I was more than a little stunned recently by Nancy Pelosi’s claim that her legislative efforts were just an attempt at living the Gospel. Pelosi is not the first political leader to claim that government mandated social programs are the “Christian” thing to do. However, as a life long Christian I am not convinced that Jesus would look at mandated social welfare programs as meeting his call for true love and compassion.
Don’t get me wrong. Jesus does call us to be mindful of the needs of our neighbors. His teachings are full of stories that call for compassion toward those in need. Let’s consider for example the story of the “good Samaritan.” To the Jews of Jesus time there were no “good” Samaritans. To say that Jews harbored a deeply held racial prejudice against Samaritans would be an understatement. But in answer to a question about His call to care for our neighbors, Jesus tells His followers of a Samaritan who comes across a man on the side of the road who had been beaten and robbed (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan cleans the man’s wounds, takes him to a local inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of the man’s needs. Jesus instructs his followers to “go and do likewise.”
Many have argued that this simple lesson demands that Christians are compelled to support government run social programs in order to follow the teachings of Jesus. The problem is there is a very subtle but important distinction between Jesus teachings on love and compassion and the left’s demands for mandated social justice. One is voluntary the other is forced.
Jesus teachings call us to make those acts of compassion voluntarily. The good Samaritan did not drop the man off at the inn and tell the innkeeper it was his responsibility to take care of the man. He did not reach into the pockets of others he encountered along the road for money to take care of the man. He did not drop him off at the nearest synagogue and tell the church leaders that it was their responsibility to take care of him. He took care of it himself and promised the innkeeper that if more money were required he would repay the innkeeper upon his return. The important message here is that voluntary compassion changes the giver and the receiver.
Mandated social justice give all of us an excuse to do like the good Jews did in Jesus story – to walk by the man and leave him and his problem to someone else. After all, we gave at the office or we paid our taxes so let the police pick the injured man up out of the ditch. Mandated social justice does not change our heart. It does not help each of us individually to develop our sense of personal compassion. And I believe that in Jesus eyes it is not an act of genuine compassion.
You cannot legislate true compassion. Just like the debate we have had on these pages over the last few weeks, ending slavery or passing civil rights legislation did not eliminate the evil in men’s hearts. And building a system of government mandated social programs will not end poverty or increase the level of compassion of the average citizen. These are important and noble goals but history has proven government is ill equipped to accomplish them.
What government can do is to foster an environment that supports positive efforts by truly compassionate citizens to take independent action. Government can build tax policies that encourage religious groups and private service clubs to support philanthropic activity. Contrary to popular opinion the first amendment does not prohibit such action. What the first amendment prohibits is the government giving preference to one religious expression over another or the government interfering with the free exercise of religion as long as that religion is peaceably assembled.
Pelosi’s words have nothing to do with genuine compassion. She is appealing to the guilt of believers and church leaders in order to increase her power and influence. She is attempting to manipulate her audience in order for her to retain her power to legislate whatever agenda she sees as important.
It’s time to get rid of the current crop of professional politicians who will say anything to retain their power.