For decades, cultural conservatives (motivated in large part by Judeo-Christian values) have claimed that there is a relationship between the way we choose to live and our economic fortunes. While the Left saw easy divorce, sexual liberation, and single-parenting as freedoms to be won, Christians and their conservative counterparts have warned that these ‘liberties’ were in fact traps that destroyed lives and opportunities. Choosing to divorce one’s spouse (or never marry the parent of one’s children) didn’t free us, but enslaved us and our children to a certain mode of living.
In a recent article in the NYTs details how social academics are finally acknowledging the role culture plays in producing or preventing poverty. From the article:
Moynihan’s analysis never lost its appeal to conservative thinkers, whose arguments ultimately succeeded when President Bill Clinton signed a bill in 1996 “ending welfare as we know it.” But in the overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word “culture” became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was shunned.
Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed.
“We’ve finally reached the stage where people aren’t afraid of being politically incorrect,” said Douglas S. Massey, a sociologist at Princeton who has argued that Moynihan was unfairly maligned.
The old debate has shaped the new. Last month Princeton and the Brookings Institution released a collection of papers on unmarried parents, a subject, it noted, that became off-limits after the Moynihan report. At the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, attendees discussed the resurgence of scholarship on culture. And in Washington last spring, social scientists participated in a Congressional briefing on culture and poverty linked to a special issue of The Annals, the journal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
“Culture is back on the poverty research agenda,” the introduction declares, acknowledging that it should never have been removed.
This sort of analysis is only too obvious to those who have even a modicum of understanding of Scriptural descriptions of how we fail or prosper in our lives. The apostle Paul made it plain two millennia ago when he wrote that we, “reap what we sow”, that is, when we make choices with our lives that contradict God’s plain commands, we suffer dire consequences – poverty being one of them. Science, as it often does, has wondered away from this knowledge and led public policy astray for decades now, causing thousands to suffer and untold billions to be spent on useless poverty programs that effect no change.
It’s good to see that science in this area may be finally coming back into alignment with what Scripture said all along.