The basic argument is that, as the size of government increases, regular attendance of religious services decreases. It isn’t difficult to see why:
By contrast, the more the state steps in to reduce the economic and social insecurity of its citizens, the less likely fair-weather believers are to darken the door of a church on Sunday. Now, to paraphrase Charles Krauthammer, Obama hopes to expand the size of the welfare state by offering cradle-to-grave health care and cradle-to-cubicle education to Americans. If he gets his way, Americans will not have to trust in God, or their fellow congregants, to support an ailing parent, or to help them figure out how to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. Instead, they can put their faith in Uncle Sam.
Now, as Christians, we need to get straight why this is bad news. This isn’t bad news because we’ll have less tithing people in the pews. God provides for the needs of his people, and he does so no matter the size and scope of government. Rather this is bad news because:
1. It will result in a cleavage between generations. Accustomed to relying upon a welfare-state to meet their needs, younger generations will not feel compelled to take care of aging parents or other members of their household. Paul regards such negligence to be apostasy (1 Timothy 5:8). The State cannot produce the same bond between generations that makes mutual care possible.
2. Euthanasia and other end-of-life issues will become more salient. As the tax burden shifts to a smaller workforce (due to low birth rates), there will be greater pressure to “cut costs.” One of the solutions will be to encourage elderly individuals to “do the right thing.” I would not be surprised to discover that at some point euthanasia becomes less about an individual or family’s choice and more about the government’s need.
3. Basic principles of personal responsibility will continue to erode. If the government will take care of me from the cradle to the grave, why bother taking care of myself?
Ultimately, the promise of the religion of the State is a huge lie. The government is a lousy god. The government can be no better than the people in it, and, when they are an idolatrous people, turning from the living God to worship and serve creatures, the government can only reflect that idolatry. Promises will be broken, lives will be destroyed, and image-bearers will be defaced.
As we discern what’s going on and prepare ourselves to live as Christians in such a world, we must do so with the rock-ribbed, grateful confidence of those who take refuge in the God of Jacob. Like Paul, we may be called upon to learn the secret of facing hunger and need (Philippians 4:12). And if we do, we will face it the same way he did: rejoicing, giving thanks in all circumstances, and doing all things through him who is our Strength.