For a significant number of Christians, God’s plan for the economy means hard work on their part with no expectation of intervention and if a Christian fails, so be it. For policy makers, such an attitude, especially among lesser educated and less affluent Christians, provides some wiggle room to support policy that may be less than optimal for providing growth opportunities for all Americans.
In a 2011 Baylor University study on the values and beliefs of the American public, it was determined that most Americans surveyed (73.1%) believed that God had a plan for them. Those surveyed with the strongest conviction that a plan exists happen to have lower incomes and less education. While 37.8% of Americans earning $100,000 or more in income agreed or strongly agreed that God had a plan for them, 53.5% of Americans earning $100,000 or more disagreed or strongly disagreed that such a plan existed.
There also seems to be a streak of self-determination, particularly among the higher educated. According to Baylor’s study, 78.4% of Americans with a college degree or more disagreed or strongly disagreed with the notion that God has a plan for them. An additional irony among the less educated is that they are less supportive of government intervention and believe that able bodied Americans don’t deserve unemployment benefits. Success equals ability, according to those on the lower rung, while anything is possible through hard work.
And along with God’s plan comes a pre-determination for who will be successful and who won’t, no matter the level of skills, talent, or amount of hard work. Almost 20% of Americans who believe that God has a plan for them also believe that some people were meant to be poor and others were meant to be rich.
I guess this puts a new spin on highly favored and perfected. It also sheds some insight on what may partially be to blame for conservative approaches to fiscal and budgetary policy as practiced by the Republican Party. As conservative philosophy converges more with Christian religiosity, the notion of self-reliance, particularly among lower income and lesser educated Americans may influence policy makers to shun legislation that extends unemployment benefits and food stamps. The irony is that Christians are finding themselves promoting policy that appears to some as less than Christian.
For policy makers that want to expand the welfare state, they may have to address how religiosity is impacting representation in Washington and our state capitals.