A Culture of Idolatry

by Stephen P. White

Here must be one of the strangest arguments ever offered against conservatism in general and the Ryan budget in particular. It comes courtesy of Michael Sean Winters who writes for the National Catholic Reporter:

The freedom Ryan touts is the freedom of the jungle. One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is its capacity to care for the least fortunate of its members. Ryan, and other Republicans, regularly decry such care as “a culture of dependency.” Of course, as believers, we understand that we are all well advised to bask in a culture of dependency — we depend on the grace of God and the munificence of His creation for all that is most dear to us: Our lives, our health, our relationships, our daily bread. It is very, very strange to me that in this most religiously observant of the Western, industrialized nations, dependency should become a swear word.

One is tempted to dismiss Winters’s ill-advised and vaguely Marxist (think religion and opiates) argument with the riposte that the since the Christian Gospel counsels poverty, we shouldn’t have any social safety net at all . . . you know, for the sake of the poor.

I, for one, find it deepens my reliance on God to loosen my dependence on lesser goods lest they become idols. Winters, I suspect, agrees, for in the very next paragraph he tightens the rhetorical noose, though not at all in the way he intended: “There is something a bit idolatrous, and also a bit foolish, about such trust in market solutions.” You were saying, Mr. Winters, about basking in a culture of dependency . . .

— Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and the coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society.

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