Religiously Disputing Big Government

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Unlike many bishops, Carey was himself a child of the working class.  He was appointed Archbishop by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose own father was a grocer, often placing her at odds with other, more liberal Tories from privileged backgrounds.  Carey recalled his father was a low-paid hospital porter who supported his stay at home mother and 5 children.  Lacking material wealth, Carey’s parents gave their children an “unfailing work ethic, and their belief that our lives could be more prosperous than theirs if we applied ourselves.”  Lord Carey left school at age 15 to work.  Self-made like Thatcher, he is not so intimidated by calls to class welfare or the guilt of accommodating wealthy elites.

“Young people raised in workless households suffer far more acutely from poverty of aspiration than from any material poverty,” Carey insisted.  “These children have no role models to illustrate how liberating a lifetime of work can be — materially and spiritually.”   Instead, they are trapped in a “ghetto of dependency.”   The Welfare State’s “biggest tragedy” is how it “squeezed such hope from people’s lives,” he regretted of the entitlement class.  “If we cannot make the rewards of hard work more appealing than a life spent on the dole then we will have failed a generation of children.” He called the attempt to “break the cycle of dependency” the most important aspect of the British government’s welfare reform and “so-called cuts.”  Carey perceptively seems to understand that what the Religious Left routinely denounces as “cuts” are actually any limits on endless government growth.

Carey reasonably asked why “good Christians who care for their fellow man should continue to support our bloated welfare state.” And he denounced the “modern myth” that “some people can neither be helped, nor help themselves into work.”  Poverty cannot be solved by “merely throwing money.”  And encouraging the jobless to work means, obviously, that employment has to “pay significantly more than a life on benefits.”

Christians are supposed to understand fallen human nature.  But the Religious Left denies that people follow self-interest and prefers its own ideology of victimization.  Lord Carey prefers none of their ideology or crocodile guilt.  He also pronounced another truism that’s anathema to the leftist prelates: poverty and welfare cannot be relegated to the government.  Carey summoned churches and “social entrepreneurs” to do more, as they did in the Victorian era.

Lord Carey appealed to his fellow bishops who are so enamored of the Welfare State instead to preserve “hope against the despair and pessimism which blights our workless communities.”   Churches typically specialized in offering hope before the Religious Left decided to exchange divine redemption for the ostensible security of government entitlements.  The former Archbishop of Canterbury’s summons to fiscal and moral recovery hopefully will awaken a few slumbering churchmen in Britain and America.

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  • kblink45

    Since when is keeping people poor moral? The Bishop is the exception that proves the rule, religious leaders benefit from poverty. They therefore embrace its cause. Not all, but most, as this article points out.

    The myth of the virtuous poor is a bottomless well for leftist elites, including religious leaders.

  • StephenD

    Gingrich calling for folks being taught "how to get a job, keep a job and someday own the job" is all the more poignant when set together with the Archbishops appeal to sanity in his approach to welfare reform.

  • Eric G

    Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day and subjugate him to depend on you for tomorrow's fish.