The Connection Between Moral Relativism and Poverty

The Connection Between Moral Relativism and Poverty

By Brannon S. Howse

America's origional Christian ethos has always taught that people are responsible for their actions and for their moral conduct, but these two pillars are now missing. As a result, much of America is succored by a welfare program out of control. Unwed mothers are rewarded monetarily for having more and more children out of wedlock, while couples who get married and have children are assessed a heavy tax simply for choosing to do the right thing. 

The immoral and irresponsible lifestyles of untold numbers of welfare recipients are funded by a government that does not hold individuals to reasonable standards of personal responsibility and decency. Misguided psychologists and other such “professionals” worsen the problem by “discovering” new disorders or disabilities to excuse every human failing. While many have genuine disabilities, some of these real problems end up being ignored or not taken seriously because psychobabble and a victim mindset are rampant. 

The result is that our nation is being destroyed from the inside. America needs to recommit itself to the heritage that made it great—a heritage based solidly on a Christian worldview, a strong faith in God, and a belief in His moral principles. This includes the standards of hard work, personal responsibility, right and wrong, good and evil, and true justice for all. 

It is scandalous that support of current welfare programs is positioned as the only way to show compassion for the poor. Today’s welfare programs are based not on compassion but on socialism and its constraining, motivation-numbing approach to economics. There are times when people need a little help to get back on their feet, but as one talk show host has said, “The safety net has turned into a hammock.” There is a difference between showing compassion and rewarding irresponsibility, immorality, and laziness.

Americans have spent billions of dollars on welfare programs that subsidize laziness and irresponsibility. For families, individuals, and children in need of assistance, the burden should not be placed upon the government but on families and the church. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution gives the central government the right to take money from one group of Americans and give it to another. Unfortunately, now that the federal government has “grown teats” and become the cow upon which millions are dependent for their daily sustenance, we face the monumental problem of how to wean millions from government milk and into a life of work, responsibility, productivity, and self-determination. 

In addition to the chronic problem of welfare-dependent people, we also must address the concern that some participants abuse the system. Human Events reported the particularly flagrant case of Linda Taylor, accused by Illinois authorities of fraudulently using aliases to receive welfare money. Known as the “Welfare Queen,” Ronald Reagan mentioned her frequently, along with other welfare-abuse stories. She bilked the welfare system for at least $150,000, tax-free, and some estimates place the amount at $1 million. She used 127 aliases in 14 states, passing variously as a heart surgeon, a witch doctor, and a widow of eight husbands. Her defense attorney argued that she could not be convicted because it would create an unmanageable situation—if the state tried to prosecute all the people that took welfare money to which they weren’t entitled, there would be nowhere to put them all.

There is no Biblical justification for providing financial assistance to lazy people. When individuals are forced to accept responsibility by facing the consequences of wrong actions and decisions, they learn not to be irresponsible and lazy.

Government intervention also creates a disincentive for those who should be helping solve the problems of legitimately needy people. As more and more people have looked to the government instead of local churches for crisis assistance, churches have reduced or redirected their benevolent funds and programs.

Jesus tells us that the poor will always be with us. The reason is that people’s sins often lead them into poverty. But it is important to understand that when the Bible speaks of “the poor” sometimes it is a reference to a person’s spiritual, not financial, condition. Even when the Bible means the financially poor, however, it does not have in mind the American definition of poor. A Biblical definition is someone who does not have clothing, food, or shelter. 

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, author of the book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass, has spent years as a psychiatrist treating the indigent in a slum hospital and a prison in England. Dr. Dalrymple believes we use the term “poor” to flippantly describe people that really are not poor in the sense that they have nothing and are on the verge of starvation. He explains the danger of our perspective on poverty: 

[quote] A specter is haunting the Western world: the underclass. This underclass is not poor, at least by the standards that have prevailed throughout the great majority of human history. It exists, to a varying degree, in all Western societies. Like every other social class, it has benefited enormously from the vast general increase in wealth of the past hundred years. In certain respects, indeed, it enjoys amenities and comforts that would have made a Roman emperor or an absolute monarch gasp. [end quote] 


So exactly why is the underclass in the condition they are? Dr. Dalrymple blames their worldview. Although his is not a Christian book, Dr. Dalrymple has come to this amazing conclusion through years of personal observation of the underclass. He explains:


[quote] I have, for example, interviewed some ten thousand people who have made an attempt (however feeble) at suicide, each of whom has told me of the lives of four or five other people around him. From this source alone, therefore, I have learned about the lives of some fifty thousand people: lives dominated, almost without exception, by violence, crime, and degradation….Moreover, having previously worked as a doctor in some of the poorest countries in Africa, as well as in very poor countries in the Pacific and Latin America…

….Patterns of behavior emerge, in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?

