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The international Religious Left equates Big Government with God’s Kingdom and angrily rejects any limits on government growth as supposed attacks on the vulnerable.
But former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey dissents from Religious Left orthodoxy, recently pronouncing of his own Britain’s precarious public finances: “The sheer scale of our public debt, which hit £1trillion yesterday, is the greatest moral scandal facing Britain today.”
Senior prelates in America are not so discerning. Infamously, Jim Wallis of Sojourners helped form a “Circle of Protection” around the welfare and entitlement state during last July’s federal debt ceiling crisis. Sadly, his coalition recruited the U.S. Catholic Conference, the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Salvation Army. Meeting with President Obama, they effectively sided with President Obama against congressional Republicans more seriously trying to limit government growth in the face of gargantuan debt.
Similarly in Britain, Church of England bishops, with supine faith in the Welfare State, recently voted in the House of Lords to oppose their government’s proposed cap on welfare benefits to £26,000, or about $40,000.
But their former senior bishop, Lord Carey, who was Archbishop from 1991 to 2002, has criticized his colleagues’ fiscal and moral blindness. Noting the bishops were insisting that families on welfare qualify for up £50,000 in benefits, or over $78,000, Carey expressed restrained Anglican incredulity.
“They must have known the popular opinion was against them, including that of many hard-working, hard-pressed churchgoers,” Carey laconically observed. “They also knew that the case for welfare reform had been persuasively made, even if they didn’t agree with it.” Carey pronounced that these bishops, in their unquestioning defense of an engorged welfare state, “cannot lay claim to the moral high-ground.”
Carey, writing in a British newspaper op-ed, observed the obvious: “If we can’t get the deficit under control and begin paying back this debt, we will be mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren.” Surely fiscal responsibility is a moral cause that “mainstream” church leaders should support but too often don’t. And fiscal health, for Britain, America, and most of the Welfare State addicted West, means some restraints on spending. “We desperately need to reform our welfare system,” Carey concluded, saying what is simultaneously so clear yet so difficult to admit for some. “Opportunities to do so in times of prosperity have been squandered and now we are forced to do so at a time of high unemployment, under the guise of cutting expenditure.”
Admirably, Lord Carey specified that welfare reform is necessary not just for fiscal sanity but also moral health. He faulted the Welfare State for fueling the “very vices” it attempted to cure and “impoverishing us all,” while trapping its victims into “dependency” and rewarding “fecklessness and irresponsibility.” Such critiques do not usually fall from the mouths of bishops, in Britain or America. Carey also noted the Welfare State stokes “social division” by creating resentment by the “squeezed” middle class against the “hand-outs” ladled to the entitlement class.
In typical fashion, the befuddled, indignant Church of England bishops opposing welfare reform claimed they are defending children and cited the Bible as their political manifesto. Lord Carey countered: “I can’t possibly believe prolonging our culture of welfare dependency is in the best interests of our children.”
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