Former first lady Michelle Obama spoke at a women’s leadership conference where she compared her husband’s presidency to “the good parent.” It “was like having the ‘good parent’ at home,” the former first lady said. “The responsible parent, the one who told you to eat your carrots and go to bed on time.”
Hillary Clinton said that it “took a village” to raise children. In each case, for Leftists like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, government is the village and the all wise and caring parent. It’s sad to think that millions of Americans believe that government should be our surrogate parent. They need (want) someone powerful to take care of them so they vote against their long-term interests. They are willing slaves to their illegitimate master (Ex. 21:1-6).
Without a proper understanding of the State’s purpose and function the citizenry can be trapped into believing that the State ought to promote policies beyond its legitimate role and authority. This can lead to the people turning to the State for protection and security. Even after Samuel told the people that their choice of a king would mean oppression (1 Sam. 8: 11-18), they “refused to listen to the voice of Samuel” (v. 19).
Of course, there are modern-day examples of 1 Samuel 8. Adolf Hitler studied the policies of Otto Von Bismarck, Germany’s “Iron Chancellor,” because Bismarck understood the German state of mind — the need for security no matter what the cost to personal freedom and responsibility. William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and an eyewitness to Hitler’s rise to power, offers the following astute but chilling summary of Bismarck’s policies and their impact on the German people:
To combat socialism Bismarck put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.1
Bismarck’s policies became Hitler’s model for developing a socialist utopia (Nazism = National Socialism). Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf: “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.2, 155. Quoted in Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 96n.)) Hitler turned Germany into a Paternalistic State. With more and more power given to the State, Hitler promised a better world. It seems that the majority of people were willing to give up a number of personal freedoms, so the State could be more effective in taking care of them. The Benefactor State is often seen as a high ideal in politics. Herbert Schlossberg, in his highly acclaimed book Idols for Destruction, describes the religious nature of viewing civil leaders as parents rather than judges who are to dispense justice and not favors.
Rulers have ever been tempted to play the role of father to their people…. The state that acts like a wise parent instead of a vindictive judge has been an attractive image to many people. They include ecclesiastical authorities who have completely missed the point of the gospel warning to “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). The father is the symbol not only of authority but also of provision. “Our Father who art in heaven…. Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:9, 11). Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act [an act of worship]; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder has rightly interpreted that scene: “The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.”
The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business” [God in the Dock, p. 134]. The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever. That is an evil impulse. The good parent prepares his children for independence, trains them to make responsible decisions, knows that he harms them by not helping them to break loose. The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically to destruction.
When the provision of paternal security replaces the provision of justice as the function of the state, the state stops providing justice. The ersatz [artificial and inferior substitute] parent ceases executing judgment against those who violate the law, and the nation begins losing benefits of justice. Those who are concerned about the chaos into which the criminal justice system has fallen should consider what the state’s function has become. Because the state can only be a bad imitation of a father, as a dancing bear act is of a ballerina, the protection of this Leviathan of a father turns out to be a bear hug.3
The State’s job is to implement justice in terms of biblical law; its job is not to equalize the disparities between rich and poor, the goal of many advocates of “social justice.” If a businessman is cheating a customer by lying about his product and tampering with its weight or fineness, the State has jurisdiction to act:
- “You shall have just balances, just weights, a just epha [bushel], and a just hin [gallon]: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:36).
- “A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Prov. 16:11).
These laws refer to commercial justice. There is no ambiguity in these types of laws…
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