May I be allowed to recycle an old post of mine? I wrote it years ago in
2003 for Indiana. I don't think I have ever presented it on this Forum before.
There seems little point that I should have any continuing involvement in
this debate since you are arguing it on American premises and not Christian
I am speaking as an outsider, as one who is not American, and while you have
the notion that your principles on these matters are grounded in
Christianity, they are not. They are grounded in the mindset and ideas
peculiar to your local culture. What you write has no necessary connection
(apart from your membership of the Orthodox Church) with Orthodox
Christianity. It has every connection with the American mindset.
That is not meant to be an affront to you or to any other Americans on list.
After all, my own ideas on this are themselves grounded in my own New
Zealand culture which is derived from that of Great Britain, but I would
contend that my country's way of dealing with issues of poverty and the like
is a much better outworking of Christianity than the American way. In other
words Christian principles are more deeply embedded in New Zealand's social
and political structures than they are in the US.
This country, and many Commonwealth countries, is orientated towards the
common weal. We see the duty of Government as primarily that of managing the
country for the common good of the entire populace. In order to achieve this
common weal we cheerfully hand over our taxes. And while there is nothing to
prevent a man becoming immensely rich there is, thank God, a government
policy which protects a man from becoming obscenely poor.
But this is *not* the view of American government, at least among those who
hold to the original founding of the US. Your Declaration of Independence
specifically states, "...Governments are instituted among men to preserve
these rights..." In other words, you did *not* see government as managing
the country or imposing a blue print; you saw it as the means to guarantee
people liberty. It is a very different concept.
Neither concept of government is in and of itself Christian, but I would
argue that government established for the common weal is more Christian than
government focused on personal liberty.
It is a major mistake however to assume that the American abhorrence of
Government involvement and the even greater American abhorrence of
Government taxation (whether in general or for poverty relief or medical
care) has anything to do with Christian principles, and it is really very
distressing to find people looking for scriptural and patristic
argumentation to justify their own culturally conditioned attitudes towards
it. Perhaps a meditation on Romans 13 and Saint Paul's teaching on taxation
would be useful?
Now the NZ and Canadian approach is all based on a legacy of English
church/state established relationships with a dollop of 19th century
Methodist good works thrown in and this has spread out to the Commonwealth .
I can see how the American culture of separation of Church and State can be
horrified by the thought of actively putting someone on welfare or of
providing a man with free health care.
But for us social security provision as a safety net to help the most needy,
and a free health care system for all is a Christian response and a
Christian use of our taxes.
Now as Church and State drift further apart it remains to be seen if that
partnership will continue but I still argue that we in New Zealand (and
perhaps slightly less now in the UK) enjoy a culture where people have
invested into the state the outworking of its Christian principles as the
basis of its law and care for its citizens.
In my experience, the people who extol the dignity and sense of self-worth
to be found in grinding labour for miserable pay, no health care and no
future have themselves experienced none of those things.
For days now we've been locked in this debate about economics,health,
welfare and the poor. But, as this is a site dedicated to Orthodox Christian
spirituality, I think both sides should make more reference to Scriptural
and traditional moral teaching on the topic. Do the principles and values
advocated by the Neo-classical Capitalists here (self-reliance,
entrepreneurship, success as the achievement of wealth, etc.) mesh with what
we read in Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and the Saints? Or do they
contradict the sources of our faith?
Can one be a true Christian and a social Darwinist?