Thursday, July 03, 2008

Obama & Faith-Based Initiatives

Being a Lutheran, believing that good works have nothing to do with my righteousness but are simply a fruit of the faith, I have no issue with the government sponsoring public works through faith based groups AND saying that neither proselytizing nor hiring decisions based upon faith is allowed. That is correct in my understanding of the separation of church and state.

The Office of Faith Based Initiatives was begun under Bill Clinton's presidency. Only under Bush, which is to say Karl Rove, was it turned into a politically divisive campaign tool intentionally used to create hate between those of fundamentalist Christian faith and secular community service volunteers. Where is the love in that!

Better than the Bush doctrine of turning a blind eye to those that spread the word while doing community services, Obama's plan of actually following the letter of the law allows groups, religious and otherwise, to fill a wide variety of needs in communities, acting locally as the locals need it, and get funding help to make these things happen. A large number of volunteers are a wonderful thing but having a place for them to work, materials needed to work with, and the organizational skills of some paid workers is even better. This is what government by and for the people can do, and do well.

The Southern Baptist Convention disagrees. Their sense is that they should be able to spread the word, that doing their good works and spreading the word as part of it is all one and the same, can't be separated, are a combined entity. Fine. Just don't ask for government funding. When you work as a church you should pay your own way.

But if you are simply called to organize a group to feed some locals, teach some kids to read, build a safe skate park, a basketball court, or provide care to elderly shut-ins, AND if you can do so without needing to wear your faith on your shirtsleeve, why shouldn't our government help out with that!

One elder member of our congregation, a man who serves beautifully every day in so many ways, put it to me best: "Spread the gospel in everything you do. When necessary, use words."

The love of Christ is in the doing. The spreading of the Word can come later, after people have gotten to know you, are comfortable with you, and are over at your house for a cup of coffee. Then you can say whatever you want. Timings probably better, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The use words comment comes from St. Francis of Assisi. The problem is that we use this as an excuse not to use words.


7/15/2008 10:12 AM  

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