Saturday, October 11, 2008

Christians: We're all God's Children

Liberal and conservative, alike

Earlier today, I noticed that a fellow Christian sister who I have a lot of respect for and have learned from, had posted something that, at first glance, I couldn't bring myself to read. It made me uncomfortable.

This evening, I forced myself to read it as I found myself considering blogging about how I couldn't read it and I realized how ridiculous that was, how can I post about something I didn't read?

What made me so uncomfortable that I didn't want to read the post initially? Very simple. It was her announcement that:

"...since I do not have any mountains nearby, I am more than happy to shout the news here, if you want to call it that, that I am a socialist."

I was glad I forced myself to read it. I can respect The Rogue Angel, as she proudly cries from, as she titled the post, "The Top Of My Mountain."

That's not to say that I agree completely with Angel, but I can understand where she's coming from. I agreed with her sentiment when she wrote:

"I think it is wonderful that I live in a country that wants to ensure that all children have a safe place to live with electricity and clean running water,"

I'm just not sure that I agree that it is necessary for the government to take quite the active role it takes in accomplishing the goals she listed, and there were more.

Angel wrote:

"For not one minute, do I believe we can just chuck all that on the "church" either ... because "we" are the church. We make up the Body of Christ. And, as a member of that "Body" ... I am more than happy for my tax dollars to go to programs that help people. That help children. That help the elderly. That help the poor. That help "the least of these.""

She is right, we, Christians, are the church...but not America, not the government.

In some ways I agree with her because I believe the church, Christians, have done an abysmal job in helping the poor and "the least of these," but I also think it might be worth considering that there are ways to help the poor and "the least of these" without delegating our Christian duties to the government, and I understand also that she likely meant she's comfortable, as a Christian, with our government taking these actions, using her Christian tax money to meet the needs of the poor among us.

I question, by the church, individual Christians, giving over that responsibility to the government are we really doing what Christ has called us to do? Would we, the church, be more able to help the poor and "the least of these" if the government wasn't taking our money from us and then redistributing it to others in need, others of their choice? (And, I also do not mean to imply that all Christians give over their responsibility to the government but, I have no doubt that some feel they don't have to help the poor because the government will take care of it, or some may even assist the poor with getting government assistance as a way of "helping" the poor, themselves.)

Those are the questions I ask. I ask myself if Christ wants Christians, even some of them, to delegate the duty they are bound to, to the government so that they don't, personally, have to take that responsibility?

The government making choices for us about what charities we give our money to prevents all of us from having more money with which to act on our own, with which to make personal decisions.

I'm not saying, either, I'm ready to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

I'm not such a staunch conservative that I think every government safety-net program should be done away with completely. In part, because I believe the Bible is true all the way through, and scripture tells us that the poor will always be with us. I'm not a heartless individual.

There are nagging questions that trouble me, however:

Should the church, we Christians, expect others who are not Christians and, therefore, not a part of the church, to be our brothers keepers?

Should people have their individual choices taken away so that the government can be in the business of taking care of all of our needs or should it be a lesser contribution on the part of the government with more of the responsibility being on the shoulders of the Christian who has taken that cross to bear? (I'm hearing the cries of "humanity," that it is as much a "humanity" issue as a Christian issue, but that doesn't change the question, substitute the word Christian for humanitarian.)

Now, I think it is very unfortunate that Angel ran across a blog written by a person who is a flame throwing, name caller, rather than a compassionate and respectful person willing to listen and hear, willing to respect another's opinion, but I have a little beef of my own. It didn't come from Angel, who I really have come to respect and feel I can allow a good measure of trust, rather it came from a comment in the comment section of her blog entry:

"You ever wonder how someone can be pro-life, but then doesn't want to feed that life after it is born? It really confuses me!"

I do not believe for one minute that it is true that people who are "pro-life" do not want to feed a life after it is born. I will give the commentator the benefit of the doubt that she really believed what she wrote and wasn't intentionally misrepresenting pro-lifers but, it's always best to let the people explain themselves, rather than do it for them. I'm not very liberal, I'm more conservative so, I'd never dream of trying to speak for a liberal, shucks, I don't even try to speak for other conservatives, there are many of them with whom I disagree, too.

