Christians can vote for the right

I have only read part of the Bishops’ letter to their parishioners and what follows is not a critique of the document. Rather, I simply want to show how the right-wing might be loving, compassionate and Christian as it argues (and votes) against state provision of welfare.


Most right-wingers accept that we each have obligations to our fellow man, but the right differs from the left on how to discharge them. (I wrote at some length on this here.) Christianity adds a dimension to the left-right discussion, but does not fundamentally alter or trump it.

The right-wing says that, at least without heavy qualification, compassion is not a sufficient or necessary guide to discharging our obligations to one another. It may not even be a good expression of the love which religion (and some some socialism) enjoins upon us but which a secular right-winger might not believe one should be expected to want to feel.

Religious or not, right-wingers say that everyone needs to be as strong as possible. The right-wing says that the wrong compassion –  in a word, love which is not tough – can weaken people. That can lead to great suffering for the individual and for society.

I am no expert, but I can imagine Christ not condemning tough love out of hand, or even supporting it. (Though his remarks almost always seem challengingly gnomic and open rather than comfortingly prescriptive and narrow.)

But even if one feels that one is requred to love one’s fellows, and even if – separately – one thinks that love leads to welfare, and even if the resulting welfare targets the right people in the right way (say in a well-applied social safety net), the right-winger will incline to argue that society should avoid providing it through the state

That is not to say that the state should have no role, but rather that the state should do as little as possible. For example, it might usefully mandate for welfare rather than provide it. The state could variously mandate taxation to provide some funding for welfare; and provide a last-resort guarantee of provision; and regulate the quality of provision, and do any of these whilst avoiding the role of provider.

For a Christian, who is required to love his fellow man in a more demanding way than is usual in the secular worldview, the right-wing message is just as relevant.

For sure there is nothing in Christ’s doctrine which requires that the state be the mechanism through which the Christian delivers his love to his fellow.

Indeed, if  a Christian believes that state welfare has done or does or will do more harm than some other sort of welfare, then he might well work against socialism, and do so as part of his apostolic mission.

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Publication date

23 February 2015