In a scathing but fair critique of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, currently running for the Republican presidential nomination, Joseph Farah of WorldNet Daily makes an important point about how a view of government as a force for making positive good in the world is an open-ended prescription for power grabs, infernal meddling, and arrogant coercion, and is just plain wrong:
Mike Huckabee has many of the ingredients for a fine president. But I fear he is another one of these so-called "compassionate conservatives" who believes government can be a force for good in the world, not merely a restraint on evil.
The problem is, as Farah notes, government is not good at "helping people," only at providing redress when people harm one another. In addition to that eminently sensible secular argument against Big Government Christianity, Farah notes that Huckabee’s vision of government is not justified by the Bible or any coherent understanding of Christian theology:
[H]e’s not only practicing bad politics—he’s practicing bad theology. . . .
As Christians, [Huckabee and his friend Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life] are confusing the role we as individuals are assigned as followers of Jesus with the role of government.
Farah gets to the core of the matter as he explains the sleazy way that pro-government forces turn an individual responsibility into a license to rob one’s fellow citizens:
When Jesus tells us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, He is not suggesting we transfer that personal responsibility to government. He is not suggesting we transfer that responsibility to our neighbors. He is not suggesting, as the old saying goes, we rob Peter to pay Paul.
This is a personal, individual responsibility of the believer. It doesn’t count if you get someone else to do the job for you.
Farah points out that the Bible most certainly does not make a case for big government; quite the contrary:
Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest government should supplant the church’s responsibility to the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans. Government’s job is to restrain evil, not bestow compassion.
The interesting thing is that not only is big government—for allegedly Christian ends or any others—not Christian, it’s not sensible in secular terms, either. It’s a principle on which both believers and the unchurched should be able to agree wholeheartedly.
In fact, both these parties did agree on this point during the Reagan years. It is time we resurrected that agreement.