Many people who are pro-life are also pro-active in insuring that babies who are born, rather than aborted, are fed, clothed, cared for and loved. I have been blessed by meeting such a Christian-founded group and interacting with them. Not only does Newborns In Need (NIN) provide needed items to newborns but they continue to clothe and assist the child for YEARS and other Christians and non-Christians, alike, including children, are offered an opportunity to serve and help the poor and "the least of these" through their organization. It is a win/win. NIN actually even assists the elderly by giving them service opportunities. They assist home schooled children by allowing them service opportunities and they are a national organization.

Pro-life individuals also act to assist in the individual lives of children. For instance, Senator John and Cindy McCain adopted a child and brought her home with them, doesn't that qualify a pro-lifer as, "wanting to feed a life after it is born?"

So, I just wish everyone, from both sides of political ideology, could be respectful of each other. It is a two-way street.

The ideological question for me is: Could Newborns In Need, for instance, and for the sake of discussion, be receiving higher donation amounts and be able to assist even more babies and children if the government didn't require potential donors, the church, Christians, "humanitarians," to give them money to redistribute for us? I doubt we'll ever know the answer to that question but, I do think there should be respect for the good intentions of some people who believe government distribution is the only way these vital needs will be met. Others don't believe that, others believe the government should stay out of the business of making our charitable choices for us and that viewpoint is deserving of respect, as well. It is possible to be a good, Godly and giving person with well intended motives in either case.

Until we recognize and respect good intentions and understand we all really seek the same goal and the same outcome while disagreeing on the way to achieve those goals, there can be no dialog, no consensus, no middle ground or cooperation. Consider that we hear during every election cycle that this candidate will offer bi-partisan solutions, or that candidate will offer bi-partisan solutions, as though we all recognize that is what it will take to make progress, to find solutions. If we recognize it, then we should try to observe it. I wish we'd walk the walk.

Note, if interested: To locate the Newborns In Need chapter near you, click HERE.

Our local Springfield Chapter's Web site is HERE.

Tell Judy I sent you and send my love! She's one awesome lady!


Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful posting! It got me to thinking - since our country is the most generous in the world, in terms of charity, would we still be so generous if "choice" were out of the equation? arainbo

Jackie Melton said...

Thanks, arainbo, it isn't perfectly written, I know I could have done better but I think it meets the goals I had for posting it.

I don't believe any true Christian (or humanitarian) wants the poor and "the least of these" to suffer and no one wants to see a baby born but not fed once he or she is here.

You know, a person could spend all their time identifying and putting away the strawmen arguments of others and I think it would be a useful, helpful thing to do...unfortunately, people could become one of the poor, themselves, doing it. It is and will probably always be a never ending job.

Jeremy D. Young said...

Imagine standing before the judgement throne of God when he says to you "When I was hungry, you did not feed me..." and you reply "But that was the Government's job! They were taking 30% of every pay check!" Do we honestly think that even if we increased the percentage that it would satisfy God? It's about our own heart, and our personal sacrifice. God doesn't expect us to solve the problems, as Jackie quoted, "the poor will be with you always". Each of us has to give sacrificially to help those in need. We also have to give responsibly so that we don't become bad stewards of God's provision.

I just don't understand how any Christian can argue from a stance of fulfilling our obligation to the poor by encouraging the government to bring force of arms against everyone and steal from them. Taxes aren't generosity.

Jackie Melton said...

Jeremy wrote:

""When I was hungry, you did not feed me..." and you reply "But that was the Government's job! They were taking 30% of every pay check!""

Or, Jeremy, how about, "But I took them down to the social office and helped them fill out the form to receive government assistance!"

That said, we should all be careful to respect other people's opinions and open to discussion rather than argument.

"Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" - James 5:9

Is there room, in this politically charged atmosphere, for solving problems through Christian cooperation?

If the government solves moral and social issues for us, there's no need for us to cooperate, is that what Jesus intended, for us to not need to cooperate in love with one another to solve moral and social problems, instead, giving that responsibility away through tax dollars?

And, as we talk of facing God some day, will He ask us who gave us the authority to delegate the responsibilities he charged us with to another organization, in essence, stealing His glory?

Don't get me wrong, the more the merrier when it comes to giving, Christian OR non-Christian giving but, let's face it, when the government meets the peoples' needs or secular charitable organizations meet the peoples' needs then God gets no glory for it, the government does, or the organization does, not God.

