Conservativeness as Defense against social justice?

Among many of the threads here about social justice, there is a theme that some how equates American political conservatism with the ability to not participate in “feeding the least” or “treating the least like they maybe Jesus in the guise of the least”.

More troubling is also the unspoken connection between this political conservatism and what makes someone an “orthodox” Catholic.

It seems to me that trotting out OT verses to counter what Jesus taught about taking care of the least, while politically conservative, is not by any stretch of the imagination, orthodox in terms of following Jesus.

Now perhaps I am mistaken about thinking that the primacy of Jesus’ teachings is what makes one an orthodox Catholic. But that may just be a bias that I have.

Any thoughts?

Peace

Your flaw is in thinking that it takes government intervention to be faithful to the Gospel. You first have to prove that connection to have a viable indictment of conservatives.

You’d also have to explain away this.

Just regarding the bolded part … it seems to me that the Bible should be read and understood as a whole, with every part shedding light on every other part. Thus, I don’t think it’s consistent with Church teaching to use one verse to contradict another verse, as opposed to using one verse to aid us in understanding another verse.

Other than that one point, I don’t really have much to add. :shrug: I try to be a Catholic first and a political person second.

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When did I mention the “government”?

I didn’t indict conservatives, I just don’t see a natural link between being orthodox followers of Jesus and being conservative. They may not be exclusive, but the set of conservatives is not wholly contained in the set of orthodox followers of Jesus and certainly those that follow Jesus do not have to be conservatives.

Loved your link, especially the part about the working poor giving more than the other groups to charity, says a lot about the whole concept of redistribution of wealth and how those better off are really being so generous.

Peace

In the past, there was not that great of a divide on moral issues between liberals and conservatives, between Democrats and Republicans. Catholics could embrace either philosophy as a matter of politics and governance; and Catholics tended to be Democrats. The major divide arose when issues such as being pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage began to be espoused by the liberal camp, even though they had nothing to do with traditional liberalism as a political philosophy. These are moral non-negotiables and drove many Catholics into the conservative camp.

My thoughts (as a conservative and one who tries to be an orthodox Catholic):

[INDENT]Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone%between%, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State.
[/INDENT][INDENT][RIGHT]Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 38
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[/INDENT]
[INDENT] However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the “Social Assistance State”. Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again *the principle of subsidiarity *must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need.

[RIGHT]Ven John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 48
[/RIGHT]
[/INDENT][INDENT][size=2]Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production, it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority. [/size]
[/INDENT][INDENT]
[RIGHT]Bl. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 34
[/RIGHT]
[/INDENT]

[INDENT]For also, when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.

[RIGHT]St. Paul, 2nd Letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 3 verse 10[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

[INDENT]For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.

[RIGHT]Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 4, verses 34 and 35[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

You will, of course, note that the people voluntarily sold their lands (plural) and houses (plural) and brought the price of the things they sold to the apostles (i.e., the Church, not the State). Then the apostles (i.e., the Church, not the State) made distribution.

[INDENT]Which when Jesus had heard, he said to him: Yet one thing is wanting to you. Sell all whatever you have and give to the poor: and you shall have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.

[RIGHT]Gospel According to Luke, chapter 18, verse 22[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

You will, of course, note that the man was not taxed of all he had, he was instructed to voluntarily sell it. Likewise, he was not told to turn the money over to the social service bureaucrats, but to make distribution of that money himself.

[INDENT]For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.

[RIGHT]Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 35 and 36[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

Once again, you will note that the people in this Matthew 25 account were not condemned because they didn’t pay their taxes, they were condemned because they didn’t see the face of the Lord in each of the poor on an individual basis and minister to that person themselves. There was no talk about a requirement for a government program to do so.

(continued below)

(continued from above)

[INDENT]When you reap the corn of your land, you shall not cut down all that is on the face of the earth to the very ground: nor shall you gather the ears that remain. Neither shall you gather the bunches and grapes that fall down in your vineyard: but shall leave them to the poor and the strangers to take. I am the Lord your God.

