United Methodist Board of Church and Society Photo
In a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman Paul Ryan said that he had a basic philosophical difference with the Democrats: he believes that rights come from God while they think rights come from the government. Setting aside the question of whether this distinction is fair, I think it captures the source of the visceral rage of Teavangelicals who have made Paul Ryan their hero. They have defined their battlefield as a contest between Christianity and secular humanism, God vs. government.
[In this worldview] Government support programs for the poor have to be wasteful, enabling, and unfair, or else God would lose His relevance. While I understand this fear, it’s very problematic from a Biblical perspective. God cares immensely whether or not our society takes care of its most vulnerable members and whether it provides a means for kids growing up in disadvantage to have an equal opportunity to succeed. If all people are indeed “created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” then any politician who fears God should create laws that respect what God desires for the widows and orphans He loves. I have seen a lot of hysteria being posted by Christians online in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and on election year politics. I wanted to share several reasons I don’t see any Christian basis for being offended by the “socialism” so many Christians express their outrage about.
1) We’re supposed to be saved from meritocracy
The most fundamental concept of evangelical Christianity is the doctrine of justification by faith. Our salvation is not something we can earn, but only receive as a gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 provides the best summary of this concept: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We are supposed to be transformed by the gift of God’s grace; it’s supposed to start a chain reaction of grace in how we treat other people. God forgives our trespasses so that we will forgive those who trespass against us. Jesus’ message in the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 is that receiving mercy from God and refusing to show mercy to others means rejecting God’s mercy.
People who get incensed about having to pay taxes for programs that help poor people who “don’t deserve help” reveal that they are still slaves to the meritocracy Jesus died to save them from.