"Free up the tax dollars, then promote a culture of local charitable investment by the people, among the people, for the people."
This is the first part of an ongoing series I'm developing, which discusses the inadequacies of our society in providing meaningful opportunities to succeed, and in providing appropriate services to those who cannot take care of themselves. I envision a great awakening of local communities. Driven by faith and charity, I see them furthering the Gospel by action, and giving us a practical solution to dissolving government agencies so inherently incapable of solving the problem. For too long, we have applied the Band-Aid without addressing the root cause of it all. It's become an all out war of intellect between the Right and Left, ignoring the spiritual solutions to these problems that God intended. Whether you are a person of faith or not, you can appreciate this purpose for the church, and accept an increased responsibility.
Between the verses found in Job 31:32, Matthew 25:35 and James 2:15, you'll find a lot of conviction to take care of your fellow man. Unfortunately, because of the neglect of the Church and it's people, progressive politicians have claimed the mantle of savior. As a result, our liberties have been watered down and our poor have been taken advantage of.
I have found it amusing that the same people who insist that open-mindedness and the questioning of authority are duties of every American also insist that the Federal Government is the best agent of change and the ordained executor upon those who would resist this “compelled compassion." Question authority, only when it doesn't do what you want?
In a recent conversation with a friend, I began to see why this apparent contradiction permeates moderate and left-of center politicos the most. He believes that – by default – the government IS the people, therefore it must be that the will of the government is the will of the people. The logical conclusion is that government has the right to regulate, because this regulation is essentially self-imposed and as a result, involvement in the details of our lives cannot be questioned.
Programs like elderly welfare (Social Security), health care subsidization (Medicare), rental compensation for societal squatters (Section 8)… these are all elements that are intended (read: “sold”) as a means to help the poor, but end up enslaving multitudes of unsuspecting and open-handed young people who grow up never knowing the harsh realities of a life unlived. I don’t even question the basis of Government’s right to intervene if that is what the “people” call for, but I do question, will it ever succeed? The entire 20th century was a monument to proving that these “well-intentioned” battles against poverty merely remove the responsibility and the consequences of decision from the individual and place them on a wandering “collective” that is neither equipped, nor capable of addressing needs on an individual basis. The system is so easy to abuse and we end up replacing one problem with another. Over time, the only resulting "compassion" is to those who have the the most influence on the weaker.
As Christians, my friend and I agree that we have a Biblical duty to see to the needs of the poor, the widows and orphans. The Church is charged with this duty, the Government is not. We are pathetically more interested in buying an HD flat-screen or saving for our futures more than helping our neighbors. We have marginalized “compassion” and charitable giving to being another expense in our budget, expendable when our waists are tightened.
While we would be willing to sacrifice everything to provide for our family and protect them from failure and harm, we are unwilling to do the same for our fellowman. Here's another earth-shaker: “love your neighbor as yourself” assumes we already love ourselves and has nothing to do with “loving yourself” first. Many of us feel motivated to help...
But now, we have allowed apathy to breed a passive attitude to liberal government philosophy, and it no longer thrives only in classrooms and universities, it has become the philosophy of Joe American. Because of the Church’s failure to serve, and the Christian’s selfish policies of economic “protectionism,” we have concluded that maybe the federal government IS a reasonable vehicle of change for these people. After all, SOMEONE has to help the disenfranchised, right? The argument appeals to the best of human nature, to help someone in need. But giving this power to a centralized fovernment with endless lines of credit and little accountability allows the lesser side of human nature to take control and abuse the system for their OWN benefit.
And this has occurred time and time again, even right here in America. On the other hand, when Americans are encouraged either indirectly through policy or directly by public pronouncement and example, the needs of the poor are met appropriately through the means of Biblical love and compassion.
In 2008, Americans donated more than $150 billion to charitable causes in education, housing and sustenance programs. The Federal Government spent nearly $900 billion on Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in the same year. How much more would we as a community embrace each other in need with the power of more economic freedom if we simply trusted ourselves to do the same? Instead, we somehow have lied to ourselves for so long that we now believe the Government system is more trustworthy than we are on a local level.
The Great Contradiction has been borne out of our moral nature to help the underprivileged and down-trodden, but has been polluted by the wake of destruction left behind by countless failed policies and socialist agendas. Capitalism and representative republicanism thrives because it harnesses the worst of human nature (greed, individualism) and assures it is funneled back into the mutual benefit of the community (open market), providing employment, charitable practice and most of all the freedom to pursue dreams and learn from our personal mistakes quickly. But without a vibrant church in every community, committed to seeing through the love we feel compelled by nature to show, we wind up letting Government do the compelling for us, and the result is disaster.
Studies by the Heritage Foundation (1, 2) and the Cato Institute (1, 2) have proven the case that when taxes and regulation are scaled back, charitable giving and common decency fills the void. And this result is entirely more efficient and accountable than a Government program raising voting blocks full of “entitled” lemmings; wouldn't you agree? Free up the tax dollars, then promote a culture of local charitable investment by the people, among the people, for the people.
This conundrum of meeting the needs of our helpless and promoting a culture of self-reliance is resolved in the actions of our local communities and the churches that have been built to serve them.