By and large, and for about four decades now, conservative Christians — though Evangelicals more than Catholics — have sided with the conservative critique of government and the neo-conservative defense of capitalism. They’ve asserted with convincing arguments and statistics the productive and liberating effect of the market and criticized the naïve recourse to government almost inevitably offered by groups like the National Council of Churches and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They’ve stressed the approval of the market given in St. John Paul II’s Centesimus annus (“the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs,” for example), though tending to neglect all the qualifications and limits the pope included in his analysis.
So there’s that. Yet if I read the signs aright, many politically conservative Christians, Catholics and Evangelicals both, are now shifting in their attitude to the state, to a new assertion not just of the limits and dangers of the market but of the need for a welfare and regulatory government. They haven’t become old-fashioned socialists or even social democrats. They still believe in a capitalist economy, but want to restrict, temper, and even direct it in a way much more “liberal” than their movement has allowed since the 1970s.
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