What is a conundrum? For the purposes of this post I’ll go with “a confusing or difficult problem or question”, according to Dictionary.com. It’s what happens when weighing two options, both of which have benefits and costs. The goal is to determine what will have the maximum benefit with the least amount of costs.
I have a some conundrums, both in politics and theology. The conundrums create tension, especially in light of competing views. Politics first. I’ve long since been a registered independent because my convictions concerning governance of the economy and society have never squarely fit into a partisan system. I’m a believer in the free market and understanding the significance of capitalism as the engine of the economic sustenance. Government intervention is needed as a regulator of the capitalists enterprise. Otherwise, greed would undermine the benefits of the capitalist system.
But on the other hand, government does have the responsibility to all of it’s citizens. Optimum government occurs when the economic engine has the maximum benefit for all society. Here is where I turn socially moderate and deem some social programs necessary for the sake of the whole. I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for the past two decades on behalf of low-income, disenfranchised and poorly skilled citizens. The superficial remedy of employment is tremendously challenging for some for a variety of reasons that are sourced in disabling conditions. Now that is more than just physical ability but socio-economic factors that are deeply rooted in cultural fabrics. Government intervention is needed to maximize what is beneficial for the whole of society.
I suppose you can call me a compassionate capitalist. So I have a conundrum both in my philosophy and it’s reception. How do we maximize capitalism for the benefit of the economy and care for the needs of all it’s citizens? Unfortunately, our society is partisan and polarized. One one hand, you have conservatives who support capitalism, small government, minimal social programs and strong rights of citizens. On the other end of the spectrum, you have liberals who support benefits for all citizens, government intervention and provision of social programs, which may impede on free rights
Sometimes it is difficult to express conundrums. If I speak of social programs and benefits for the poor that are government backed, the liberals smile while the conservatives balk and might even label me liberal. If I speak of government taking efforts to fuel the economic engine, such as tax cuts, the supporters of all the work I’ve been engaged in the past two decades look at me funny. Then you throw citizen rights into the picture, and its’a mixed bag for me there, too. So what to do?
Now looking at politics and public policy through Christian lens, creates more challenges. My conviction grows that Christians of all people should have a heightened sense of the Imago Dei, that mankind is created in the image of the one who loved the world so much He came to rescue us. When we see people, we should see who and what God cares about. We also should care about society as a whole, since it comprises the people God cares about. We should care about humanity and God’s creation.
I’ll save conservative vs. liberal for the next post. But I’ll confess now that I am somewhat dismayed on how we conflate conservative theology with conservative politics, so that support of small government and free rights actually produces a lack of care and concern for God’s creation. In fact, I am often appalled at the way issues of immigration, health care and poverty are often addressed amid conservative Christians. We should not sound like heartless bigots, but often we do. I don’t know why it is believed and practiced that free rights trump love that we are to show to our neighbor. And yes, the immigrant, the welfare mom, the struggling uninsured worker, and the homeless bum we walk past every day and are our neighbor to which Jesus provides a blanket prescription to be concerned about.
On the flip side of the equation, I do question how Christians can give wholesale endorsement to liberal policies and politics. Some things are just antithetical to a Christian worldview and ethics. I also think at some point we have to question the absurd spending spree we’ve seen in the last few years, which is extreme even by Keynesian standards. I surely get that society benefits when the least common denominator is raised, but at what expense? We have a future to think about.
It seems right and fitting that we Christians care about how our country is run, that we care about policies that are detrimental to Christian principles and that we care about how the government ensures for an optimal free market and support of constitutional rights. But it also seems right and fitting that we care about the people it impacts that goes beyond our right to whatever. In fact I think that can be somewhat hypocritical for extreme supporters of free rights. To think our right to free (whatever) is ok but someone else’s right to (whatever) is not. Another hypocrisy? Sanctity of life. That means caring as much about the human after he or she gets here than before they were born.
Like I said, conundrums. Am I right in thinking this ought to create a conundrum for the Christian?