The Religious Roots of Modern Poverty Policy: Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Protestant Traditions Compared

God, Theology

Contributed by: Canadian Poverty Institute

The postulate that the community has a moral responsibility to support the poor is a central message of the Bible. In this paper, I show that this basic principle underlies modern social assistance, but that it has played out in very different ways in societies according to the relative predominance of Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Protestant religious heritages and that these patterns can be seen today in variations in social assistance and welfare-to-work policies in OECD countries. I argue that reference to the social doctrines and poor relief systems of historically significant Christian denominations can help to answer a series of otherwise perplexing cross-national differences in poverty policy.

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