[RIGHT]Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 9-10[/RIGHT][/INDENT]

I threw this one old testament reference in, both to tweak you, and to point out that this was the only “law” regarding provision for the poor. The landowners (i.e., the rich) were not to totally strip their fields; rather, they were to leave some remnant…not to give to the poor, but to provide an opportunity for the poor to work a little bit for their keep.

Very illuminating, as it goes to show the dignity in work…even if it is the old-time equivalent to gathering aluminum cans.

Now perhaps I am mistaken about thinking that the primacy of Jesus’ teachings is what makes one an orthodox Catholic. But that may just be a bias that I have.

Please provide the chapter and verse where Jesus calls on the government to establish a freestanding social assistance bureaucracy.

But, hey, what do I know. I’m just a conservative. Therefore, there’s no way I could be an orthodox Catholic.:wink:

It’s too late for me to edit my earlier post, but I just wanted to make clear that my use of the expression “it seems to me” was not intended as a jab at the OP. I didn’t notice until now that the OP used that same expression in the very sentence I was drawing attention to. (!) It was really just a coincidence – I do say “it seems to me” pretty often.

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Actually, it is quite the opposite.

Conservatives are more likely to personally participate in charitable work. They donate more money and time. Heck they even donate blood more than liberals ( almost by 2:1)

The liberal philosophy seems to pawn off charitable work as something for other people to do, paid for by taxing other people.

Which is not what Christ called for in Matt 25. It is to be personal work.

I think that part of the problem is that when conservatives are talking about social justice, generally the conversation is in the context of government. In order to “feed the least” etc. it is not necessary to agree that the government should be doing it. There are a couple of reasons for this that others have already posted, but another is the question of gratitude. If you are getting your money from the government it comes to you (rather inefficiently) from your neighbors, the same as if you are receiving alms. But the tendency is to feel that the government owes it to you, so there is no reason for gratitude. (Just to be clear, I mean it is good for the recipient if the recipient feels gratitude. I am not saying that the donor needs the recipient’s gratitude, because in fact the donor should be feeling gratitude himself, for having enough that he can be the means of easing the suffering of another.)

Another problem is the “entitlement mentality.” If you are getting your money from the government, it hides the fact that you are really getting it from your neighbors. People whose pride might cause them to seek harder for work if they were receiving alms from their neighbors or the local church, might not seek it as hard if the money is coming from the government, because they are told they have a “right” to it. This is true in a way, but not true in another way. If they are truly doing all they can (which might be little or none, depending on health, etc., but might be quite a lot if they are young and healthy) to support themselves by their own labors, they have an intrinsic human right to have enough to eat, etc. However, people do not have a right to be supported by taxes just because they exist.

So what happens when government takes over all concerns of social justice is that you go from a situation where people give voluntarily out of charity (or less admirable motives like pride, but you can’t have everything) to people who at least have the opportunity to receive gratefully, to a situation where people give because they are forced to, a lot of money is wasted in fraud and administration, and then people receive believing it is their right.

The connection between social conservatism and orthodox Catholicism is not unspoken. It is not optional to believe that all people have a right to be born, also a right not to be killed because they are old and/or sick, and that marriage is not re-definable.

Since this is a country where there are only two parties, there are generally no “socially conservative, economically liberal” choices. Since the objections against the socially liberal choices are generally non-negotiable, and the objections against the economically conservative are matters where a legitimate difference of opinion can be held, frequently the “socially conservative, economically conservative” choice is the only one that can be made by an orthodox Catholic in good conscience.

As another poster has pointed out, you can’t fight the Bible with the Bible, if you are interpreting the Bible correctly. It is one document. Jesus’ teachings, properly interpreted, are always true and binding. (At least it is binding on us to try! Some, e.g. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” of course aren’t attainable in this life.)

But it is not true (also as other posters have pointed out) that a person opposed to paying taxes for certain social programs is opposed to providing voluntary donations to ease some of those same needs. It is the mechanism for feeding the poor, rather than the necessity of it, that is generally under debate, even though that may never come out in the conversation. This is understandable because it is difficult to talk about one’s own almsgiving habits without sounding boastful.

–Jen

You just today accused conservative policies of having nothing to do with doing Jesus’ work, which was the culmination of me saying maybe California wouldn’t be in such debt if it cut the size of government.

