Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reason, Faith, or Both?

You know that feeling of being torn?  Its one of those moments where you believe two things to be true or valid, but you just aren't sure how they fit together.  Our world views are important, so its imperative to examine them and evolve them when necessary. 

I've been having one of those moments as it pertains to faith, reason, and politics.  Reason and observation tell me that Minnesota (my home state) spends 37% of its general budget on welfare services.  This is a higher percentage than any other state in the country.  Observing people abuse this, I've witnessed what was once a safety net be transformed into  a hammock.  Subsidized housing, energy, food, and even cash are now a permanent fixture in many people's budget. 

What about the wealthy?  Is it fair to tax a higher rate based on "ability to pay?"  What amount is fair?  Is it 50, 60, 70, or even 90 percent of ones income beyond a certain point?  This brings the question that if its not willfully done, is it stealing to take from one segment of a population to give to another?    

I've heard many people of faith, some of whom I respect say that these are good things.  At times I have wondered myself if supporting this was something a person of faith should desire.  Is a nanny welfare state in the interests of my faith?  Does the outcome matter if the spirit of giving and self sacrifice are present? 

Its probably no secret to you, but I enjoy the works of Ayn Rand.  Being an outspoken atheist, by reason alone, she arrived at the significance of liberty.  Her philosophy essentially said that if men have equal value, government should not punish one segment to reward another.  Man should rise and fall according to his ability.  He should not sacrifice himself for another who is of no greater or lesser value than himself. 

Now, that being said, there are limits to Rand's philosophy.  Rand encouraged charity, but I don't think that encouragement would be very effective with her world view.  Although she effectively addressed many of the economic and social problems of a welfare state, her philosophy doesn't truly inspire personal charity and the reward to be found in it. 

As I continued to think on it, it became apparent to me that both faith and reason have a part to play in this. 
"faith without reason (religious fanaticism) and reason without faith (secularism leading to materialism) are dangerous paths for humanity.". --Pope Benedict XVI
 Faith addresses problems that government never could.  A person going to their family, church, or community and asking for help cannot happen within the government.  Within government, programs are created and budgets are allocated.  Money alone cannot alter the mindset of a person, but charity can.

Rand is right to think that government cannot fulfill this function.  However, she underestimates the significance of faith.  Faith empowers people to give of themselves in a way that is both discerning (reason) and focuses on the needs of the individual. 

People of faith, have at times embraced the welfare state out of a sense of compassion.  However, compassion must be accompanied by reason.  A welfare state only grows because it does not have the power to transform people's lives.  Although it has the power to meet immediate needs, it has left our poor and needy unwilling to go to "people" for help.  Over time, this is debilitating to the individual. 

Although the heart matters, we cannot and should not ignore outcomes.  The results of our actions matter, and we should continually be learning from those things.  I say, let our hearts be filled with all the good things the Lord has bestowed upon us, but when we act, let our actions be reasonable.  Lets consider the outcome. 

If you have a different opinion, I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.  Thanks!


John said...

Great Blog!!
I like what you said about how "Faith addresses problems that government never could." Seeing how much you write and study I thought you might like a couple things I have found:

and - This is a blog I made in support of Michele Bachmann. If you like it please spread the word and let it be truly said that "Obama is a one term president!"

Josh said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I read a good portion of the article and there were definitely a number of fantastic points concerning the important roles people of faith have played throughout history.

Often people cite attrocities committed by people in the name of religion. These same skeptics then deliberately choose to ignore the acts of generosity, love, and kindness shown by countless people of faith.

Thanks for sharing the link and checking out the blog.

Terri W said...

I really liked your blog. I think you are absolutely right. The government is not a good substitute for the charity given in faith. Relying on the government to do our giving to others, falls far short in many ways. It can even seem to perpetuate more dependance rather than self reliance and self worth.