12 Sep Fiscal Conservatism is part of the Christian Credo
An abundance of material is available on the subject of the Christian and politics. Christian political engagement has been debated and discussed from every possible angle. Rick Warren, pastor of the mega-Saddleback church in Southern California, known for his advocacy of a “seeker sensitive” Christianity, even recently declared in a forum he hosted in front of a TV audience of 30 million people: “We affirm the separation of church and state, but we deny the separation of faith and politics.” That a Christian ought to engage all aspects of life is something widely accepted in Calvinist and Kuyperian circles, but these days, it seems even the pietists and dispensationalists affirm the same. It is what that engagement ought to look like that continues to force controversy and discussion.
For many, including a great number of evangelicals, a Christian engagement in politics is essentially limited to efforts in the pro-life cause, and more recently, attempts to defend the institution of marriage. The strong opposition to Communism that most Christian people advocated throughout the 60s, 70’s, and 80’s allowed some Christians to expand their political beliefs and passions to include matters of national defense and foreign policy. Sadly, though, even to this day, matters of economic freedom have been relegated to either the “totally irrelevant” column, or at best, the “not that important” space. My contention is that a Christian’s advocacy for lower taxes, limited government, free trade, and economic liberty ought to be on a completely equal footing with their advocacy of the sanctity of life, and their defense of the family.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, a man whom I personally know and admire, in seeking the Republican nomination for President this last campaign cycle famously referred to the fiscally conservative Club for Growth as the “Club for Greed.” While it is entirely possible he regrets this idiotic comment, Gov. Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister and darling of the Christian Right, gave huge support to the awful idea that social conservatism and economic conservatism are at odds with one another. The perception exists throughout the media, the electorate, and the “center” of American politics that religious people are concerned with sexual ethics, but not economic ethics. It reinforced the stereotype that the Christian’s involvement in the political arena is merely to advocate a certain social and moral agenda. The fact that the Bible Christians read and the worldview Christians advocate has just as much to say in the field of economics and freedom as it does to abortion and homosexuality is missed by most people; frankly, it is missed by most Christians.
It is not for Christians to decide that the 6th commandment (abortion), or the 7th commandment (protection of marriage), are more important than the 8th commandment (economic freedom), or even the 10th commandment (tax policy and wealth redistribution). The decalogue summarizes the Christian perspective on a whole host of issues, and these issues include (implicitly or explicitly) issues that are social, and economic. Many Christians [properly] feel strongly about the institution of family, and the need for a Biblical model of family to exist in the home. Has it occurred to many believers how many parents are forced to go to a “two-income” model to get by, where perhaps a revised tax policy would enable more families to consider the more traditional option of a single income, allowing more families to have a parent in the home full-time? Is that merely an issue of “greed” and “money”, or is that a case where nuance and contemplation allows us to see the broader implications of an issue that seems to be merely economic? Is the subject of tax credits for private school choice a matter of plain financial policy, or is it a serious issue for families and churches? Does the level of marginal tax burden paid by wealthy people hinder and negatively affect the funds raised by churches and non-profit entities that could be used for Kingdom purposes? I believe Christians need to think through these things in a more sophisticated manner. Burdensome economic policy that hinders economic growth are more than just fiscally irresponsible; they are morally irresponsible. Our kids and grandkids inherit the obligations of a government that spends money like a drunken sailor. Our covenantal succession is hampered by the egregious death tax, which robs families of generational wealth through a 50% tax on funds that have already been taxed multiple times. The prices struggling families pay for routine goods and products are forced up when the government interferes with free trade, and strangles competition in the marketplace. Family time is threatened when a dad has to work extra hours because his after-tax income is lowered by increased FICA payroll taxes that he never signed up for to begin with.
Examples are aplenty, but I risk overstating my point. Essentially, a comprehensive view of political engagement will deal with judicial restraint, and it will embrace the sanctity of life, and it will insist on protection for the unborn, and it should be defined by a muscular national defense, but it also must consider the key economic issues of the day. The Presidential election of 2008 is a screaming example. The two candidates could not be more opposite one another in these fundamental social and foreign policy issues. One is an internationalist; the other a Buckley-ite conservative. One is an extreme pro-abortion advocate; the other possesses a lifetime pro-life voting record. One praises the efforts of Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer on the court; the other admires Thomas and Scalia. But along with all these issues, we must look to their differences in matters of the economy as well. One believes that capital gain taxes on productive investments need to be raised, because the rich should be soaked for the sake of “fairness”; the other wants to make President Bush’s tax cuts in this area permanent. One candidate wants to burden global economic trade and expansion; the other wants to lift current regulations that are already too tight. One wants to place authority over schools in the hands of bureaucrats and unions; the other wants to give parents choice and opportunities. The contrasts could go on and on and on, but I can best summarize my point as follows:
I know who I am voting for this November, but I also know why I am voting that way. And the reasons includes matters economic and fiscal every bit as much as it does the other categories Christians ought to care about. That is the Christian view of politics, and it is anything but “greedy.”