Point blank, you can very easily believe in libertarian/conservative political policies and still be a very devout follower of Christ and the Church. I know I’ll never be a candidate for sainthood, but I do try to fit into both categories, and I know several other who do as well.

And the link I posted speaks to the way philosophical differences lead to differences in practice.

If you honestly believe that the government should be Robin Hood and take from each according to their ability and give to each according to their need, then it follows fairly easily that you consider your moral duty done just by voting for a certain politician or party.

If you honestly believe in the necessity to work for any thing, justice and mercy included, if you honestly believe that the government more often than not creates more problems than it solves, and you honestly believe that it is both more moral and more efficient to do acts of charity in the private realm, then it follows you will consider your moral duty done after donating and/or volunteering.

And to preempt, I know there are saintly liberals and miserly conservatives, no group has a monopoly on either compassion or lack of compassion, but it makes sense, and the stats bear it out, that conservatives tend to be more active in their charity.

OK this is turning into an enlightened discussion. First it sounds like a few of the self professed conservatives have some liberal blood running through your veins. (perhaps that is the blood that the conservatives are donating at 2x the rate of liberals :D).

Still a few things stick out. There is still a tendency to support or justify conservative thought with verses other than from the Gospels. For instance contrast Jesus’ prodigal son with the verses from St. Paul about not feeding those that have not worked.

I guess that would have made the soup lines in the great depression, anti-Paulian?

As to the religious giving more than self identified liberals, that makes sense as people committed to anything outside of themselves tend to be more generous to others.

Which raises a question, is the resistance of some conservatives more to determining who the recipient of charity is, as opposed to the concept of helping the least in a general heap through the government?

For example is it better to help the returning soldier from Iraq who turns to drugs to deal with PTSD than to help the meth addict living in Appalachia who is trying to deal with a depressed economy?

Is it better to help the soldier , who if the liberals had their way, would not have PTSD or is it better to help the meth addict that lost employment chances because Clinton (perceived liberal) helped accelerate the movement of jobs to China?

Can we really decide from a conservative or liberal viewpoint who constitutes the least and make that determination in concordance with what Jesus taught about the least?

Let me toss this out, absent special interest groups of either political persuasion, could the least be better helped out if the focus was helping them- as if they were Jesus in the guise of the least? Would selfless charity and selfless government programs enable more of the least to be fed ?

( a disclaimer , while I may be perceived as a liberal I deplore government waste feel programs should be enabling people to become better and not be entitlement programs, equally applied to social programs and government contractors, for instance a welfare cheat is no better than Halliburton stealing billions).

Peace

OK this is turning into an enlightened discussion. First it sounds like a few of the self professed conservatives have some liberal blood running through your veins. (perhaps that is the blood that the conservatives are donating at 2x the rate of liberals :D).

Still a few things stick out. There is still a tendency to support or justify conservative thought with verses other than from the Gospels. For instance contrast Jesus’ prodigal son with the verses from St. Paul about not feeding those that have not worked.

I guess that would have made the soup lines in the great depression, anti-Paulian?

As to the religious giving more than self identified liberals, that makes sense as people committed to anything outside of themselves tend to be more generous to others.

Which raises a question, is the resistance of some conservatives more to determining who the recipient of charity is, as opposed to the concept of helping the least in a general heap through the government?

For example is it better to help the returning soldier from Iraq who turns to drugs to deal with PTSD than to help the meth addict living in Appalachia who is trying to deal with a depressed economy?

Is it better to help the soldier , who if the liberals had their way, would not have PTSD or is it better to help the meth addict that lost employment chances because Clinton (perceived liberal) helped accelerate the movement of jobs to China?

Can we really decide from a conservative or liberal viewpoint who constitutes the least and make that determination in concordance with what Jesus taught about the least?

Let me toss this out, absent special interest groups of either political persuasion, could the least be better helped out if the focus was helping them- as if they were Jesus in the guise of the least? Would selfless charity and selfless government programs enable more of the least to be fed ?

