Friday, May 1, 2009

How to Fight Poverty

Left wingers profess to be extremely concerned about the poor and they are constantly talking about how to "help" the poor, "serve" the poor and "eliminate poverty." Just check out the Sojourners website or any other website that is based on left liberal ideology. Not only are these folks extremely proud of their political activism on behalf of the poor, they are highly critical - and I mean highly critical - of conservative Christians. To them the right wingers are unChristian, unloving, selfish hypocrites or they are just stupid (and probably both). It comes through pretty clearly.

Now, I have two problems at this point. First, I associate with a lot of middle class conservative Christians who love God and serve Jesus Christ by reaching out with compassion to people who are in various kinds of distress - pregnant unwed mothers, prostitutes, women abandoned by their irresponsible husbands, the poorest of the poor in Africa, AIDS orphans - and here I'm just listing some of the ministries of people in my own home church as examples. My own experience and various research over the years tell us that conservative Christians give more money to charity than liberal Christians do. Also, they volunteer more and are more active in their communities.

In addition, these conservative Christians also do evangelistic work and help people become believers or recover their faith as well. Liberal Protestants, by contrast, have pretty much ceased doing evangelism. I can't even see a category for Evangelism on the United Church of Canada website, for example. So conservative Christians love the whole person - body, mind and soul - while liberal Christians emphasize political and government solutions to the problems of poverty. So why do liberal Christians assume the moral high ground and act so superior to conservatives? This is puzzling to me.

Secondly, on the issue of how to fight poverty, I have some questions. We live in the richest society in history at this point in the history of North America; yet children go to school hungry. How can this be? Over the past 40 years, since the sexual revolution, family breakdown has been the single greatest cause of poverty for women and children. The social acceptance of promiscuity, pornography and adultery has led first to high divorce rates, then to casual divorce and, in probably the greatest terminological example of wishful thinking in the world, "no-fault divorce." We know that children from broken families have higher rates of school problems, psychological problems and by every social measure do worse.

Yet, liberal Christians do not propose public policies that would help to reduce the numbers of divorces and keep families together. They do not want married couples with children to be treated better taxation-wise than people who are merely living together. Why not? They do not want laws requiring counselling for couples seeking divorce. Why not? They do not set out to de-legitimize casual sex and stigmatize adultery? Why not? Instead of debating which social policies might help at least slow down the rate of family breakdown, they actually advocate policies that may very well exacerbate the problem by sending the message to men that they can feel free to abandon their children because the government will take care of them.

Even if we could agree that increasing the welfare state by increasing government support for single mothers and their children did not affect the divorce rate, (which is highly debatable), why would we not at least try to provide incentives for couples to stay together and work out their problems? Why do we accept so readily the lies that children recover quickly from the effects of divorce and that nothing can be done to help couples get through rough patches?

I have heard it said that the reason why children of broken homes do so poorly is the social stigma that comes with divorce and so the answer is to "normalize" divorce. I suppose that if you got the place where every home was a broken home, there would be no more discrimination on that account. But is that really what we want as a society?

So my questions are genuine, not just attempts to score cheap debating points.

1. Why are liberal Christians not at the forefront of trying to mitigate family breakdown, rather than simply accepting it as inevitable and trying to get the governent to take on the financial support of children fathered by irresponsible males?

2. Why is male irresponsibility not attacked by liberal Christians as the social evil it is? Why not de-legitimize easy divorce?

3. Why do liberals seem to suggest that the only way to fight poverty is to treat the symptoms (welfare checks) rather than dealing with the root causes (strengthening families)?

I'm sincerely asking.


Thom Stark said...

Come on, Craig.

First, please get over the need to use the term "liberal" to describe everything evil with North Americans.

Second, your last question is fundamentally wrong. "Why do liberals seem to suggest that the only way to fight poverty is to treat the symptoms (welfare checks) rather than dealing with the root causes (strengthening families)?"

What is the number one cause of divorce, Craig? Countless studies show that the number one cause of divorce is financial stress. You're putting the cart before the horse. Generally speaking (as you do), weak families don't cause poverty; poverty causes weak families.

The choice ins't between welfare checks and strong marriages. Both the welfare system and weak marriages are symptoms of a much larger disease.

Moreover, the solution can't be an either/or like you're suggesting. Strong families don't guarantee financial independence. And having a system focused solely on strengthening families leaves out millions of cases. There needs to be emphasis on strengthening families, but also concessions for victims of family crises; and in a democracy there also needs to be room for people with different ideas about what "family" is to survive and do well too.

I find your rhetoric rather simplistic.

Thom Stark said...

"isn't" not "ins't"