As Christians shouldn't we want God to receive the glory, rather than the United States of America?

That can only be accomplished through the church, not through government agency.

Jack said...

It's a lofty goal – and a compelling one – to reroute our government funding to more community activism. If memory serves, this was an idea that was promoted during Carnegie's day.

Amazingly, I do not really have a problem with it philosophically speaking. It sounds great. But when it comes to practicality, I think that's when it encounters problems.

In all honesty, Jackie, let's say we all decided that we should reallocate our money from government safety nets to community organizers and agencies to do our work. We will assume this includes both Christian outreach and non-religious too.

Like I said, I'm okay with that philosophically.

Do you think that most people would then take that new money they don't send to the government and give it away to charities? Would the average Christian really give that 30% of new money away to some other agency? Or would they keep it? Why would they voluntarily give more when the Bible only requires 10%?

Does the bootstrap ideology play a role in giving? That is to say, are people (Christians or non-Christians) more or less likely to give money to community organizations (like Church mission) to help the poor if the person subscribes to the idea that the poor just need to get up and go to work and quit being lazy?

If we can find serious solutions to these questions, then your post has serious merit.

I do have another question. The government is our government. It is not run by machines or aliens. It is run by us. So why the assumption that God would frown upon a safety net set up by the people to protect the least of these? Why is their an assumption that we are shirking responsibility when the government is ours and run by us? How is that different than me giving money to my church to run one of it's programs? I don't run or even volunteer sweat equity to all the programs my church offers. So am I shirking duty?

Good post. I love to think.

Angel said...

I didn't even know you were talking about me, Jackie! :)

Thank you for the comments though. I really do appreciate them and I feel the same about you.

I could probably make a hundred posts about this subject and never cover all my thoughts on the issue, so to try and even do it here would be crazy. But, let me say that I think we all give up something by living in this country. We can't have everything our way. As I have stated before, I am not crazy about my tax dollars paying for nuclear weapons. I think we have way too many of them now and see no need for our government to make more. Same with the war in Iraq. I don't agree with it and don't like it that I help pay for it. The bailout *cough* rescue package is another example.

But ... I am willing to let my tax dollars go there because of what I do want my tax dollars to pay for ... like helping the poor. And, not for one minute do I believe that is all I should do for them and it is not. I give to offerings. My church has food and clothing banks. I am happy for my money to assist in that. I donate clothing, furniture, and other goods to other charities as well. I believe that I can help the poor via my tax dollars, my gifts to charities, my church, etc.

My tax dollars are just one aspect.

Also ... I really don't think people even comprehend what they are asking for when they say to abolish our welfare system. If there was no help except that of charities and the church. I honestly do not believe that all the needs could be met. We have enough homeless and people begging on the streets now, especially in the larger cities. And, we have charities and churches already overburdened trying to help them.

I really think it would break the back of the church, as an institution, if that is all the poor had to depend on. The church cannot dispense the money and resources that would be needed as efficiently as the government does.

Plus, if we abolished it, think of how many jobs would be lost. It would put a lot of people out of work.

Now, that is not to say that I do not think that there are people getting over on the system. I do. But, I do not believe that the majority of recipients are.

Now ... one correction ... it was not the blog owner that made the comment, it was a commenter on her site. :) The blog owner hasn't even addressed the comment as far as I know.

The commenter on my site that made the comment about pro-lifers, is my sister. And, honestly, it was not meant to be about all pro-lifers. It was just something carried over from another conversation.

Anywho ... I will stop filling up your comment box as I think I have a post unto itself here. LOL!

Angel said...

Hey, do you mind if I set up a track back from your post to mine? That way when someone reads my post, they will see that you have made a post about it to and can come over and read yours as well. The only reason I knew you had done so was because I have you blogrolled. :)

Angel said...

Sorry for multiple comments here, Jackie ... but I just had a thought come to me regarding the use of Matthew 25 in one of the comments. According to that scripture, the "goats" don't really get a chance to "argue" with Jesus when he pronouces that they did not do for the least of these. They ask "when" ... they don't argue "how."

For me, my tax dollars helping pay for social programs that help the poor, elderly, the children ... it is just another way for me to do for the "least of these." It is another opportunity for me to obey Christ. And, it honors Him when I do it gladly, with charity in my heart, and without complaint. The same way it honors Him when I give to the local food bank, the Red Cross, etc.