( a disclaimer , while I may be perceived as a liberal I deplore government waste feel programs should be enabling people to become better and not be entitlement programs, equally applied to social programs and government contractors, for instance a welfare cheat is no better than Halliburton stealing billions).

Peace

Speaking for myself, the resistance to increased government spending is simply that driving the economy into a debt-driven depression will help no one and hurt many.

In my city, the diocese operates a “charity” diner which is actually licensed and run as a restaurant not a charity, but it provides one plentiful free meal a day to all comers–homeless, unemployed, underemployed–but nobody checks up on your reason for being there. If it were operated by government at any level–city, county, state, or federal, the cost would be double, triple, or tenfold, and there would be lots of paperwork. The money is better spent and managed at the diocesan level.

I strongly believe in and participate with time and money, voluntary charity. And I do not have ONE DROP of liberal blood in my body. But of course that is according to my understanding of the definitions…Liberal does not mean generous, it means generous with someone else’s stuff. Conservative does not mean greedy, it means I am willing to work as hard as I want for something I desire.

I dont’ think I would recognize a selfless government program

I think this little story might be what the OP was getting at,

A man works hard all of his life in manufacturing. He rises to a point at which he made a middle class income. His company decides that, in order to make a better profit for its shareholders, it is going to move its manufacturing plant overseas. He loses his job. The economy has failed. He cannot find a job.

What should this man do?

The conservative outlook, as proposed by some in this thread, is that if the government didn’t take as much money away and have all of these social programs, this man could depend on local charities.

Fortunately, these was a time in our past to which we can look during which we had no government social programs. A time of overabundant charity it was not. The Knights of Columbus was formed during this time so that widows and orphans wouldn’t starve. Of course, it was supported by working class men for working class men and not by the wealthy. Apparently the lack of government intervention didn’t seem to spur the interest of the wealthy in helping the poor, immigrant Irish Catholics whom many of them saw as invading their protestant country. Go figure.

So, if no charity exists for this man, he and his family becomes like those who Fr. Michael McGivney tried to save—hungry, destitute, surviving.

The liberal outlook is to set up a government-run system in which it is impossible for this man to reach this level of poverty since depending on the charity of man alone has been unreliable.

Unfortunately, there are some folks that take advantage of this system. They think that they are ok with living just above real poverty. So they decide to adopt a life built around receiving handouts from the government system that is designed to provide for the man above. Nevertheless, the man is guaranteed to have enough to eat, live, and care for his family until he can find another job.

We don’t live in a perfect world. This is a central part of our faith. If I have to take one imperfect side though, I’d prefer the side without the hunger and destitution.

Lol. Good line.

I’d say you have to take the Bible in its totality. The prodigal son came home humble and admitting the error of his ways. The victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan was beaten; he didn’t get into such a dire shape by living for the day and neglecting his duties to earn a living. I’ve seen many people in dire straights due to sloth.

And the verse I recall says that if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat. It’s different for those who can’t work, which was the case for many in the Depression.

That’s part of it, but like Revert Jen said, it’s also the mechanism of charity, not the act of charity itself, that most conservatives disagree with.

Adm. Mullen said it succinctly here:“The point I was trying to make – and perhaps not so eloquently – is that the scope of the needs confronting our troops and their families is too great and too deep to be met only through the bureaucracy. Yes, the government must provide our veterans with educational opportunities, employment assistance and quality health care. But we must also recognize there are some needs best delivered and best administered at the local level,” the statement read.

I’m no theologian, so I can’t claim to give the official Catholic teaching on it, but it seems to me from Scripture, tradition, and just basic economic reality as it exists in the world that Christ-in-your-neighbor would A) be in need due something other than sloth, and B) would be asking for help from his neighbor, not the government.

Jesus himself was a carpenter who certainly knew what it meant to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. I know Christ was not born into Original Sin, but he still labored.

Plus, you seem stuck on the idea that charity must at least be facilitated if not completely ran by the government, and that is (rightly, in my opinion) a nonstarter for conservatives.

That’s the argument in a nutshell. Pick whatever peccadilloes or picayunes you wish, conservatives will gladly dispense with what they have earned in a charitable way, but are rightly jealous of their liberty.

Right on!

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