BILL MOYERS: But is a faith that has made its peace with laissez faire capitalism and that theologically justifies the pursuit of wealth, in your own frame of reference is that truly Christian?
ROSS DOUTHAT: I would distinguish in a way between the two. I think that laissez faire capitalism is, for all its faults, the system you know, it's what Churchill said about democracy, right? It's the worst system except for all the others. And so in that sense, yes, I think Christians do have to make their peace with some form of capitalism.
Having made that peace, though, as in the quote you just read, I think it's important for Christians not to then proceed to make theological justifications for everything that people within the capitalist system do. So that's a distinction I would draw. I am a supporter of capitalism but as a Christian I'm not always a supporter of capitalists, if that distinction makes sense.
BILL MOYERS: Should Christian societies do everything in their power to make the largest possible provision for the poor?
ROSS DOUTHAT: I think that Christian societies have an obligation to do two things. They have an obligation to, one, make a provision for the poor, but they also have an obligation to make sure that that provision doesn't create dependency and sort of rob the poor of their independence and ultimately their ability to rise.
And that the state doesn't become a substitute for institutions that I think Christianity is ultimately more in favor of. So sort of the family, private initiative and so on. Jesus of Nazareth, as you said, incredibly hard on the money changers. Incredibly hard on the rich. But his exhortations are usually focused towards individuals. He doesn't have a specifically political program.
And so there's a danger if you're too political, if you say, "Well, the state is just going to be solely responsible for taking care of the poor," then there'll be no room left for sort of genuine acts of charity. So that's, that's the balancing act. I support a welfare state, but it doesn't mean I support every expansion of the welfare state.