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My Brother’s Keeper

Allow me to stand behind a pulpit for a moment today. 

I live in a city that has more churches than I can count…I’d be willing to guess that there are around 200.  This last week there was a fire in town that put a lot of people out of their homes.  Our church opened up their doors to house these individuals in their time of need.  I wasn’t surprised by that at all.  What I was surprised about was that our church was THE ONLY CHURCH to do so.  In fact, our pastor received an email from an individual who works with the Red Cross which said that he has never seen another church take in families who have lost their homes in our city. 

Well, that is very disappointing.  When I drive across this city and see all of the giant churches full of spacious offices, sanctuaries, lobbies, class rooms, etc. I cannot help but think that they are in part wasted if that space cannot help those in a very real and specific need.  The point of this post isn’t to attack churches but to point out a problem with our current mentality.  If churches aren’t helping people, then who is?

Prior to the FDR administration, if you needed assistance then you had to turn to your neighbors or churches.  Today people only turn to these avenues if the federal/state assistance falls short (which will inevitably happen).  Why is it that our churches and community have become the second line of defense to emergency need?  Is it because the churches have failed or because the government has pushed them out by filling that need?  Perhaps it is both. 

Well, if they can force us out, perhaps we can do the same to them.  You see, this is the problem with battling against social programs today; nobody is convinced that someone will fill the void left behind.  If government is our safety net, then who will catch those who fall once that net is removed?  The answer to that question is one of our great challenges as conservatives.  To merely say, “The church will do it” is not a direct solution, but a hopeful reaction.

We must fight socialism with a double-edged sword.  One edge of the sword cuts away at the philosophies of centralized government. We are good at cutting!  We support cutting programs, denying the constitutionality of social programs, and arguing against government intrusion.  These are all good and common parts of the conservative vernacular.  The other edge of that sword (the part that has grown dull) involves providing that safety net for individuals in need (really in need).  By that I mean, we can’t simply pass the buck calling for the cuts in government involvement and assume someone else will pick up the slack.  WE MUST PICK UP THE SLACK. 

The thing is, most of us already do.  Many of us already willingly help out our relatives, friends, or people we don’t know in our communities.  I know of many private programs in my city that provide various resources for people in low-income situations, emergency situations, and complicated situations (such as abuse).  The beauty of these programs is that they are voluntary.  If you don’t think it is right to pack food and give it to school children who go home to drug addict parents, then don’t do it.  If you don’t want to open up your spare room to a person whose apartment just burned down, then don’t.  However, if you’re blessed, I would encourage you to help fight government intrusion and enabling by making them unnecessary.

If your church is one of those that is doing nothing, then initiate the conversation in the church to help your community.  If you don’t go to church, then find some way to help.  We need to provide answers, not just point out the error of other answers.  If even churches are responding as Cain once sarcastically did to G-d, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” then we will never convince the public that there is a better way.


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  • Jim at Conservatives on Fire October 31, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    I think you hit on the problem, with government welfare and FEMA, people stopped looking to the churches and other private charity organizations for help and instead go to some government agency. Over time, because the needy were not seeking their help, the churches stopped looking for people to help. I must admit, however, the problem you described of people needing emergency shelter being attended by only one church, is bothersome.
    Jim at Conservatives on Fire recently posted..America Divided – Pro Constitutional Republic v. Pro Democratic SocialismMy Profile

  • Steve Dennis October 31, 2011 at 5:58 PM

    Good post RHM! I am a man who is not very religious but I do believe in helping people who are in need. We have twice opened up our house to people who needed teporary assistance and we will do it again if we know somebody in need. And that is the way it should be, we shouldn’t have to rely on the government in our time of need. But that is the mindset that has been fostered in our country for many years and sadly it seems as if many churches may have also become victim to this type of mindset.
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