Christian Arguments for the Liberal State

Posted on Posted in Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Politics

The most popular brand of Christianity in the united states is of course socially conservative and anti-government. From a liberal perspective this is quite strange because neither seem to have much to do with Christianity and from a liberal perspective it looks like the one thing Jesus really cared about and emphasized was helping the poor.

There are of course lots of liberal’s who have commented on this. I think my favorite of all time is Al Franken’s Supply Side Jesus:


But I haven’t come across an actual argument. So, here are a couple of for a liberal welfare state that make use of Christian premises.

Here is the first argument:

1. Christ said how we treat the poor is how we treat him.

2. So, A Christian ought to do everything they can to help the poor.

3. Government welfare programs help the poor.

4. So, a Christian ought to support government welfare programs.

A conservative might disagree with 3, but that seems really counter intuitive. Although  maybe that is just because I’m a liberal. I would offer as evidence for 3 that poor people are better off in places with higher taxes and higher levels of government welfare. Poor people are better off in Scandinavia than America and better off in America than South America or Africa. And also that poor people in individual countries are better off after the introduction of various government welfare programs. Poor people in the united states are better off now than they were 100 years ago, etc. A conservative could argue that in the looooong run government welfare programs don’t actually help the poor but that is a pretty tough row to hoe.

Here is the second argument, which I think is possibly the most interesting because it is very similar to a Kantian style reasoning and Kant was of course a Christian:

1. As a Christian I ought to treat others how I would want to be treated.

2. If I were poor I would want a government that offered significant assistance to poor people.

3. So, As a Christian I ought to support a government that offered significant assistance to poor people.

Kant was a Christian and his theory is an abstraction from Christ’s commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

I’m a philosopher not a Biblical scholar but unless there were some extremely clear Christian argument that justifies the conservative/libertarian view that individual liberty is more valuable than caring for the poor, that the government shouldn’t be involved in caring for the poor, that the government should be small, and taxes should be low the above arguments would seem to be conclusive.

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