Conservative Theology

Conservatism and Christianity

Pt. 1: Christian Social Justice

Religion and Politics

JB

Many people think that conservatism is somehow against the principles of Jesus.  That loving your neighbor, giving, and social justice are antithetical to free markets and conservative forms of government.  So, I'm going to spell out the reasons, theologically and practically, why you should be conservative.  In fact, I'm going to show why even theologies centered around social justice are more compatible with conservatism than liberalism.

So, in this first post, I'm going to cover some social justice issues that I think make conservatism a better choice for socially conscious Christians.

Can Righteousness be Outsourced?

The first question to consider is whether or not righteousness can be outsourced.  I would contend that, on a general basis (with many exceptions), righteousness cannot be outsourced.  Even more so, I would also argue that helping out your neighbor is a specific act of righteousness which you should never outsource to others.  If your neighbor is in need, then it is your job to help them.  Liberalism allows us to simply outsource the helping of others to the government.  Therefore, we don't have to bother with it ourselves.  We don't have to do the messy job of helping the poor, the downtrodden, or worst of all, the sick.  We can leave that to the government.  They will do the work of Jesus themselves, and we don't have to worry about a thing.

Can Social Justice Happen Without Jesus?

So, let's say that we decide to outsource our righteousness to someone else.  Which would you rather outsource it to?

  1. A person who carries out the work of social justice in the name of Jesus, who ministers to the person's soul as well as to their body
  2. A person who only ministers to the person's physical needs, and ignores their spiritual ones, or worse, treats spiritual problems as if they were psychological

I don't know about you, but I would pick the first person.  But, now, remember, the government (or at least congress) is not allowed to encourage any sort of spirituality or religion with its laws.  Therefore, by outsourcing to the government specifically, I have already rules out the most effective and comprehensive means of administering social justice!  If you decide to outsource social justice to the American government, you are in fact saying that faith plays no part whatsoever in the reconciliation of social justice.  Using the government might make some sense (assuming we were fine with outsourcing righteousness) if we lived in a theocratic state (note - I am not advocating this), but since we live in a theologically-neutral state, outsourcing to the government is simply counter-productive, because it cannot by its very nature address the spiritual problems that go along with the social problems (and which often lie at the root).

What do you get when you raise someone out of poverty without helping them spiritually?  A materialist consumptionist.

What do you get when you give health care to someone without healing their soul?  A heartbroken nation.

What do you get when you regulate businesses without teaching spiritual values?  Loopholes, and people who will leverage them to further their own greed.

If you, like me, believe that the physical problems that people have are real, but are overshadowed by the even larger spiritual needs of our nation, then why would you even think to outsource the righteousness of the nation to a group who cannot, by their own proclaimed nature, perform the most important tasks?

What About Sin?

One of the problems with outsourcing righteousness, is this - what happens when the organization you outsource righteousness to becomes corrupt?  If you believe in original sin, then this means that all people are capable of sin and corruption, whether government or non-government.  Therefore, what do you do when the government itself, intentionally or accidentally, becomes itself the problem?  Note that simply not keeping up with changing societal parameters can move a given policy from being helpful to being hurtful, so not only do we have to trust the members of the government not be corrupt, we also have to trust them to stay on top of things.

If we outsource righteousness to a non-government agency, then, if it becomes corrupt or out-of-touch, we can simply stop outsourcing to them, and outsource to someone else.  However, if we outsource to the government, here's what we've done:

  • Transferred the responsibility of being righteous to a group which cannot acknowledge God
  • Hoped that the ones who aren't allowed to acknowledge God don't themselves become sinful or even accidentally create social injustices
  • Left ourselves with no other alternatives, since the government has already forcibly confiscated our money and used it to promote its own agenda
  • Transferred and concentrated money and power to those who have the easiest capability to construct social injustices, and have (historically speaking) been the ones most likely to abuse it

So, if you outsource righteousness to the government, there is a very good chance that, not only will they be incapable of ministering spiritually to those in need, they will wind up perpetuating more social injustice, and be in a better position to do so because you just gave them all of your money.

Personally, I think we should try to minimize our outsourcing of righteousness and help each other on a daily basis.  This would be a lot easier if a third of our labor didn't already go to ineffective government programs.  In a later post, we'll also talk about the practical economic reasons why the "social justice" agenda of the liberals actually tend to produce more poverty, even in the short run.