By Lucas Roebuck
One of the most successful strategies during the 2008 presidential campaign was Team Obama's efforts to peel off the Christian Left. In the Clinton and post-Clinton eras, Evangelical Christians were largely thought to belong to the Republican Party, and the Christian Right certainly has little-to-no incentive to cross the aisle.
But the Christian Left - progressive Christians who often believe they should force government to be an instrument of God's mercy - have always been up for grabs. George W. Bush won many of them over in 2000 and 2004 with his "compassionate conservative" rhetoric.
In 2008, however, Barack Obama was able to reaffirm old stereotypes: Republicans are mean, greedy white men who are willing to let people suffer for their profit. In the ambiguities of his stump speech, many in the Christian Left felt that Obama would use the power of the government to bring about "social justice."
This is where I believe a large number of left-of-center Christians, many (but not all) of whom are moved more by empathy than theology, were in effect suckered by Obama. President Obama has obfuscated his socialist intentions of "spreading the wealth around" with the Christian virtue of charity.
Christians are called to end material suffering, not end material inequality.
If a man down the street drives a beat-up, periwinkle peeling-paint 1996 Plymouth Neon and his neighbor has two 2010 "Bumblebee" yellow Government Motors Camaros, is Christian virtue to force her to give one to her neighbor? That is the equity, aka social justice, that Obama is pushing. He is selling Christian charity - but he is offering secular Marxism.
Taking care of the poor and providing care for the sick is certainly a Christian calling, if not a commandment. I'm no theological scholar, but anyone who can read the Bible can see that we are implored to give to the poor, visit those in prison, and care for the sick. But does taking by force of law $10,000 from someone who makes $1 million annually and giving it to someone who makes $100,000 or $50,000 annually make any of us better Christians? Does it make the world more godly?
In the long run, actually, it's the poor who suffer from social distribution which creates, by all historic accounts, more material suffering than it solves.
Occasionally, when debating with someone in the Christian Left, I will run into a sad scenario where the person seems to believe that voting for a politician who will play Robin Hood is a substitute for personal piety - and personal charity. Here I can only think of the famous words of Jesus, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but render unto God what is God's." Clearly, giving to Caesar is not giving to God. (Although this is a good verse to chastise those who don't want to pay taxes at all.)
Although I am a right-of-center Christian, I am sympathetic to the cause and endgame of my fellow believers on the left. We want to end poverty and material suffering. That is why I am an unashamed free-market capitalist.
History has showed that free-market capitalism, not socialism, is the best way to alleviate material suffering, not only in America but around the world. The poor in America are the richest poor in the world - i.e., they have little material suffering. Most of them have sufficient food, a place to live and access to essential medical care. The reason America's poor have it so (relatively) good is because capitalism drives economic growth, lifting all who live under the system.
Socialism, on the other had, has proven to be a failure because there is little or no incentive for people to drive economic growth - meaning there is less wealth to "spread around" and everyone gets poorer.
If, as a Christian, I want to end material suffering, then I must support government policies that empower capitalism, not socialism (like that which Obama is peddling). Capitalism is not a perfect system, insofar as it does create income gaps and even some über-wealthy individuals. But I have yet to see the Christian scholarship that makes an airtight case (or even reasonably compelling) as to why Christians should make sure all wealth on this side of eternity is spread equally. Conversely, many proverbs speak that the industrious will be rewarded.
Is the calling of a Christian making sure that someone doesn't have more than someone else? Not if both those people have plenty to begin with. Income gaps do not inherently cause pain; it only creates suffering for the envious.
This envy - slightly repackaged class warfare - is exactly how Obama won the support of the secular left. By doing a bait-and-switch in substituting material equality for material suffering, Obama has compelled the Christian Left to support his Marxist plans as well.