God’s Welfare State

FrontPageMag | Mark D. Tooley | Aug. 7, 2008

Christianity, Judaism and Islam do all commend helping the poor, of course. But the Book of Deuteronomy, a law book for the ancient Hebrews’ theocracy, does not provide detailed policy guidance for modern political parties. How interesting that left-leaning religious groups can quote from the Old Testament and its supposed counsel about welfare programs and environmental regulations. In contrast, conservative religious groups that cite the Scriptures about their moral and political issues are widely derided as aspiring theocrats.


The Islamic Society of North America recently has joined the National Council of Churches, Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, two Jewish groups, the National Association of Evangelicals and Catholic Charities to urge Obama and McCain to give primetime convention speeches about the “plague” of poverty n America.

“As we look across our country today, we see a nation in which millions of people lack the basic necessities of life,” declared the interfaith appeal to Obama and McCain. “During these tough economic times too many Americans are only one job loss, health crisis, or foreclosure away from poverty.” Citing 37 million poor people in America, and our “common faith teachings,” the interfaith officials instructed the presidential candidates each to present a convention speech that is “solely dedicated to proposing a comprehensive plan to address poverty and opportunity in America over the next decade.”

The signers of the letter are nearly exclusively left-leaning groups, which now includes the National Association of Evangelicals, a formerly conservative organization that now increasingly echoes Jim Wallis and the National Council of Churches. “Moderate” evangelicals, long embarrassed by religious conservatives and by confrontational cultural issues, are straining to promote causes that will win The New York Times’ approval. Generic Great Society-style government warfare against poverty and environmental activism are two easy pathways to applause, or at least benign acceptance, from the secular media and cultural elites.

This interfaith appeal to Obama and McCain is fairly careful not specifically to call for the endless welfare state expansions and increased federal regulation that have characterized the Religious Left’s “justice” agenda for much of the last century. But nearly all the signatory groups have long been on record as equating the federal welfare state with God’s Kingdom. It’s hard not to read the appeal as an attempt to align religious groups with political emphases that favor Democrats over Republicans. For left-leaning faith groups, who are unable to agree on theology or morals, enlisting in an umpteenth crusade against poverty is their longstanding default mechanism for religious unity. Supposedly avoiding specifics about God can allow nearly everyone to come together by demanding that Big Government become even bigger. The altar of the Welfare State ecumenically has room for everybody!

“As communities of faith, we are grounded in a shared tradition of justice and compassion,” the interfaith coalition announced. “We are called upon to hold ourselves and our communities accountable to the moral standard of our faith tradition. We speak together now to express concern about the plague of persistent poverty in America.” What is this elusive “moral standard” that ostensibly transcends each of the represented faith traditions, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic? Purportedly, it is based on a “vision of shared responsibility that commands that we leave the corners of our field for the poor and the stranger, and mandates, “There Shall Be No Needy Among You” (Deuteronomy 15:4).”

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1 thought on “God’s Welfare State”

  1. Committment to idelogy over faith in this case = chiliasm. I don’t suppose there is a one of these group who will waste one breath on demanding that the candidates wage war on abortion, or the hedonistic immorality the defines so much of what we do in this country. Nor will the ‘war’ they propose once again have anything to do with the poor folk doing anything themselves it will be simply “give them the money we’ve taken from the ‘rich’ people.”

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