- (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
A new study shows that a majority of Americans believe God is the guiding force that is leading America's economy and the government is too big. As a result, sociologists concluded these believers are upset about U.S. economic policy because they believe increased government regulation and interference in personal freedoms go against God's plans.
According to the Baylor Religion survey data released Tuesday, a majority of Americans (73.1 percent) agreed or “strongly” agreed with the statement “God has a plan for me.” Of those who believe God has a plan, more than 96 percent said that government was doing too much.
Paul Froese, associate professor of sociology for Baylor University, suggested that many Americans believe that an "engaged" God guides America's economic direction.
"A way of thinking of this is the 'invisible hand,' spoken of by Adam Smith, has really become God's hand for many Americas,” Froese said.
Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher commonly credited with concept of the free market, and the “invisible hand” symbolizes the self-regulating nature of the marketplace.
Those who believe in an engaged God also tend to believe government is too involved in Americans' affairs, able-bodied people should not receive unemployment checks, and success has little to do with luck.
Nearly 53 percent of those who “strongly” agreed that God has a plan said government does too much. Among the respondents who simply agreed, 43 percent also said they believe the government is doing too much.
Nearly 88 percent of those who believe God has a plan said they trust that "anything is possible for those who work hard" and 56.1 percent agreed that "success is achieved by ability rather than luck."
Therefore, Froese explained, relaxed regulation and decreased taxation is thought to be part of God's plan for many Americans. These believers also think God is angry with government regulation and its interference with the free market, he said.
"I think there is clearly an ethos today for some Americans that government is a profane object," he said. "So government regulation, government intervention messes with God's plan."
Craig Vincent Mitchell, an associate professor of Ethics for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, clarified to The Christian Post, "It's not that the market is something that is established by God but it's consistent with God's created order."
Mitchell disagrees with Froese's suggestion that Christians believe God is angry about regulation or entitlements, but said, "Like anything, if you against go against God's order, you’re going to have to pay a consequence."
One of those consequences, Mitchell said, is the church's lost role as the charitable arm of American society.
"As the government has grown in this area [of charity], the church has shrunk," he noted. "What needs to happen is that the church needs to get back in the business of taking care of the poor."
In the Baylor survey, 70 percent of all those who believe in God's plan also agreed that the government should not be the one providing entitlement assistance to healthy, unemployed Americans.
The survey did not ask participants if they felt that the church should provide unemployment assistance.
Quoting Romans 13, Mitchell said, "God has established government as His agent to reward the good and punish the evil. The job of government is to execute justice and righteousness."
Mitchell said Christians, not government, are called to dispense charity. Federal taxes should be used to provide a justice system, national defense and public works, not to redistribute wealth, he added.
"Those so-called Christians who believe the government should tax the rich forget that there is a commandment that says that 'thou shall not covet,'" Mitchell commented.
Froese, meanwhile, noted that those in the Baylor report who favored a redistribution of wealth tended to be less religious.
"Those Americans who favor reductions of wealth in favor of equality also tend to believe that there is no ultimate truth and there is no such thing as divine intervention," he concluded.
The survey interviewed 1,714 adults chosen randomly from across the country. Respondents answered more than 300 questions in the Baylor Religion Survey. The survey was designed by Baylor University scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization in the fall of 2010.