Americans are a generous people ready to lend a hand to those in need. When God blesses us with prosperity, we naturally want to practice acts of charity to help the less fortunate.
However, this charitable spirit is now threatened. There are those who hate this charity and desire to destroy the structures from which these material blessings flow. Indeed, we may face the coming hell of an America without charity.
One might ask what kind of heartless person could be against helping the poor. How could such people exert enough power in America to extinguish the light of charity?
“I Don’t Believe in Charities”
The answer comes from an anecdote of a popular political figure who spoke at a United Way charity benefit dinner many years ago.
“I don’t believe in charities,” he said gruffly, adding that he did not “believe in the fundamental concepts on which charities are based and contend[s] that government, rather than charity organizations, should take over responsibility for charity programs.”
The outspoken figure was then-Mayor Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist. The comment was quoted in a 1981 New York Times article that recently resurfaced. As the ranks of socialist politicians are increasing, ideas like this one now blanket the nation and are gaining some traction.
Some might object that it seems exaggerated to link the comment of Bernie Sanders to the demise of charity in America. The Vermont senator is known for his outspokenness that may not always reflect socialist thought.
However, socialists do not “believe in the fundamental concepts on which charities are based.” By their toxic ideology, they are the natural enemies of private charity, and above all Christian charity. Thus, we do well to fear the terrible specter of a socialist America without charity.
No Such Thing as Socialist Charity
Indeed, socialist charity is an oxymoron. Most socialists hold that charity is a capitalist structure used to keep the poor downtrodden. Socialist literature is hostile to charity. Ironically, the greater the charity, the greater is the hostility since they do not want charity to solve social problems. They want the government to take control.
“Seize the charities!” writes Patrick Stall on the radical Jacobin web site. “Private charity will never cure capitalism’s ills.”
There are three reasons why socialists hate charity.
A Toxic Egalitarian Ideology
First, socialists hate charity because their egalitarian ideology demands economic equality above all things. To them, all inequality is unjust. Charity will always participate in this injustice since there can be no charity when everyone is equal.
When someone aids another, it presupposes that one person has more than another. Worse yet, this person has excessive wealth that might be given without harming his or her fortune. Thus, superfluous wealth, inherited wealth, and accumulated wealth are hateful because they represent an unjust system of excess that exploits the worker and facilitates inequality … and charity.
This is why socialists seek state ownership or regulation of the means of production. It is better to refuse the goodwill of the rich than perpetuate this system. It is better to overtax the rich and allow the government to redistribute these “ill-gotten” funds than to allow the rich to give them freely.
The Humiliation of Receiving
Socialists also hate charity because it creates receivers of aid. Socialists hate the idea of contingency. They cannot bear the idea of people accepting gifts from others because they believe the needy are always victims of injustice. The poor can never be the victims of misfortunes, disasters, or their vices. Thus, socialists believe charity humiliates the poor who are forced to ask for what is rightfully theirs. Private charity perpetuates the structures of poverty. The poor must demand the fruits of another’s success as a right not as a gift.
Moreover, the nature of charity creates another injustice in that it distributes wealth to the poor unequally. Those who receive support must “humiliate” themselves by asking for aid conditioned by the decision of the givers who give as they will. Rather than favor a system in which the needy are dependent on the wealthy, even if the benefits the poor receive from the rich are better, socialists prefer to construct huge government programs to distribute equally scarce tax dollars.
Socialists Hate Social Harmony
Finally, socialists hate the idea of charity because it undermines their concept of history as class struggle. The socialists do not want the harmony of the social classes but want to pit one class against another as a means of bringing about major social change. Their system presupposes and desires class strife.
To do this, they must break any links between the social classes, especially those of charity. Normally, the rich and poor live separate lives with little contact between them. Charity manages to unite rich with poor by creating bonds of affection. The rich extend compassion to the poor whom they seek to help. The poor on their part respond with gratitude to those who help them. These rich personal relationships have historically united the social classes that would otherwise be divided.
Socialists hate these mutual relationships and prefer the cold machinery of the state. Consistent with their class struggle philosophies, socialists desire to create disharmony. By using the power of the state to distribute wealth, socialism destroys the bonds of charity and replaces them with resentment. The rich resent being overtaxed and forced to help the poor. The poor see government assistance as entitlements and thus have no gratitude. This attitude breeds resentment when there are not enough benefits—as often happens.
This resentment on both sides facilitates the class struggle that will bring about further socialist change.
An Incapacity to Understand Charity
All these are natural reasons why socialists hate charity; they are based on a misguided and distorted vision of the world.
However, the greatest obstacle to the socialist acceptance of the concept of charity is much more spiritual and theological. From their limited materialist perspective, socialists cannot understand true charity. They cannot grasp the enormous scope and efficacy of Christian charity. They only believe in power and self-interest; they cannot admit an order in which people might freely help one another for a higher cause. Socialists do not think of helping their neighbors since they do not recognize others as neighbors but only equal comrades. They erroneously think that only cold, brutal state systems can ensure the proper distribution of wealth—although they usually distribute corruption and misery as well.
The True Nature of Charity
The Church teaches that charity is that habit that disposes us to love God above all things and love our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God. Thus, we who gratuitously receive blessings from God become capable of gratuitously giving to others without expecting anything in return. By grace, we overcome our selfishness and our repugnance of suffering to help others. We become capable of deeds that are beyond our fallen human nature. This action multiplies our capacity for giving, and in doing so it allows us to achieve things that are admirable, heroic, and sublime. This explains the incredible accomplishments of the saints and heroes who performed marvelous deeds and transformed society.
This spirit of charity gave rise to Christian civilization. Ancient pagan culture nor even today’s neo-pagan culture has been or is able to practice charity to the high degree achieved by the Church. This is due to the limitations of defective first principles that do not recognize our human dignity as endowed with an immortal soul.
There is no greater social unity than that produced by Christian charity which perfects the practice of justice and allows us to put the greater good over the lesser. It serves to quell the desire for personal gain and disordered passions. The practice of Christian charity creates a true union of heart and mind as all is directed toward the love of God, the source of all Good. Thus, we see our neighbors as brothers and sisters in Christ and not as faceless wards of the State.
A Hell on Earth
The socialist worldview could not be more contrary. Socialists deny any contingency on God and his Providence and embrace the state completely. A socialist society is a materialistic society without a higher purpose or meaning. Since the structure of society determines individual conduct, there can be no moral responsibility for one’s acts—including infanticide. Since the primary injustice is inequality, society is doomed to an eternal class struggle against the natural accumulation of property. Such an immoral society built on resentment is a hell on earth—and this happens whenever socialism is fully implemented.
Thus, the rise of socialism in America today represents a grave danger to the America we know and love. The rhetoric of socialist politicians must not deceive us. Wherever socialism rules, charity is suppressed. Should socialism triumph in America, we will then see the establishment of a cruel and savage hell without charity.
As seen on Crisis Magazine.