“Altruism is the basis of the conception of a brotherhood of man without a Father.”
-Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics & Gnosticism
The stereotypes are tiresome, but ring hollow. Declarations and innuendos implying that conservatives have no compassion for the poor or are not willing to assist those in need are more the seepage of late-night television satire than the expression of reasonable opinions. But such expressions persist, to the point at which they seem to have become almost the default opinion of the educated classes.
The reason why I find such opinions at once ridiculous and offensive is that I have spent a good portion of my life growing up in a home which in my view is a model for how the poor can be truly cared for and the lost can be really rehabilitated, all in spite of government assistance.
I would emphasize the word home, because it has most often resembled a hostel or a soup kitchen than any nuclear household. With my grandparents as proprietors, it has become an institution of light and grace in a depressed part of my town. Whether it be family members, friends experiencing medical, financial, or marital difficulties, or friends of friends just passing through town, this house has been a place of refuge and peace.
My grandparents are not wealthy people. They are generally comfortable, though they could certainly live in much greater comfort if they did not spend the greater portion of their time and money helping those in need. They pay their taxes, amply so, but the gifts this home has to give receive no government sanction. Additionally, they have not been known to hold politically (or theologically) liberal opinions of any stripe.
What might be shocking to some is that Russell Kirk, our own conservative historian and preeminent man of letters, did, along with his wife, Annette, run a similar home. The protagonist of one of his greatest short stories was, in fact, inspired by an African American drifter whom he and his wife took in and ended up boarding for many years.
There is no substitute for one person or family helping another. Poverty cannot be resolved by means of any corporate scheme or bureaucratic regimen. One cannot simply satiate the IRS and send the monthly checks to charity; one must actually show charity to those in nearest need.The responsibility lies with each citizen, though it does not derive from any earthly citizenship.