The False Piety of Entitlement

The False Piety of Entitlement

Screenwriting is full of reflection.  Writers must see through the surface, to delve into the true nature of humanity, regardless of the cost, and tell the truth.

I looked up from my current project directed at our culture of entitlement to find the following image is displayed across the fruited internet:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it” Many can resonate with the message, and the implied frustration, but if we fail to reflect on its true meaning, we may fall into error.  Failure.  Perhaps heresy.

Fake GOP hopeful Stephen Colbert pretends to be a Conservative buffoon for Comedy Central but is, in fact, a Catholic Progressive who enjoys a good incendiary comment.

But, for those are unaware, there are several things wrong with his straw-man sermonette:

Premise 1: If we are going to be a Christian nation…

While our Christian founding is indisputable, Progressives don’t want our nation governed as if this is true.  They spent the last 50+ years trying to redefine the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause to mean religion has NO place in our civic discourse, so don’t fall for the false piety. Or false choices.

Premise 2: … that doesn’t help the poor

Really?  We don’t help the poor?  We have no intention of helping the poor?


So the churches from across the nation who served post-Katrina New Orleans were not better than the US government?  The soup kitchens, homeless outreaches and nonprofits that consistently serve the poor are less effective and gracious than social welfare?  America’s charities and relief missions are not the envy of the world?

No, what Father Colbert is saying is, our nation doesn’t serve the poor THE WAY HE DEFINES IT.

Without more specifics it’s hard to pinpoint his policy. Is he implying that our government does not tax the rich enough to provide a social welfare system to raise the lower class into the middle class?

If so, he’s right.  We have no intention to.

If we have learned anything from the New Deal and Great Society and Obama’s tax, spend and regulate campaign it is that they did not work.

History is not on Colbert’s side.  And neither is scripture.

Premise 3: … Jesus is as selfish as we are.

Perhaps Father Colbert will rant about Jesus’ selfishness when he discovers that scripture does not record Jesus giving MONEY to the poor.

He met their spiritual and sometimes material needs.  He healed their wounds.

He paid taxes to the government.  He paid tithes to the church. But when asked, in Luke 20:22-25:

“Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

In other words, Jesus believed in the separation between church and state.  But notice how many times “government” is used in the following:

“When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do…But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:2-4 (emphasis mine)

Consider also 1 John 3:17: “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?”

Jesus didn’t expect the government to serve the poor.  In fact, Jesus wasn’t primarily focused on the CHURCH serving the poor.

Jesus said if you see your brother in need, YOU help him!

Those who felt entitled to the fruits other people’s labor were called thieves.  Those who demanded others give so they didn’t have to were called Pharisees.

Premise 4: Jesus commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition

Really?  A society is compelled to serve without condition?  Where is that written?

It’s quite a leap from a personal expression of grace to social engineering. Individuals are called to give freely to those who ask.  THAT is a condition, that also presupposes that it’s not institutionalized.  Otherwise, the individual would have no opportunity to serve.

Preying upon Progressive prejudice for a moment, such a society would also necessarily compel non-Christians to perform Christian duties against their will. Does that sound like the USA you want to live in?

Father Colbert’s misunderstanding of scripture, and perhaps the Constitution, notwithstanding, he might have consulted the history books.

This argument didn’t start in the 1960s.  Our burgeoning New England colonies rejected the welfare state, and by 1890, caring for the poor had become almost a science — a science that our 21st century Progressives still ignore.

As it was called, “charity” was divided into “good charity” and “bad charity.”  Bad charity, ironically for Father Colbert, was considered giving without conditions. If a man would be fed, clothed and sheltered regardless of his actions, then why work?

“Good charity” follows the ABCs of the “7 seals of good philanthropic practice” summarized:

Affiliation If the poor has family, they are obligated to take him in
Bonding The giver should make a personal connection.  This is not throwing government money or your money out of the limousine window. This may require some “rough kindness and self discipline”
Categorization Don’t treat everyone equally.  Help those worthy of relief, who cannot help themselves. Those unwilling to work are not entitled to relief
Discernment Only give that which is necessary, proportional and immediate. “Nothing is more demoralizing to the struggling poor than successes of the indolent or vicious.”   Criticize the “well-meaning, tender-hearted, sweet-voiced criminals who insist upon indulging in indiscriminate charity.”
Employment “Nothing creates pauperism so rapidly as the giving of relief to able-bodied persons without requiring them to earn what they receive by some kind of honest labor.”

“If a man will not work neither shall he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Talmudic saying “all study of the Torah that is not accompanied by work must in the end be futile and become the cause of sin.”

Freedom The opportunity to work without governmental restriction. This means not paying bribes (and perhaps union dues).  Freedom is the ability to work hard without government’s impersonal and mechanical charity.

Public relief is not a right.  It’s possible to do so much relief-work that while one set of persons is relieved; another will be taxed across the pauper line.  Show people how to move up while resisting enslavement to the charity of governmental or private masters.

Alms are like drugs, and are as dangerous.  Freedom could be grasped only when individuals took responsibility

God True philanthropy must take into account spiritual as well as physical needs. 19th Century Christians saw a God of compassion that demanded change.


Premise 5: …We don’t want to do it

We want all Americans to live healthy, vibrant lives.  We want to lower barriers to success.  But we can’t fall prey to empty or perverse rhetoric.

Father Colbert’s views might compel charitable individuals with the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, but seizing another’s talents or equalizing incomes is not Biblical.  They are not entitled to it.

How might he explain the Parable of the Talents or the Parable of the Ten Minas?

Scripture aside, we should refuse to call taxation and class warfare a form of charity.  We should refuse to conflate Christianity with social justice when it is neither just, nor effective.

We refuse to condemn capitalism on the charge that it is not socialism (especially when no one condemns socialism as socialism).

When government provides charity without condition, it creates dependency and destroys the soul, family and community.

That is neither kind, nor Christian.  The true answers are not found in further division and entitlement. Hasn’t our nation suffered enough?

Stephen Colbert may have good intentions, but the road to Hell is still paved with them (not the Bible, but John Ray, 1670).

For further reading:

  • The Bible.
  • The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky, 1992.
  • The State Against Blacks, Walter Williams, 1984.
  • Death by Liberalism: The Fatal Outcome of Well-Meaning Liberal Policies, J.R. Dunn, 2011.

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