Economic determinism, of the vicious cycle-of-poverty variety, seems hardly to answer the case. Not only is the underclass not poor, but … If being poor really entailed a vicious cycle, man would still be living in the caves. [end quote] 


Note well why Dr. Dalrymple believes we have the underclass:

[quote] Welfare states have existed for substantial periods of time without the development of a modern underclass: an added ingredient is obviously necessary. This ingredient is to be found in the realm of ideas. Human behavior cannot be explained without reference to the meaning and intentions people give their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not. It is the ideas my patients have that fascinate—and, to be honest, appall—me: for they are the source of their misery. [end quote] 


The individuals, of course, bear much of the responsibility for their views, but they have been “helped” to assimilate this destructive approach to life. Dalrymple lays blame at the feet of liberal humanists and their if-it-feels-good-do-it worldview: “In fact, most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia.”

“Intelligentsia” is another word for the liberal, humanistic, elitist educrats and social engineers. The liberals’ morally relativistic worldview has been propagated among the underclass in many areas, but few are as obvious as the rampant sexual promiscuity. Recall what the Humanist Manifestos say about moral relativism, sex, and the pursuit of pleasure:


• Humanist Manifesto II: 

“We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational.”


“Ethics stems from human need and interest.”


“We strive for the good life, here and now.”


“…neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered ‘evil.’”


• Humanist Manifesto I: 

“….the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind.”


While “ivory tower” liberals tout their perverse expressions of freedom, the underclass reaps the tragic consequences as described by Dr. Dalrymple:

[quote] Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).…

The intellectuals were about as sincere as Marie Antoinette when she played the shepherdess. While their own sexual mores no doubt became more relaxed and liberal, they nonetheless continued to recognize inescapable obligations with regard to children, for example. Whatever they said, they didn’t want a complete breakdown of family relations any more than Marie Antoinette really wanted to earn her living by looking after sheep.

But their ideas were adopted both literally and wholesale in the lowest and most vulnerable social class. If anyone wants to see what sexual relations are like, freed of contractual and social obligations, let him look at the chaos of the personal lives of members of the underclass.

Here the whole gamut of human folly, wickedness, and misery may be perused at leisure—in conditions, be it remembered, of unprecedented prosperity. Here are abortions procured by abdominal kung fu; children who have children, in numbers unknown before the advent of chemical contraception and sex education; women abandoned by the father of their child a month before or a month after delivery; insensate jealousy, the reverse of the coin of general promiscuity, that results in the most hideous oppression and violence; serial stepfatherhood that leads to sexual and physical abuse of children on a mass scale; and every kind of loosening of the distinction between the sexually permissible and the impermissible. 

The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it.

The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism—a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals—has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects. [end quote]

Christians must reach out to the underclass and seek to change their hearts and worldview by showing them their sinfulness and the need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While not every poor person fits Dr. Dalrymple’s characterization, a large proportion are clearly reaping what they have sown. 

I know from first-hand experience that what Dr. Dalrymple writes is true. Weekly for five years while living in Minnesota, I volunteered at the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul. I spoke and led music for the nightly service before the free meal. Except for a very few mentally ill people that had been left homeless after the death of a care-giving parent, I met people that chose to be homeless. Almost all had a home, had parents, or a wife and some even children, but chose to live a life of drugs, alcohol, and irresponsibility. Many of the men at the mission that showed up for the service (attendance at which was required if they wanted the mission’s free meal) told me they choose to live as they do.  

The chaplain explained numerous times that many of the men could return to their families if they would simply take responsibility for their actions, clean themselves up, get a job, and stop abusing drugs and alcohol. He explained that he had met men who at one time had been judges, doctors, attorneys, or businessmen who had destroyed their lives through drugs and alcohol. The reality is that cleaning one self up through moralizing is not the solution. We read in Matthew 12:43-45 of a man that cleaned up his life and thus a demon left him only to later return with seven demons buddies. The man was in a worse state than before and thus proves that moralizing does not work. The solution is not man clearning up his own life but surrending His life in faith and repentance to Christ alone. 


Copyright 2006 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.