Adding Insult to Economic Injury
I have addressed in part 2 of this essay only how the Church’s giving toward benevolence endeavors would be affected by a socialist ethic. The fact of the matter is that a socialist ethic would also cause churches themselves to face significant financial challenges in terms of simply keeping their doors open. With fewer people giving to the church—and with those who give giving less—a number of small churches might be forced to close their doors. Pastors and other members of church staffs—who typically don’t make much money anyway—would make even less than they already make or be forced to leave their full-time ministry positions in order to pay their bills. And while evangelicals are inevitably branded as conspiracy theorists and fear- mongers for saying so, one has to wonder if the destruction of the Church is precisely what many socialists want.
To be sure, it is worth noting that the evangelical Church in socialist European nations is almost non-existent—about 4 percent of the European population identifies as evangelical. Socialism is not the only reason that Europe is post-Christian, but I submit that it is one significant reason.
The world has yet to see an economic system that is perfect, and capitalism certainly has some flaws. Yes, it allows the greedy to be greedy. But it also allows the generous to be generous, for under capitalist principles people are free to spend their disposable income the way they please. If we start punishing people just because they have more than others, then we can be sure that many generous rich people and well-off organizations will stop giving to causes for which the charity goes straight to the people who need it. Because the government will take more of their money, the wealthy will not be as generous, and a large percentage of the money that the government takes from them will go toward maintaining the bureaucracies associated with needs—not toward the needs themselves.
Furthermore, when the generous who can no longer afford to be generous stop giving, they will leave a void that the government will think it needs to fill, resulting in even higher taxes and even less disposable income for the citizenry. We will see a vicious cycle that will eventually leave only a few Americans—those making the decisions— with disposable income. This is the way socialism works.
Now, consider how much of the American economy is driven by things people buy with disposable income—entertainment, recreation privileges, beauty supplies, athletic equipment, automobile accessories, toys, lawn and garden supplies, pet supplies, electronics, etc., etc.—and then consider how many American jobs would be affected if those industries began to suffer. Moreover, think of how tithes and offerings from the American Church would decrease when people in those industries began to lose their jobs.
The way for well-intentioned young Christians to help provide for others’ needs is not to take money from people who have extra. The way forward is to allow people to keep as much of their own money as they can and then make sure the Church and other non-profits (1) encourage giving and (2) use people’s generosity wisely.
And where will an ethic of true generosity be taught? Fittingly, the best place to instill the discipline of generosity is in the Church. Big-name liberal actors and journalists may champion socialism with their mouths, but I find it hard to believe that they will be okay with the government taking more of their earnings once they have to abandon the luxurious standard of living to which they have grown accustomed. (One of the most incomprehensible ironies in American culture is that the entire entertainment industry, which passionately promotes socialism, is driven by people’s disposable income.)
For any socialist-leaning Christians who are reading—please know that I agree wholeheartedly with you that American churches can trim some fat in their own budgets and be even more responsible with their resources. We don’t need million-dollar buildings, expensive strobe lights and smoke machines for worship, and other flashy things. We need to behave like family and use the good fortune God has given us to bless others. I am in favor of replacing the strobe lights and smoke machines with food and shelter for those who need it.
Nonetheless, the point comes to this: even though I admit that the Church can do better, we still must ask ourselves who we want in charge of charity in our country. Ourselves and our fellow Americans, who know best how to use our money to help others in our local communities? Or government bureaucrats in our state capitals and in Washington, D.C.?
Of course, everything I have written in this essay assumes the Christian community’s desire to love and protect the institution of the Church, assumes a deeply held conviction that the Church is precious and should be treated with reverence…I guess I have another essay to start working on.
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