Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Revisiting federal aid to religious organizations

I'll revisit the topic--no one else is. I just don't want to contribute to Christian organizations that are accepting government grants to do their Christian good works. Period. End of discussion.

There are two mandates in the book of Matthew. One is to evangelize--Go and tell people about Jesus--in a nutshell. The other is to offer a cup of cold water, or food, or comfort to a prisoner, or clothing to the naked--NOT to change a system, NOT to use up tax money, NOT even to change an individual life. No promises are made here, except one. No, the reason given is that this provides the giver, the donor, the one doing the good deed, the opportunity to meet Jesus in the needy one. It's that simple. Don't believe me? Read the story of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. I find it a bit of a stretch that we'll receive the inheritance prepared for us from the beginning of the world because we got a government grant and distributed it to the needy. That might be a worthy career if you are a federal employee, but it's not for the Christian layperson or staff.

Jesus never suggested that any follower take money from one person and give it to another; he never asked the disciples to go to the Romans for donations to spread the good news; he never said rich people were evil or that poor people were good--he always considered the individual.

Therefore, I was really unhappy to read this in an article about World Vision, whose President Richard Stearns is now on Obama's advisory board of faith based and neighborhood partnerships (I think that is a name change from the Bush years)
    "Last year, World Vision received just over $280 million in federal grants — both cash and food — amounting to about 25 percent of what we received from U.S. sources. Little, if any, of this resulted from former President Bush's faith-based initiative. Those grants have met a wide range of needs including helping address AIDS in several nations, providing food for victims of famines, conducting gang-prevention activities in several U.S. cities including Seattle, and delivering aid and emergency services in responding to natural disasters." Link.
Once you accept money from the federal government, you must play by their rules, and they may let you give that cup of water, but smack you down on the telling about Jesus part. This is really unfortunate. As Americans, through no choice of our own, we already give generously to many projects through government agencies to help the poor, the disaster victim, the diseased, and the misguided. On our own by choice and sacrifice, we give vast amounts through charities and churches. I do not expect those agencies and groups to then use my gift to turn around and become the government's handmaiden to do the cleanup through federal grants.

1 comment:

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

I totally agree, but then I get called a RINO for opposing government financing for faith-based initiatives.

It is indeed an opening whereby the state gets an opportunity to impose mandates on religion. I don't think any self-respecting denomination should stoop to that level. I know of several denominations that do good works without taking a dime from the government.

It's also a patronage scheme, so that "compassionate" conservative politicians can steer a government contract toward a faith-based initiative as a reward for supporting a re-election bid. Such patronage just adds to budget deficits.