Anywho ... just my thoughts. :)

Jackie Melton said...

Angel, I'm honored that you want to set up a track back.

I intend to respond to Jack's comment and your comment eventually.

I'm workin'! Tryin' to make some moolah, here...well not here, this is a very cheap thrill, here. Lol. ;)

Angel said...

All set up! :)

And, I know what you mean. I am supposed to be working on my house. I am telling you ... if cleanliness is next to godliness then the Lord is very disappointed with me right now!

Jackie Melton said...

"...if cleanliness is next to godliness then the Lord is very disappointed with me right now!"

Ha! I don't think that's actually in the Bible. Lucky for me, and you! :)

Jackie Melton said...

"Jack," I played around with a different, more detailed answer to your questions and decided not to post it. At least one of your questions required speculation that I am not interested in making. In fact, I wrote in my original entry that we won't, likely, ever find out whether people would spend more on charity if they were allowed to keep more of their own money. I'd love to see it tested, I am doubtful, however, that it will ever happen.

I think there is really only one other comment you made that I would like to directly address.

You wrote:

"...why the assumption that God would frown upon a safety net set up by the people to protect the least of these? "

I never made that assumption.

Something that I found interesting was that no Christian who seems to approve of the government providing for more and more of the, sometimes, subjective needs that certain people are deciding the American people should be provided by the government answered this question:

"As Christians shouldn't we want God to receive the glory, rather than the United States of America?"

I am of the opinion that the government is not going to share glory with God, or give glory to God for what it provides to the people of this nation. Only the church, and those of us who make up the church, will give God the glory for providing for the needs of "the least of these." It is a scriptural belief of some Christians, and I am of their number, that a chief purpose, if not the chief purpose of a Christian, is to glorify God.

I find the non-response to that question both interesting and troubling and I feel that others might too. It makes me wonder if there is not a bit of denial among the Christian community about what their individual, chief responsibilities are, as Christians.

That said, I feel as though I made the points that I wanted to make, really what I did was more of an exercise of questions that I have regarding the government taking an ever larger role in being providers for an ever growing list of wants that are being designated as needs by some in our country, and that, from a Christian perspective.

If those questions made you think, that's a good thing, that is what I intended. You like to ask questions to make people think, as well. That's fine, but many of the questions I asked and you asked would be better answered by a study of God's own Word, rather than by an answer from Jackie Melton. I did not and do not want this discussion to turn into an argument about who is right and who is wrong, the intent of it was to recognize, as I wrote in my original entry:

" There should be respect for the good intentions of some people who believe government distribution is the only way these vital needs will be met. Others don't believe that, others believe the government should stay out of the business of making our charitable choices for us and that viewpoint is deserving of respect, as well. It is possible to be a good, Godly and giving person with well intended motives in either case."

One thing I wrote in the answer I chose not to post, that I really think would be worthwhile to publish:

Today, to me, it seems like some Christians, generally of a liberal view, want to place more and more of the burden for providing aid and assistance to the poor on the government, so that Christians will have less and less burden to help others, themselves. Will some of those liberal Christians be satisfied unless and until the goverment takes care of everything a liberal might view as a need? (In many ways neediness is quite subjective). The list of liberal "needs" seems to be growing and expanding ever more, every day.

Now, these are my personal views and I know what my own personal views and opinions are and many of them are quite firm, just as I am sure many of yours are quite firm, neither of us were born last Tuesday. I, really, sort of feel that further discussion will only descend into a battle of the wills and I'm not anxious to involve myself in a battle of the wills or in the extreme energy it takes to avoid the intellectual game which would take us there, I find that intellectual game more and more tiring the older I get. That is one of the reasons I reserve the right not to respond to comments. I think I have adequately shared my opinions already and don't particularly view a continuing discussion as profitable or beneficial.

That is not to say you and others aren't welcome to carry on, bearing in mind James 5:9:

"Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!" :)

Angel said...

Jackie ... you got me thinking. I think I feel a post coming on. :)

Jackie Melton said...

When I tried to sign in to Angel's blog, the Rogue Angel, under open ID I get this message:

We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.

