This sounds very similar to Neil's piece and it is. This is actually an extension of it. I started to write a comment, but when I saw the comment stretching several paragraphs I decided to write my own piece here. The point of his piece is simple. Economic issues are moral issues. I couldn't agree more and that is one of the primary reasons why I am a Democrat. Naturally, many of you will remember my series on welfare last year and that is all the more reason why it is in the appropriate hands.
See, when Jesus spoke, he did not speak of the government assisting anyone. This was for two primary reasons. First of all, there was no such thing as welfare when Jesus spoke. The government was not in the business of taking care of its citizens. Quite the opposite, the government (because it was the Roman empire) was seen as an evil entity out to get the Jews and the other people that were conquered. Historically, those assimilated in the Roman empire were treated well as compared to other conquering peoples, but historical perspective is often lost on those in the midst of occupation.
What Jesus did talk at great length about was how the Pharisees were practiced at deciding who was worthy of assistance and who should be ostracized. His message was to help all and turn away no one. That's an interesting message today. It reminds me of the messages of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. They said that government was necessary as an impartial judge in disputes among private individuals. While they themselves did not see government as a giant charity, but it works under this dynamic. Put Jesus and Locke together and you get something very interesting.le
If my welfare series proved anything it is that even I have biases against certain people. Knowing that full well, I know I should not be the judge of who gets assistance and who does not. Jesus envisioned a world where no one would be turned away, but as humans we are flawed and often prejudiced against certain groups. This is where Locke comes in. If we cannot see past race, color, creed, lifestyle, or political beliefs then government becomes necessary to arbitrate these decisions where we cannot.
Conservatives want this out of government hands. They think too much is being given away and would prefer private charities. Private charities can deny for whatever reason they deem fit. I understand that actually. My driving idea of my welfare pieces is that I saw what the people around my school do with their assistance. Let's just say that it ain't a pretty sight. Of course, one could argue that they should get more or a different kind of assistance and be very persuasive. That's a solid point, but it's not the point here. The point is that even the tax payers, prostitutes, and sinners in Jesus' time continued to tax collect, prostitute themselves, and sin after he was gone. That didn't mean that Jesus wanted his disciples to stop loving them.
Being a Christian is hard work and we often fail. Being a Christian doesn't mean we have to vote Republican or shun those that don't live to our standards. That is why we need a centralized entity to make that call for us when we are incapable of showing mercy. The human in us cannot allow people to suffer simply because they've made bad decisions. Should they be educated? Sure. Should they have strings attached to the assistance? That's possible depending on the strings, but a simple, "sorry, your immorality offends us too much" is not the answer we should be giving. That is why I gladly relinquish that power to the government. Locke called it some sort of contract or something.