Religion Freedom and Responsibility

The fat prophet said “All arguments are theological arguments.” The fat prophet, of course, being G.K. Chesterton. So it is with the present political debate in the United States. The country seems divided between those who pay taxes and those who receive benefits–those who take responsibility for themselves and those who cannot or will not.

It is easy to blame those who are on benefits for being lazy, irresponsible and ‘entitled’. It is easy for those who are working and paying taxes to become self righteous and blame the benefit collecting poor. But beneath the politics and economics–beneath the class warfare and mutual resentment there is always a belief system at work. Consciously or unconsciously people believe certain things about themselves, about society, about God and about their ultimate destiny, and these beliefs affect their decisions and actions. Consequently, religion may have more to do with politics and economics than you first thought. Read More.

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  • zillionaire

    Father, there is a problem of two nations, but it is not “those who earn” and “those who feel entitled,” but those who accept responsibility for themselves and those who accept responsibility for others.

    Jesus does not distinguish between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Further, “income redistribution” may violate conservative principles, but it does not violate Catholic teaching.

    Jesus said that, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise,” and Thomas Aquinas said that “All men have a right to maintain the necessities of their own existence – and this includes saving a little something for the future – to hoard any wealth beyond this, is to commit the sin of theft. It is always a sin and, when the injured party is a poor man, it is always mortal.” This is strong stuff; nothing conditional about it.

    Hopefully, you agree that personal responsibility requires responsibility for ourselves and others, and that personal responsibility does not mean responsibility for ourselves, to the exclusion of others.

  • Fr Levi

    I was liking this article right up to the point near the end where you started talking about fat-cats and back room boys who have no problem destroying the economies of nations for their own personal gain. Then I liked it even more. Well said, Father.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Indeed. I will add a paragraph to this effect.

  • FWKen

    In reality, things have never been as stark in this country as political rhetoric and sound-bites would indicate. We’ve had public hospitals and various other services pretty much as long as we’ve had communities organized enough to provide them.

    As it happens, I spent years working in state institutions and community services and have a brother with mental retardation and mental illness, and now, Parkinson’s. He lived at home for years and held a laboring job, but that’s no longer possible, so he is cared for primarily through a Medicaid program that, partly, replaced institutional care. America had never been the kind of place that worried excessively about caring for the needy and it’s historical revision to say we were.

  • AnneG

    There is a place where it says,”he who will not work, let him not eat.” as well.
    A case can be made that person A and person B are concerned about person X, so they take goods by force of government from person C. This is stealing. None of these actions let anyone off from their responsibilities before God, they are just limitations and instructions.