I do not like to speak about politics, but sometimes I must vent. And here’s the point of my vent:
Don’t let your status as American citizens (and therefore a part of Big Brother’s wild spending spree in the “Gulf of Opportunity”) diminish your sense of responsibility as a local church to minister to other local churches in Katrina-affected areas.
I’m not a big fan of George Bush, although I did vote for him. I think he has begun a process of erosion of civil liberties that will ultimately be used against Americans (As staunchly conservative and patriotic as I am, I was not a happy camper with the Patriot Act.). I think he has made Americans more dependent on government than we have ever been before, and I think he is an unscrupulous spender. There. That’s my opinion.
I was particularly grieved by the arrogance, the American arrogance, of the President’s speech last night.
First, the President declared that the city will be rebuilt stronger, higher; better than it ever was before. Read Al Mohler’s excellent article, Nineveh, New Orleans, and the City of Man, and be reminded that cities were not made to last. We’re not even through with this year’s hurricane season, Mr. President. I have no opinion as to whether the city should be rebuilt or not. In fact, if it were my home I would want to rebuild. That’s only natural. Maybe it’s right. But to thumb our nose at the elements and start a one-up-man-ship with the wind is stupid, especially when one knows (or should know) that the winds are Almighty’s servants. If the Almighty sent wind to blow down a city, one should be a little more humble about projections to rebuild it. What if another Katrina hurls itself against the construction zone?
Second, the President announced a plan to rid our country of poverty. That ain’t gonna happen. The same Almighty who sent Katrina also said, “You will always have the poor among you.” Eradicating poverty may sound like a noble goal. In fact, however, it is an attempt to eradicate the responsibility of caring. To eradicate poverty is to assault the most fertile group of faith-rich souls on the planet. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him” (James 2:5)? Eradicating poverty is a humanistic goal. Our goal should be to care for the poor. This does not mean that we attempt to keep the poor poor. God forbid. I only mean that we are arrogant to presume a goal that is not even attainable simply to gratify our sense of justice and ingratiate our self-congratulatory and preening ambitions. The false prophet and hypocritical exploiter of poverty and race, Jesse Jackson himself, had a hard time critiquing the President’s speech last night. The Black Caucus leader and liberal congressman from Maryland complimented the President, almost in shock at the President’s sweeping promises. That’s nerve-wracking.
Third, the President is initiating a spending spree of nearly 200 billion dollars to be, according to him, spent by authority of the affected states. Lousiana and Mississippi are the two poorest states in the nation. Those states happen to be poor because they (particularly Louisiana) suffer endemic corruption. Like many poor, they are poor because they don’t know how to manage money. Both of those states have had as many chances as any other states for wealth. Neither has learned fiscal responsibility from Katrina. Both are going to waste.
Fourth, I cannot for the life of me understand why the President is in bed with Halliburton; and if he’s not, why he doesn’t avoid the appearance of it. This my personal pet peeve. That Halliburton is awarded one of the first major contracts in the rebuilding of the area is no longer a surprise when one of its key lobbyist is former FEMA director and close advisor/friend of George W. Bush. Enough said. Now, back to main point.
The one point that Bush made that made sense was to encourage churches and groups (i.e. Boy Scouts, etc.) to reach out to their counter-parts. That’s common sense. And good leadership usually makes sense. It’s American. But, it’s not only American. It’s decidedly New Testament Christianity.
We are so paranoid about descending into a “Social Gospel” that we are slow to admit that Gospel-centered, Christ-honoring ministry thrives in society. Many of the early Baptist documents refer to the local churches as “societies.” Society is constituted by physical humanity. Raising money for food is sometimes regarded as inferior to other ministerial endeavors, but you can’t have churches in a place where there is no food. That seemed obvious to the Early Church when famine had struck many of its people. The Church didn’t stress over whether it was violating a doctrinal code of evangelistic ministry by buying bread instead of scrolls. When a Gospel-preaching church is hungry it needs bread, not tracts.
The Macedonian churches were honored by the Apostle Paul for their extravagant generosity toward churches that were in a distant land. The need then, like the need in the Gulf region today, was material and physical. Who cares that it had economic ramifications. Any thinking person knew that ultimately well-fed church-goers are going to live in and spend money in the affected area therefore becoming a part of the economic recovery of the region. That’s not the primary goal, but that it is a recognized result to any thinking person doesn’t diminish the merit of the action. So today it makes good Christian sense to mobilize our churches in unaffected areas to give, serve, and go in Macedonian-like extravagance. It will help the economic recovery of the Gulf states. Who cares? That doesn’t make our work any less spiritual or Gospel-centered. Au contraire, it would make Paul happy. More importantly, it would delight the Lord. He loves cheerful givers.
Whether President Bush is right or wrong is an issue of polity, politics, and government. It is a moot issue for Biblical churches. His decision affects us and we ought to have opinions about it (I certainly do), but the fact that he has extravagantly promised excessive amounts of dollars and huge bureaucratic machinery should not diminish our enthusiastic giving and service to the region. Government’s motive is irrelevant. Our motive is the Gospel. The Government’s response via President Bush might make history, marking the beginning of a debt that will linger long into the future. Our response – that is the response of those of us who are believers in local churches – may not make the history books, but it will make a difference, not merely measured in economic terms, but in eternal rewards.
Therefore, be an American. Obey the President and pitch in. But do it the Christian way. Do it through local churches.
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