During this Advent season we have, naturally, been talking about Christmas in my church. The theme is that “it isn’t your birthday”. That the Holy Spirit calls us to service for our fellow man. That giving of ourselves to each other – time, love, work and treasure – is the true calling of Christians.
For the record, I couldn’t agree more.
It gets complicated, however. Giving people money, more often than not, results in more harm that good. For example…
THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.
“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”
This is an extreme example but it is an example of an extremely common outcome. The law of unintended consequences is a demon that always follows closely on the heels of charity.
The welfare state in America is the father of millions of hopeless children trapped in soul crushing poverty. Government welfare programs have undermined the role of fathers in society, displaced faith based organizations, condemned children to feral conditions immersed in ignorance, caused hopelessness that leads to substance abuse and set poverty permanently in the fabric of the American people.
The social rot caused by the welfare state wherever it is pervasive is manifest but it is most damaging in the manner in which, in some quarters, it has been nearly fatal to the family. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote this….
There is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder – most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure – that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.
This is the most insidious aspect of an unconstrained welfare state. It relegates men to a status of redundant and unnecessary. Generation after generation are born and bred in a culture that has been ripped out by the roots and replaced with something poisonous to human development. This subversion of the social role of men represents the end of family, the end of social structure, the end of domestic tranquility and the end of God in our communities.
The road on which we traveled to this fresh hell was paved, as always, with good intentions. It was paved with a desire to help the poor, to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. Christ’s call on us to be of service to our brothers and sisters was not intended to undermine the social structure, undermine the culture and crowd faith from our lives.
So yes, serve your fellow man. Give of yourself and your time and treasure. But be mindful that misdirected money can do, and often does, more harm than good.