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Christian Charity versus Government Welfare

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The idea that government-sponsored welfare programs to assist the needy are compatible with, and justified by, Christian philosophy is probably the most widespread erroneous belief that permeates American society, and is hastening the destruction of freedom in the United States. This tragic flaw in the thinking of both well-educated and uneducated Christians has already brought misery to millions, and if this thinking persists in this country, it will result in economic chaos followed by political totalitarianism.

Government welfare programs, even those providing temporary relief, are in complete opposition to, and destructive of, acts of Christian charity and are totally inconsistent with Christian tradition.

One of the fundamental tenets of the Christian church is that the human is a creature possessing free will. It is because of the Christian recognition that man has control over his actions by means of his own will, that he is considered responsible for all his actions. (Our system of jurisprudence is built upon this foundation.) It is also held that for a Christian to perform an act of charity and to gain the spiritual rewards for this act, it must be performed by the deliberate intent of the individual. An act of charity — an act of helping those in need — can only be a Christian act when it involves the application of free will.

It is the concept of free will that is absent from all forms of government welfare.

A government, by its nature, can only act by means of force. The first act of a government is a legislative one — the passing of laws — followed by the carrying out of these rules of social behavior by the executive and judicial branches. The government possesses a legal monopoly in the use of force in executing its duty of seeing that citizens obey the law, and in punishing them if they do not. Thus, the essence of government is coercion.

Force and free will are opposites. Government welfare programs which are executed by means of law and the enforcement of this law, i.e., by the threat or application of force, are diametrically opposed to Christian acts of charity which must be performed by an act of the individual will.

Many Christians consider the support of government welfare programs to be consonant with the tenet of free will, and one often hears the expression: “I am a taxpayer, and therefore I think that such and such a program should be supported by tax money.” Such individuals forget the fact that taxation is not a matter of individual choice and that all men are bound by law to pay taxes. They also forget that although they should have the right to designate how their own property is dispensed in charitable ventures, that they do not have the right to make this choice for other men. A majority voting for a welfare program supported by tax money is inconsistent with Christian behavior, for it abolishes the act of choice (free will) of all those who voted against the program. (Such matters should never be brought to a vote for no man has the right to force others to support a welfare project.) True charity, without choice, is an impossibility, and when attempted, negates the concept of Christian love.

Every Christian realizes that he does not have the right to perform an act of charity at the forced expense of his neighbors — that he does not have the right to enter another’s home and steal property that he intends to use in a charitable venture. But when the act of stealing is impersonalized by authorizing, by way of a vote, an established agency (government) to perform the confiscation for him, he loses a conscious awareness of the immorality of this practice.

As government welfare activity continues to expand at a phenomenal rate of speed, greater sums of money are required to support this “charity-by-force” undertaking. Taxation thus remains at a high level, with more of the tax dollars diverted to welfare programs, leaving little money in private circulation which can be used for Christian charity. Government welfare action is, of necessity, destructive to Christian giving and will almost completely stifle voluntary acts of benevolence if the present trend continues.

Because of a lack of understanding of one of the basic premises of Christian belief — that of free will — and its application to acts of charity (welfare), most well-meaning, but misguided, Christians have vigorously or silently supported government welfare programs. Others, observing the disastrous consequences of legalized welfare — the demeaning of the human spirit and the creation of parasitical degeneration, as well as the enslavement of the productive members of society who are required, by law, to provide support for welfare recipients do not wish to continue to uphold the cause of this evil (government welfare legislation). But they feel a strong sense of guilt if they do not do so, and fear that if they oppose government welfare they will be considered as unchristian. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Any Christian who does not openly and vehemently denounce all forms of government welfare, cannot, in truth, call himself a Christian, for government welfare is the antithesis of Christian charity. Government welfare operates on the premise of force, whereas Christian charity can only exist where there is freedom of choice — where there is an act of the individual will. Since government welfare programs are outside the control of the individual, and thus outside the realm of free will, they are outside the province of Christian morality and are consequently evil, and must be condemned by all moral men.

It is not only the right, but the duty, of every Christian to actively seek the demise of all government welfare programs, for they are in total conflict with the Christian doctrine which recognizes man as a being possessing free will — the fundamental premise upon which all Christian morality is based.

This article appeared in the April 1970 issue of The Freeman , published by The Foundation for Economic Education, 30 South Broadway, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York 10533. Reprinted by permission.

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    Thomas L. Johnson is professor emeritus of biological sciences at University of Mary Washington.