Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

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In Short: Christian conservatives should prove their sincerity by embracing compassionate economic policies.

Christianity has always been a cornerstone in conservative social policy-making.  From the Defense of Marriage Act to constant anti-abortion proposals, the word of the Bible, literally taken, has all but spelled out the guidelines for conservative social legislation in America.

Whether religious texts should or should not influence our legal policies is a different issue, but, to the conservative Christians’ credit, their social policies have been extremely consistent with their moral codebook.

What is puzzling, however, is the staggering inconsistency in their economic policies.  Jesus was a constant advocate for the poor, yet our iconic Christian-right politicians (think Bush or Palin) squabble to protect their last penny.  They argue over the fairness of a progressive versus a flat income tax, but, according to their principal moral text (and morals do inevitably affect economic policy), the issue shouldn’t even matter. They should want to give away more than they are required to share. Care for the less fortunate is a constant and persistent theme in the Bible.

Leviticus 25:35 reads, “If one of your countrymen becomes poor…help him so he can continue to live among you.” Even if we grant the conservatives their principal assumption, that poverty is more a product of laziness than unfortunate circumstances, the Bible still commands Christians to extend their compassion to even their worst enemies. Isn’t it reasonable that they should extend such compassion to “slackers” as well?

Until the majority of conservative politicians can extend the amount of compassion their own moral codebook dictates, Jesus will be dismissed as a mascot, just as their proposed legislation will be (and is) dismissed as antiquated and self-righteous moral regulation.

If conservatives could set an example of “extreme compassion” in an area so dear to Americans – our pocketbooks – then secular left-wingers would be more likely to approach conservative social requests with an open mind after having seen the fruits one area of their scripture bears.

Conservatives claim the intent of their traditional, biblically-based social                   policies is to stabilize society, and it might very well be, but because such policies aren’t getting the face time to prove themselves correct in this current era, conservatives must turn to economic legislation to prove the verity of their intents.

Imagine if, less than a decade ago, George W. Bush had, instead of cutting taxes for the wealthy, followed the teachings of his own faith and taxed his class heavily and willingly.  He could’ve used the heaps of extra cash for tangible societal benefits, like infrastructure and education improvements, then pointed to these benefits as Exhibits A and B in proving to the American people that strengthening the backbone of society really was at the heart of every decision he made.

Granted, there are a great number of wealthy conservatives who exhibit personal generosity (economist Arthur Brooks even found that conservatives were more likely to donate money than liberals), but such generosity is usually extended on a special interest basis while the middle and lower classes remain unaware that such charitable transactions even took place.

This necessary, widespread economic compassion has not yet been realized and conservative social policy, predictably so, is taking a beating.  States are starting to allow gay marriage one by one, group prayer in public schools is disallowed, the teaching of evolution in schools is trumping the teaching of creationism, pornography is rampant, abstinence-based sexual education programs are in the minority, and medical marijuana is now legal in fourteen states.

I’m not trying to posit a conspiracy theory that the conservative economic game plan is the hidden cause for their social policy troubles, nor am I even trying to conjure up a non-existent cause-effect relationship between the two.  Simply put, I’m labeling the typical conservative economic policy a “missed opportunity.”

As both a moderate conservative and a Christian myself, I hold a special affinity for our social policies and legitimately believe that, if given the chance and the time, they will provide sweeping benefits for American society.  I recognize, however, that with our increasingly secularized and liberalized worldview, such policies will never even be given the chance (or second chance) to prove their worth unless something dramatic or unexpected happens.

I hope our Christian conservative leaders will someday have the gumption to challenge stale party standards, follow their faith, and embrace radical economic compassion as a means of proving their good intentions.  They might even end up liking it.

Ben Friedman is a sophomore majoring in social entrepreneurship.

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