OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Government run charity lacks morality. Social welfare programs that are run at the federal level are subject to a number of flaws, like inefficiency and abuse of the system. Some state run programs are no better.
We tend to look at tangible problems, like how many people get onto assistance programs and stay on for life, or the ballooning budget that doesn’t seem to be improving the local community, but there’s a far greater issue at hand.
When churches and local communities were responsible for charitable outreach, morality and charity were a package deal. One could not receive charity without a lesson in the morality of others and a net positive influence on the morality of oneself.
A neighbor showing up with food for your family could easily give you hope when you were on the verge of losing it. It could make you feel accountable to not waste the time, money, or energy that others sacrificed for you. You may even have to attend the church and hear a sermon on how to be a better version of yourself and how to be charitable to others before you had the opportunity to ask for help or know it was available.
Since government took over the role of providing welfare to the poor and the church has stepped into a lesser role, the disconnect has affected parties on both ends of the exchange.
Many poor people can receive charity without the accountability of changing the habits that lead them there in the first place. I’m not fire and brimstone religious, but I do think that most of the habits of extremely poor people, or those who consistently make disastrous life choices, can be attributed to some form of sinful behavior. Receiving charity at church meant being confronted by the reminder that you could do more or be better. Receiving a government check that goes away if you work too hard leaves you relying on your pride to get off welfare more than anything else.
Likewise, charitable Christians who don’t surround themselves with the recipients of goodwill and get their hands dirty are now viewed as pretentious and judgmental. Church is full of people who want to be there, instead of those who need to be there. Outsiders without personal knowledge view us as self-righteous beings, touting the faults of sinners while no sinners stand among us. Most Christians see themselves as sinners as well, but what does a visitor to your church see? Step inside and look at your congregation of well-dressed people with fresh eyes.
This article isn’t full of answers, but it’s full of questions to make you think. The personal aspect of charity is gone in current society. How many of the people who request birthday wishes be conveyed via a Facebook donation to an honorable charity check to see what percentage of the funds go to actually help people or what amount goes to administrative efforts? How many people actually care?
Though the government may be providing people with everything they think they need in order to live comfortably, it’s not providing them with everything they need in order to be whole. Nor is it providing those of us with charitable hearts with the personal connection that turns charity into a gift to both the recipient and the giver.
We need to see the faces of those we help, just as much as they need to see ours. I dare say that charity isn’t what helps people at all, but the connection itself.
And there we have reason number 7,329 why I oppose socialism.