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Believers in an Active God Don't Believe in a Social Safety Net


A recent survey conducted by Gallup for Baylor University finds very strong correlations between belief in an active God which has a plan for individuals with believing hat people shouldn't collect on unemployment insurance. It's not hard to understand why such a correlation would exist.


Theological & Political Beliefs

If you believe that God has a plan for you and for the nation as a whole, then it's only natural that you'll believe God is in control of your destiny and the destiny of the nation. If you believe that God has a plan, then there's no need for the government to intervene in the economy.

This would include paying unemployment insurance to people who have lost their jobs. Even though they may have been paying into unemployment insurance for decades, it must be God's intentions that they be unemployed right now. If another job comes along that they are physically capable of doing, then it must be God's will that they take this job. Continuing to get the unemployment insurance which they paid into only enables them to ignore what God wants of them.

Debates about economic inequality in America and whether government should provide a safety net may therefore also (for some people) be debates about the nature of God. We simply aren't hearing enough about people's theological assumptions about what God does or does not want. Maybe it's because people take those theological premises so much for granted that they don't think about them consciously or perhaps they realize that arguments sound better when their theological foundations aren't made too explicit.


Does God Have a Plan For You?

The data for this survey was gathered for Baylor University by Gallup in surveys conducted in 2010 and they have a margin of +/- 4%.

When asked how they felt about the statement "God Has a Plan for Me," people responded:

  • Strongly Agree: 40.9%
  • Agree: 32.2%
  • Disagree: 12.3%
  • Strongly Disagree: 14.6%

It's clear that the belief that God has a plan is incredibly popular. Nearly three-quarters of all Americans agree or strongly agree with this — even more than the numbers who believe that God controls everything. It indicates that one doesn't just believe that God is "active," but is active on a very personal level and concerns itself with even the minutia of life.

If a god has a plan for humans then it has to be active; if it has a plan for all humans then it has to be very active in the personal lives of all of humanity. One of the consequences of this belief is that whatever a person is experiencing must be what God wants. Since God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then whatever a person is experiencing must also be reasonably fair and just.


Belief in an Active God vs. Belief in a Social Safety Net

Those who strongly agree with the statement "Able-bodied People Who Are Out Of Work Shouldn't Receive Unemployment Checks" are much more common among those who agree or strongly agree that "God has a plan for me":

  • Strongly Agree (God has a plan for me): 43.9%
  • Agree: 26.1%
  • Disagree: 24.3%
  • Strongly Disagree: 24.3%

So nearly half of those who strongly agree that "God has a plan for me" also strongly agree that people shouldn't be getting paid on their unemployment insurance if they are physically capable of doing another job that's available. It's important to pay attention to the extreme differences in numbers — the correlation among those who "strongly agree" is nearly double that of the other.

This correlation shouldn't surprise us. If you believe that God is active in your life and has a plan for your life, then it's hard to justify government assistance that might interfere with that plan. Either God wants you to be unemployed and suffering the deprivations that come with it or God wants you to take a job that's become available but which you may not want very much.

In either case, unemployment insurance that allows you to remain unemployed but still keep your house or apartment, keep buying food, and continue living at a level that provides some measure of security will interfere with God's plans. What's more, if the state of the nation and the economy are ultimately in God's hands, any social safety net is unnecessary because God will provide as much as is just, fair, and necessary.

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