youth and beauty. She has not used her youth to take responsibility, accept obligations and develop the skills, work experience, assets and character traits that will make her a good wife and mother. She is headed for a disaster once her youth and beauty fades. When she is cast off for being too old, it will be too late for her to turn back and rebuild the character traits that a marriage-minded man values no matter how old a woman is. A typical man is willing to put up with self-centeredness for a beautiful, young woman, but not for one who loses that beauty and youth.

That’s why we had marriage, so that a woman learned to love a man with more than just looks and youth, and a man learned to look beyond looks and  youth, because he knew he was committing to a woman for life. Marriage (prior to no-fault divorce) was society’s answer to the fading of a woman’s youth and beauty. Since marriage was for life, men looked for more than just fun and thrills from a woman, they looked for character and ability as a wife and mother. And women responded to men by minimizing youth and beauty, and trying to cultivate skills, work experience, assets and character traits that would help her support and encourage a man in his life plan.

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