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Religion & Liberty Article Listing

A Revolution of Compassion

R&L: You are viewed by many as one of the architects of the “Welfare Revolution”. Many believe that this revolution is motivated solely by financial concerns, but in your work The Tragedy of American Compassion, you speak of other dimensions and motivations. What do you believe are the strongest reasons for welfare reform?

Olasky: I am glad to be viewed as an architect, but there are others who have done far more than me. I think of people like Bob Woodson, Charles Murray, Robert Rector — and your work at the Acton Institute.

There are three strong reasons for reforming welfare: the first is biblical. The current welfare system takes men and women created in God’s image and dehumanizes them. Most programs treat people like animals...

The Effectiveness of the Private Sector

The American public is still being cheated out of a welfare debate that will address in fundamental ways the disintegration of our neighborhoods and of our country. So far the debate has been dominated by two choruses: the Great Society chorus that keeps insisting that with a little more money (a few billion here and there) and a little more imagination (reinventing a program here and cutting a few bureaucrats there), we will solve the intransigent social problems facing us; and the limited government chorus that assumes that once government is out of the way, once taxes have been cut and the budget balanced, all will be well, not only on Main Street, but on the increasingly mean streets in our inner cities. I am singing as loudly as the next person in the second chorus, but I also know that our song is only part of the story and only...

The Folly of Participating in Government Welfare

Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, was once asked why he robbed banks. He responded by saying, “Because that’s where they keep the money.” Perhaps we can learn something from Mr. Sutton’s response. In one short statement he pinpointed the cause of the national debt and continuing deficits. The popular wisdom today assumes that the federal government can provide an overflowing abundance of goods and services in place of the scarcity that people face in reality. As a result, government solutions are sought for problems ranging from the elimination of poverty to funding of the arts to money for the exploration of space.

The result of the ever increasing lines of people seeking government favors has been the escalating national debt through an endless stream of yearly budget deficits...

Welfare Gone Awry

In the movie “Schindler’s List”, Oskar Schindler, a Catholic, quotes an expression his father had often used; and I could imagine my own father saying something rather similar. He would say: “There are really only three people in life that you need depend on: a good doctor, a forgiving priest and a clever accountant.”

The posters advertising “Schindler’s List” have a simple design: they show the hand of one person in that of another; they clearly intend to portray this as the helping hand of Oskar Schindler leading potential victims away from sure death. As such, Schindler’s hand is at odds with the fist of the supporters of totalitarian states who would raise their right hand in the Nazi salute. At the time that Oskar Schindler extended his hand to assure life...

Reforming our Attitudes

This welfare edition of Religion & Liberty has begun to state clearly the argument that the solutions to the current welfare crisis rest not with government but with communities. Government is compassion’s least able practitioner.

We have critiqued the welfare state and have gone to great lengths to show its faults. Although criticism is often useful, it is never enough. Those who support welfare reform fail in their mission if they merely criticize the welfare state, dismantle it, and leave it at that. The more difficult part of our journey is mobilizing the thousands of Americans who can give of their time, material resources and love. The private sector needs to be up to the task of replacing the welfare bureaucracy that now exists.

Essential to this welfare...

C.S. Lewis

Uno de los más grandes pensadores cristianos del siglo XX fue C.S. Lewis, quien al inicio fue estudiante y más tarde un profesor muy apreciado en la Universidad de Oxford por casi 29 años, antes de convertirse en profesor de Literatura Renacentista y Medieval en la Universidad de Cambridge hasta el final de su carrera.

Ateo durante la primera parte de su vida, adoptó el teísmo en 1929 y se convirtió al cristianismo en 1931. Aunque era un orador y un escritor muy talentoso – escribió una gran cantidad de obras de carácter narrativo, didáctico y devocional, sin tomar en cuenta su considerable producción...

C.S. Lewis

Uno dei maggiori pensatori cristiani del XX sec., C. S. Lewis fu all’inizio uno studente e in seguito un docente molto apprezzato all’Università di Oxford per quasi 29 anni, prima di diventare professore di Letteratura Rinascimentale e Medievale presso l’Università di Cambridge fino alla fine della sua carriera.

Ateo per tutta la prima parte della sua vita, adottò il teismo nel 1929 e si convertì al cristianesimo nel 1931. Nonostante fosse un oratore nonché scrittore molto dotato – scrisse una gran quantità di opere di carattere narrativo, didattico e devozionale senza considerare la sua considerevole produzione accademica – Lewis non divenne mai famoso come commentatore...

