The 24-hour news cycle has been extended a bit for the latest “controversy” to emerge from this year’s presidential race.
I am referring, of course, to the quickly becoming infamous secret video of GOP nominee Mitt Romney delivering a speech to a room of prospective donors. In it, the former Massachusetts governor claims that half of Americans expect government to take care of them.It is a line that plays well with Republicans and many pundits are speculating this morning that Romney was just saying what his audience wanted to hear, a frequent criticism of his speaking style.
But let’s assume he was serious. After all, Romney called a press conference last night to reiterate that he was serious about the gist of his message that day.
So how does that message mesh with religious principles? Romney, of course, is a Mormon and a Christian. In the video, he states that the low-income feel they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Fact is, the Catholic Church and many forms of Christianity believe those things are human rights. In fact, the Catholic Church has campaigned vigorously against House Rep. Paul Ryan’s much-talked-about budget.
In a series of letters to Congressional leaders, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urged lawmakers not to cut spending on food stamps, housing assistance, and tax credits for low-income families.
As reported by the New York Times, in their letters, the bishops noted that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.” Borrowing a phrase regularly used by President Obama, the bishops said that justice “requires shared sacrifice by all.”
Ryan has said his Catholic faith informed his budget decisions. So what does the Mormon faith say about government programs for the poor?
Interestingly, on this issue, Romney can accurately cite his faith. One poll shows a strong majority of LDS Church members oppose government programs designed to help the poor.
Their basic argument is that while God, through His prophets, has commanded us to perform charitable works and care for the poor, this commandment is for individual, voluntary charity. Government programs rely on taxation, which is force, and therefore evil and part of Satan’s plan.
In a separate New York Times article, Philip Barlow, the Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said Mormons are not heartless.
“One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice. It’s ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices.”
What do you think about social justice? A concern for churches, but not government leaders? Or both?