The Bottom Line on Poverty: It is Largely a Worldview Problem

By Brannon S. Howse

Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, author of the book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, has spent years treating the poor in a slum hospital and prison in England. So just why is the condition of the underclass so oppressive? While Dr. Dalrymple’s is not a Christian book, per se, he nevertheless arrives at the astounding conclusion that a misshapen worldview accounts for the plight of today’s poor in Western countries:

[quote] Patterns of behavior emerge—in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge? [end quote]


Dalrymple later answers his own question:

[quote] Welfare states have existed for substantial periods of time without the development of a modern underclass: an added ingredient is obviously necessary. This ingredient is to be found in the realm of ideas. Human behavior cannot be explained without reference to the meaning and intentions people give their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not. It is the ideas my patients have that fascinate—and, to be honest, appall—me: for they are the source of their misery. [end quote]

While there are a few true victims of poverty—children who suffer from their parents’ bad choices (which all too many choose to repeat as adults)—the blame for poverty does not lie solely with those who make lifestyle decisions that lead to their status. Dr. Dalrymple asserts that the great facilitators of chronic indigence are liberal humanists and their worldview of “if it feels good do it”: “most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia.”

“Intelligentsia” is a synonym for the liberal, humanistic elite—educrats and social engineers. Propagation of the liberal, morally relativistic worldview has raged through the underclass most ruinously in the form of glaring sexual promiscuity. Remember what the humanist manifestos have to say about moral relativism, sex, and the pursuit of pleasure:

• Humanist Manifesto I: “…the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind.”

• Humanist Manifesto II: “We strive for the good life, here and now…neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered ‘evil.’”

Dalrymple articulates the agonizing consequences reaped by the underclass because they embraced, however unwittingly, the worldview of humanists:

[quote] Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent)…The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it. The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism—a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals—has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects. [end quote] 


Do ideas have consequences? Does your worldview matter? Liberals can enjoy the distinct satisfaction of seeing just how radically their “forward-thinking” ideas affect the world in which people live day by day.

I know from firsthand experience that Dr. Dalrymple’s observations are true. For five years, on the first Tuesday of each month, I traveled to the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul, Minnesota, to speak and lead music for the nightly service before the mission’s free supper. Except for the few mentally ill regulars left on the streets after the death of a parent who had cared for them, I met individuals that choose to be homeless. In fact, most have a home and parents, or even a wife and children, but they opt to live awash in drugs, alcohol, serial sexual encounters—in short, a life of no responsibility. Many men who showed up for the service (attendance required if they wanted the free meal), admitted that they choose to live as they do.

The mission chaplain told me numerous personal stories of habitual attendees who could return to their families if they would simply take responsibility for their actions, clean themselves up, get a job, and stop abusing drugs and alcohol. There were men, he explained, who at one time had been judges, doctors, attorneys, or businessmen who destroyed their lives through drugs and booze.

To be sure, Jesus promised that the poor will “always be with us.” A key reason is man’s sinful nature, and one all-too-common consequence of sin is poverty. But this will not be what your children will learn from the humanistic, State-sponsored youth service program that is specifically designed to manipulate their emotions, ignore the facts, and brainwash them into the belief that the solution is government- sponsored socialism and a rejection of free-market capitalism. 

The humanist’s love affair with socialism is deeply entrenched in the humanist mindset that denies anything like the all-too-evident tendency of people to do the wrong thing (the Christian worldview calls this “the sin nature of man”). In its Pollyanna fashion, socialism assumes the best about us, denying the reality that people routinely succumb to greed, selfishness, bitterness, dishonesty, and anger. That they are often awash in pride or envy. And that virtually anyone will be lazy if given the opportunity. All of these sinful human qualities undermine a system of economics based on equal work, equal income, and shared benefits. What “sin nature” requires is a system where overcoming these tendencies is in everyone’s own best interests—namely, capitalism.

In his book The Battle for Truth, David Noebel explains the twisted thinking that makes people think socialism is viable:

[quote] If one denies the inherent fallen nature of man, socialism becomes the most attractive economic system for creating a heaven on earth. For the Humanist, there is no original sin to stand in the way of creating a helping, sharing, co-operative community on earth. Therefore, the economic system best suited to promote the ethics of Humanism and amend the evils of capitalism is socialism.  [emphasis mine] [end quote] 

There are even some non-liberals who mistakenly allow that the Bible endorses socialism. While many people described in the New Testament Church shared their goods and livelihood, the key distinction is that theirs was a voluntary system, not a compulsory governmental system of sharing. Whenever government tries to equalize salaries or standards of living and education, productivity takes a nosedive. 

The free enterprise system is the most equitable economic system available to our sin-prone humanity. Whereas socialism puts a few powerful elite in control of whether or not you have a job and how much money you make (for the benefit of the all-powerful State), capitalism offers to the individual control over his or her own earthly future, destiny, and wealth.

After understanding the miserable failure of humanistic socialism, the Christian worldview is the hope that is left—and a genuine hope it is. Christians must reach out to the underclass, seek to change hearts, renew minds, and reframe their deformed worldview by showing them their need for Christ.

Copyright 2009 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. 


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