As Charlie Baker defends himself against charges of a “compassion deficit,” Maurice Cunningham reflects, at our MassPoliticsProfs blog, on what compassion is and where it comes from.

The roots of Massachusetts’ earned reputation for care of the vulnerable aren’t in government though, but in religion – and especially in the biblical understandings bequeathed by John Winthrop and our earliest settlers.

In “The Model of Christian Charity,” delivered on the Arbella in 1630, Winthrop preached to his fellows Puritans that must all be as one in the body of Christ.

A religious outlook that excludes non-believers is obviously unsuitable in modern times and though many denominations perform works of charity our modern vehicle for “compassion” is the state. Liberals for the most part wholeheartedly rely upon the state to command the field of compassion. Conservatives may be as compassionate as anyone else toward those in need but being suspicious of government find it a less reliable vehicle for good works.