Social Darwinists argue, following Charles Darwin, for survival of the fittest in the competition for economic advance. They practice malign neglect. They are sometimes, in essence, their brother's killers.
Social Calvinists favor economic and spiritual challenge for all. Just as wise Calvinists preach the gospel to everyone, not knowing who in God's providence will respond, so Social Calvinists are our brother's helpers, patiently coming alongside those in need and giving each the opportunity to break out of poverty.
This year, as Congress reexamines welfare spending, we should accept neither liberal stinginess (continuation of Social Universalistic welfare that supposedly relieves us of the obligation to exercise personal compassion) nor conservative stinginess (substitution of a Social Darwinist system that is cheaper but even colder).
Instead, we should begin shutting down government's failed programs and begin expanding what would work far better: a system of charity and challenge that can activate individuals within religious and civic associations to work intensively with welfare recipients.
We need good data to know what to do. Over the past 25 years, as I've looked at anti-poverty programs and written four books on the subject, my best data resource has been The Heritage Foundation. Heritage folks, in turn, have complimented WORLD Magazine and me for bringing to this issue the biblical understanding that some at Heritage share. We agree on the importance of free enterprise and marriage.
During 2011 WORLD will expand its coverage of attempts to eliminate the negative in Washington and accentuate the positive in biblical poverty-fighting across the country. We'll do so with a grant from Heritage, which likes what we've done and wants to see more of it. WORLD, of course, retains complete editorial control.