C.S. Lewis

One of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis was a respected scholar and teacher at Oxford University for 29 years and then a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University to the end of his career. An atheist throughout his early life, he adopted theism in 1929 and converted to Christianity in 1931. Although a talented debater and writer-Lewis wrote many fictional, didactic, and devotional works in addition to his sizable academic production-he is not known as a political commentator. He avoided partisan commitments; indeed, he turned down a title offered him by Winston Churchill, thinking his critics would use it to accuse him of being...

Civil Religion and Political Theology

What role should Christianity play in the life of the polis? This question has engaged Christian thinkers for two millennia and, judging from this volume, we are no closer to agreement now than we were at the time of the early Church fathers. The contributors to this recently reissued collection of essays, which is comprised of lectures delivered in the mid-1980s at Boston University’s Institute for Philosophy and Religion, all wish to affirm the relevance of Christian faith to public life, but they differ markedly in how they understand this relationship. The editor casts the discussion in terms of two main approaches: civil religion and political theology. The most interesting contributions, however, are those that question the adequacy of these alternatives and point the reader in a different direction....

The Theme is Freedom

M. Stanton Evans, former editor of The Indianapolis News and chairman of the American Conservative Union, is now director of the National Journalism Center, in Washington, D.C. His exposition here of the place of religion in American public life is a remarkable synthesis of history, sound philosophy and political judgment.

In the classic phrase of Fr. Francis Canavan, the great Fordham Jesuit, the present stage of Western culture can be described as “the fag end of the Enlightenment.” For three centuries, philosophers and politicians have tried to organize society as if God did not exist. They sought to govern man according to the Enlightenment premises of secularism, relativism and autonomous individualism. The result has been not an increase, but a contraction of freedom and an...

Learning from Victorian Virtues

R&L: Let’s begin by discussing your latest book, The Demoralization Of Society. In it you state that Victorian society stigmatized the recipients of government assistance. Tell us about that.

Himmelfarb: Well, it stigmatized them in several ways: first, it stigmatized them rhetorically. The recipient of relief was called a pauper, not a poor man. The Victorians made a great attempt to keep the distinction between pauper and poor. The word poor was synonymous with the working classes or the “independent laborer”; “pauper” was a term of stigmatization.

Another way was through the principle of “less eligibility”. This principle stipulated that the pauper should always be in a less eligible, that is to say a less desirable, condition than the...

The Accumulation of Moral Capital

By now most readers of this journal are familiar with arguments that the charitable impulse is not well-served by institutions of the modern welfare state. Indeed, many are persuaded that the modern state feeds itself from the fount of charitable feelings that have been created by the Judeo-Christian tradition. The state, by exploiting this ethos, has created a situation in which people feel more like suckers than Samaritans. In this article, I will argue that the economic significance of the Western religious traditions extends far beyond the creation of an ethic of sharing or neighborly charity.

The first example is the economics of cooperation. The theoretical problem is, why should people cooperate for mutual benefit in a situation that presents possibilities of greater personal gain from ignoring other...

Economic Crime and the Necessity of Morality

At present an alarming crime wave is engulfing Russia and is threatening to spiral out of control. Professor Mikhail Gelvanovsky of Moscow’s Orthodox Charity Center of Social Protection reflects a widespread fear when he points out, “In the past we had the Iron Curtain; now people need iron doors to protect themselves against the growing number of thieves.” Three to five thousand gangs now control some 40,000 businesses. Post-Soviet organized crime is rapidly commandeering an entire nation’s assets: factories, businesses, real estate, and exportable natural resources. Never before have criminal elements had such ready access to natural resources remotely approaching the wealth of a prostrate Russia. Investigative reporter Claire Sterling has noted, “There are fifty ways of saying ‘to steal’ in Russian,...

Is Welfare Compassionate?

Many of our current economic problems have their roots in the moral crisis of our day. In these times of moral turmoil many have mistakenly equivocated government sponsored welfare with the virtue of compassion. Compassion is an adjective frequently used to describe state supported social programs. The question needs to be raised: Is State welfare truly compassionate? Are we really serving the human needs of the people with state handouts?

The theory behind today’s welfare state is that people need material provision. Without denying the fundamental importance of material provision, we cannot forget other aspects of human life. In our minds we have reduced all giving to material giving. One result of this materialism is our belief that the more money we allocate for specific programs the more...

John Bright

Son of an English self-made textile manufacturer, John Bright entered his father's business after leaving school. Upon the death of his wife in 1841, Bright and his colleague Richard Cobden began the Anti-Corn Law campaign (1838-1846) which ultimately succeeded in lowering import tariffs, producing freer trade. He became a Member of Parliament in 1843 and accepted appointment to the Board of Trade in Gladstone's administration in 1868. In contrast to Cobden, who favored the Southern free-traders, Bright supported the Northern states during the Civil War because of the slavery issue. Wary of tyrannical government, Bright opposed the manufacture of...