23 February 2008

Prayer and the Servile State

John Zmirak offers further reasons to reject the nanny state:
I have my own theory about why Western Europe has slid so completely into secularism: Among other factors, the very government programs which Christians supported in the name of “security” and “social justice” helped remove one of the most important props of religious practice: A healthy fear of want. In the absence of a really generous welfare state, the economic insecurity which most of us experience at various points in our lives encourages any number of virtues: thrift, prudence, planning, and even prayer. I know that I never prayed so much or so often in my life as when I (and all my colleagues) were expelled from a magazine in an editorial coup… the day after I’d rented a pricey Manhattan apartment. As I watched my savings dwindle, and mailed off resumes, and paced the floor among my still unopened boxes, I felt my pride and sense of self-sufficiency drain away—and followed my feet to the nearest church, nearly every day. There’s nothing quite so primal, my friends, than kneeling down at an abandoned Slovak parish to pray for money. Not for career guidance, or inspiration, or even forgiveness—for money to buy the next package of Ramen noodles. It focuses the mind, and reminds you of your absolute dependence on a Higher Power, I can tell you.

I remember thinking at the time: “If I could just go down to a government office, haggle with a bureaucrat, collect a stipend to which I felt somehow entitled, would I be praying now? Or sulking at the scantiness of my (all-provident) government’s check? The heading over to join some leftist street demonstration....” Indeed, I really think that the presence of a nanny state reduces the psychological need for a Father God. Which is why you can pretty much trace the decline of the birth rate and church attendance to the rise of what Belloc called the “Servile State.” Enacting the programs of Christian Democracy helped produce today’s Pagan Bureaucracy. Be careful what you ask for.

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