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Your Views: Christians should embrace mercy, not dog-eat-dog political policies
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I think the current political debate goes beyond liberal and conservative. We seem to have fundamental differences regarding the role of government and the role of religion in America.

Regarding the role of government, I see it as primarily the way society defends itself against foreign and domestic threats. In that regard, the domestic threat I fear most right now is unregulated, extreme capitalism and its "dog eat dog," "survival of the fittest," "every man for himself" economic philosophy.

"Personal responsibility" is the new political catchphrase for conservatives, often implying that most of those who currently struggle within our society have somehow acted irresponsibly. It often implies a very Darwinian idea in which only the strong should survive.

What surprises me most is that so many evangelical Christians who oppose Darwinism and naturalism in every other area support it so strongly when it comes to economics. Personal responsibility and personal effort can never get one to heaven, that requires grace and mercy. But when it comes to surviving on earth, the appeal for a little grace and mercy equates to "entitlements," "laziness" and "socialism."

What's even more ironic is you find just as much if not more support for socialism in the Bible than capitalism. Twentieth century American history seems to suggest that a mixture of both is the best way to maintain a strong middle class and a strong America.

Many conservatives seem to want to place the responsibility for taking care of the poor, elderly and otherwise disadvantaged on faith-based groups and churches. That's a wonderful idea but no more realistic than private armies taking full responsibility for our national security. All of society, via government, must protect all its members, weak and strong, against all that threatens the well-being of all its members.

Obviously, some will find ways to abuse the system. The most powerful will abuse it far more than the poor will. Still, we should not slander, weaken or demonize the only means society has to protect itself from external as well as internal forces, strong government.

Regarding the role of Christianity, I personally find healthy versions of it invaluable and worth giving oneself completely to. Regarding Christianity in America, at times it seems that America may have affected Christianity more than Christianity affected America, depending on where you look.

Much of evangelical Christianity certainly has the stamp of "rugged American individualism" and American capitalism all over it. Look at some of the large mega-churches or the deeply embedded consumerism implied by the often heard phrase "I didn't get anything out of church today" as though Christianity were about getting rather than giving.

Alan Shope
Gainesville

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