I wrote this response several days ago with the intention of posting it at Angel's blog, but since I have been unable to do so, I will post it here. I was replying to her post, "Intention Is What Counts," since she wrote that she added, "Love Was Missing," I did not address the second post and this was in response solely to the first. Maybe she'll see it here. (To read her posts there are links at the bottom of this comment section and her blog is linked in my blog list on the home page)


You wrote:

"If we only help (give money and serve) within the confines of the church, well ... then are we not missing multiple opportunities to obey God and do His will? Of course, we are!"

Both you and I have established that we are the church, us individual Christians, so, then, that being the case, what are the "confines of the church?"

Am I confined? Are you confined? The church is not a building and it is a given that, as Christians, we are all acting within the parameters of the church, as its individual representatives every time we act, every time we reach out, every time we give to a charity of our choice, whether it be inside the walls of the physical church structure or outside the walls in the broader Christian community of "the world." Truly, "the truth has set us free." Is it possible for the government to set others free? Does it matter if our intentions are not to direct the recipient of a government or secular charity's assistance back to a recognition of who is the ultimate provider of all good things?

Certainly, you, and others, can claim that by fighting to get more government assistance for the poor and needy that your motives and intentions are to follow God's command to feed and sustain the poor among us. It is for that reason I originally wrote, in my first reaction to your post:

"I do think there should be respect for the good intentions of some people who believe government distribution is the only way these vital needs will be met."

I think on an individual basis, and for the right motives, the intentions of more "liberal" Christians, by seeking more and more funding from the government for social issues could be viewed as serving Christ, I don't deny and don't seek to argue with you about that aspect, so don't misunderstand me, but I do think, when it comes to pointing people toward Christ there are real and legitimate differences between, for instance, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the government, and even, for that matter, secular versus Christian charities.

While the government, as a whole, and secular charities, as a whole, and while individual politicians or representatives of secular charities are not going to point the recipient toward God as their provider, or toward Christ's saving grace, Christian charities and the church, including, one would hope, individual Christians reaching out personally and individually across the nation, are and will direct the recipient toward God as their provider and deliver a message of Christ's saving grace.

What is our call in the end? Is the be all and end all helping the poor, as God has certainly called us to do, or pointing people toward the saving grace of Christ as we do so? "Shining our little lights," so that people can see Christ through us?

As we examine the intentions and motivations of our heart(s), let us not forget why we serve God.

A dearly loved, old pastor of mine used to say, "let's be sure we keep the main thing the main thing," I don't know that he was the originator of that saying but I don't think feeding the poor and the least of these is "the main thing" he had in mind.

Missionaries have recognized from the beginning that the way to reach people is to first meet their physical needs, so that then, rather than the poor's focus being on a growling, starving belly or a painful medical affliction, they could turn their thoughts toward their greater need, the spiritual need they have.

Meeting people's physical needs has long been a tool that missionaries have used to find an opportunity to tell others about the saving grace of Christ. The bottom line, in my understanding as a Christian, is not so much about their "physical thirst" being met, instead it was about the "thirst" that only the "living water" (God through the saving grace of Christ) could truly quench.

As we consider our intentions, Angel, as some of us seek reasons to gather approval for seeking more and more government intervention into the lives of the, not only physically, but spiritually, needy, let's not forget the reason so many have sacrificed to provide, as Christians, for those physical needs. Is it not through meeting physical needs we, Christians, hope to direct them toward the One who can fulfill the greater need?

Remember the two Marys? One was busy preparing food for the guests who were going to arrive and who would be hungry, she got irritated with "the other Mary," who sat at the feet of Jesus soaking in his wisdom and enjoying His company instead of helping her. Jesus, instead of taking the Mary's side who was working to serve others, took the side of the Mary who was enjoying the presence of the Savior.

Do you think, if the first Mary had not taken the time to prepare the food for the crowd, that Jesus would have let them go hungry if they became hungry in His presence? Did Jesus let the crowd of 5,000 men, not counting all the women and children present that day, go hungry?

Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I take that to mean we'll never get all of their physical needs met but that we should keep making "the main thing, the main thing."

Should we think on those things as we consider the command that we feed the hungry? Should we think on Jesus' offer of "living water" to the woman at the well? Should Christians take a broader view, a different view of feeding the "least of these?"

Thank you for more thought provoking words.

I continue to be wary about "quibbling over them," but I did feel these were important considerations.