Obsolete U.S. Dept. of Agriculture food coupons in the five dollar denomination circa 1995. The government has since phased out food coupons and has instituted an EBT system similar to bank debit cards. Congress is completing a farm bill worth $100 billion a year which while continuing subsidies to farmers would make cuts to food stamps. (© Richard B. Levine) (Newscom TagID: lrphotos081553.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Our Father, Who Art in Washington

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2 mins read

Handouts be thy name:

Researchers call it an exchange model of religion: If people can get what they need from the government (be it health care, education or welfare) they’re less likely to turn to a divine power for help, according to the theory.
But are people actually more likely to drop religion in places where governments provide more services and stability? In a new paper, psychology researchers crunched the numbers — and found that better government services were in fact linked to lower levels of strong religious beliefs.
Those findings held true in states across the U.S. and in countries around the world, researchers said…

Even given that one is more likely to be correct in accepting the opposite of such scientific studies*, this one has a little scriptural support: James 2:5 tells us that the poor of this world have been chosen to be rich in faith. When a man must rely on God for his daily bread, he learns to walk by faith. When he relies on government handouts, he walks by politics.
The exchange model is not so much a commentary on religion as it is on people. And one need only compare the size of the crowds that Jesus fed versus the size of the crowd at Pentecost to realize that too many of us are Christians not because Christianity is true, but because we find it useful. We follow Jesus not because he’s Lord; we let Him be Lord in exchange for blessings, blessings that could just as well come from Washington, or Berlin, or London.
And there is a real downside to the exchange model’s effects, for it is not simply daily bread that comes from religion, and especially Christianity. It is also a sense of direction, of morality, and even of importance, both collectively and as individuals. Don’t believe for a moment that the people who work so hard to replace God’s blessings with Uncle Sam’s don’t know that Uncle Sam’s rules for living will quickly thereafter replace God’s.

exchange model
Not inspired by the transcendence of federal regulations

But it’s a trap. Western Europe traded its Christianity for a social safety net in the last century. In this one, they gave up replacing themselves with children and are purposely importing their replacements from elsewhere. The Christianity that inspired their great cathedrals, their finest artwork, even (perhaps ironically) the social reforms that gave rise to the welfare state, is gone. They have given up any reason to resist the resurgent Islam that their manlier and more foresighted ancestors drove from the gates of Vienna back to Arabia. They have chosen death. If they were all that remained of the West, then the West has fallen, perhaps never to rise again.
Christianity is the essence of the West**. But it must be a real Christianity, founded on the person and work of Jesus Christ, not on the material benefits that flow from his blessings. For if we follow Jesus merely to get stuff, if we are Christians only because it works for us, then there really is no argument against shifting our allegiance to Washington if that works better. Other than that it is a spiritual, and eventually physical suicide for us, for our families, and for our nation.
* Vox discusses the “reproducibility crisis” here.
** Once called, unsurprisingly, Christendom.

El Borak is an historian by training, an IT Director by vocation, and a writer when the mood strikes him. He lives in rural Kansas with his wife of thirty years, where he works to fix the little things.

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