About the “Progressives Care More about the Poor” Myth

You hear it all the time: Progressives care about the poor and conservatives don’t.  Conservatives are rank capitalists who care only for money and what they can spend on their own families.  They oppose abortion but care nothing for children after they are born.  They oppose social programs because they don’t want to pay higher taxes.  Conservatives would just as soon see people dying in the streets. 

Well, it’s not exactly true.  On an anecdotal level and as a man who pastored churches whose members were largely conservative and evangelical, and who has worked with people of other churches, I can tell you that evangelicals and conservatives are out there running food pantries and soup kitchens and giving money towards a myriad of social service organizations both Christian and non.  And yes, they also support crisis pregnancy centers, which by the way, do not only “talk poor women into having their babies” but provide diapers, formula, counseling, and mentoring.  And the largest non-Catholic and evangelical denomination in the US, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a massive Disaster Relief ministry that partners with the Red Cross providing thousands of meals through numerous RV’s including men armed with chain saws clearing roads and properties.  On the whole as evangelical churches (and I should add Catholic as well as they are pro-life and pro-family) are more numerous than mainline Protestant churches…well, I think you can arrive at the conclusion on your own.  And just to show progressive hypocrisy on this issue, the Obama administration in 2011 denied a grant previously granted for a program of the Catholic Church helping victims of sex-trafficking simply because the Church refused to refer those women for abortions.  In other words, progressives are happy to have conservatives help the poor as long as such help is rendered according to their political and ideological demands.

But moving to a more “scientific” approach, a book written by Arthur Brooks in 2007 (Ph.D. in public policy and recently professor at Harvard Business School) entitled, Who Really Cares, explodes the myth completely.  He studied four groups: non-religious liberals and conservatives and religious liberals and conservatives.  He discovered that non-religious conservatives were the stingiest and non-religious liberals second stingiest—meaning that religion is the strongest indicator of charitable givers.  But what did he discover after that?  Which group was most generous?  Not religious liberals but conservatives!  And why is this?  Because liberals/progressives tend to think that it is the task of government to take care of the poor whereas religious conservatives think that it is their own task to do so.  And therein lies the difference between the two groups when it comes to treating the poor.

And is this not where we hear the most guff from progressives?  “Why don’t you care about increasing welfare programs, Head Start, food stamps?” and on it goes.  Well, because religious conservatives (evangelicals, anyway) want to put their money in places where the service will be given in Jesus’ name and not Uncle Sam’s—and there is a difference.  We also believe in being discerning.  The fact is that not everyone who says they need help needs help and it is precisely here that governments do such a poor job.  In short, there is no accountability, too much waste, and downright fraud.  Finally, a person who receives a welfare check from a vast bureaucratic machine has no one to thank; religious people provide faces who treat people with respect.

I might finally add that since religious conservatives both give voluntarily to helping organizations AND pay taxes, we pay double.

So, the next time someone tells you that progressives care more about the poor than conservatives, please don’t believe it.  Myths die hard, but this myth is a lie from the pit.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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