That type of argument, while cogent, misunderstands the purpose of social welfare as I see it, and also relies on potentially troublesome assumptions about the roles of God and government--assumptions that liberals are often guilty of making as well. I take seriously the injunction to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," which I take to mean that earthly affairs of government are separate from the affairs of God. The conflict arises from confusing or mixing the two.
|Occasionally the conflict is awesome|
The post I linked above imagines a judgement day conversation in which a liberal defends his parsimony to God on that grounds that he supported politicians who promised to redistribute wealth to the poor. Wasn't that charity enough? No, says God, who expresses disappointment that he chose to waste time on selfish pursuits instead of engaging in truly charitable acts. Forcing charity on others is no substitute. It's a very damning indictment, and as far as it goes, I totally agree. Nobody should feel justified taking credit for the contributions of others, whether compulsory or voluntary. Charity, in the sense of donating one's own time, talents, and energy, in service of others, is an individual responsibility that cannot be outsourced or voted into another's care.
God's purpose is to lead his children toward salvation through belief in him and following his commandments, including the requirement caring for each other, the basis of charity. Government's purpose is more mundane: to keep society organized. From a religious perspective, problems only occur when the latter interferes with the former. God has dealt with every form of government imaginable, from monarchy and despotism to republicanism and democracy, yet the only governments that come under condemnation are ones that suppress belief, persecute believers, or encourage believers to disregard God's commandments. To the extent God works through secular government--which is always tricky to prove--it is to achieve his larger purposes, which transcend the government itself.
Government focuses squarely on everyday, plain ol' life on earth. Some governments do it more effectively than others, and the differences can make a big difference in how a society functions. The nice thing about democracy is that it gives everyday folks like me a voice in how Caesar's things get rendered: since I have a say in government, Caesar's stuff is partially my stuff. In the case of welfare, it means I can vote for government to guarantee certain basic standards of living for all citizens, which, I think, ultimately benefits everybody in society. Reducing income inequality also minimizes social unrest and improves quality of life. Charity, frankly, has little to do with it. It doesn't matter if taxes are paid happily or grudgingly, because the outcome is what's important. If you want a different outcome or better administration of it, you can vote for Caesar to render stuff differently. Individual acts of charity, which is what matters for the religious, are still possible regardless of any government policy.
The important thing is that these policy disputes are rooted firmly in the the everyday, the earthly. They are not part of the cosmic battle between good and evil; God has more important things to worry about than unemployment benefits and tax rates. If government starts suppressing (or mandating) religious activities then we've got a problem and I'll be the first to protest. In Jesus' day, many of his followers were disappointed that he was no political revolutionary against the oppressive Romans, but Jesus understood and taught the proper relationship between God and government.
|And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against a 4% top marginal rate increase|
I believe conservatives have some very reasonable criticisms of government welfare, such as the fear that it rewards those who refuse to work at the expense of those who do. How to deal with that, however, is a temporal matter, an earthly thing. If I accuse someone of being evil or uncaring because they have such concerns, it only poisons the debate. Heck, even if they are actually selfish, I have no right to judge them. Doing so demeans God's purposes and drags him down into the mud with the rest of us.
|Although my wife doesn't seem to mind...|