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« So Help Me [God] | Main | Re: So Help Me God »

November 30, 2006

Re: Truce & Who Cares?

There's kind of an amusing angle on this debate in which we see, either actually or by proxy, Christian conservatives and Christian liberals saying "Our atheists and agnostics are more generous than your atheists and agnostics."  At which point, I quite readily agree with Catherina: Who cares?

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure, Catherina, that you make the point that there is no difference between small government and paternalistic Big Government when it comes to "doing good." In the situation you discuss in your last paragraph, you have a governmental agency acting diplomatically to clear the way for a private organization to act. But it is still a private agency acting; we are still likely talking about a small government scenario here.

Nobody, even including much of "The Christian Right," seems to want to think that small government philosophy has any bearing on "doing what is right." And that misunderstanding is a real shame. When Big Government gets involved, we have to secularize the ministry. Of course, "secularizing the ministry" makes no sense, does it? Exactly. It is no longer ministry, but temporal help.

Now, temporal help is still a very good thing indeed, but ...

... we need to understand what has happened. You, as a hard-working, tax-paying Christian, may want to give your money to a private ministry which provides both temporal and spiritual help to those affected by Need X. But because Big Government has inserted itself into your life in ever expanding ways, it has decided that it can handle Need X better than anyone (because Big Government advocates always believe this ... which, of course, contradicts nearly all historical and empirical evidence), so it takes more money from you and provides temporal help to Need X.

Now, even if we assume that the government has done a reasonably good job providing temporal help to those affected by Need X, using the funds it confiscated from you, we must not confuse it with the temporal AND eternal-spiritual help that you wanted to provide for Need X with your money. Of course, those who don't personally adhere to Christianity or another religion may think "Well, who cares about eternal-spiritual help." Well, you, the Christian, may care quite a bit about providing such help; to you, it is important to help in both ways. But the government takes your money and, necessarily, only does one of the two things with it. To you, your money is now doing much less good.

Now, should you refuse the government's attempt to use your money for temporal help -- so that you may use those funds to also provide spiritual help -- you will be provided a fancy set of drab Dickies to go with your three-hots-and-a-cot.

All of which is to say that there is a very real and meaningful difference between small government and Big Government solutions to problems. Small government scenarios allow people of faith the flexibility to use their funds to solve problems as holistically as their faith convictions may prescribe.

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Ah. Well, I guess you're holier than I am. Speaking as one who actually has and still does need such help, rather than some pseudo-pundit, I have received far more help from so-called big government providers than any Christian, church group, etc. All they've done is said, "I'll pray for you." As one mutually loved group group has said, "I would believe if I was able, but I'm waiting for the crumbs from your table." And as far as this load -- "because Big Government has inserted itself into your life in ever expanding ways, it has decided that it can handle Need X better than anyone (because Big Government advocates always believe this ..." -- excuse me: No, I don't. But all this is easy for you, who has never had a real need, to say.

Gina Dalfonzo

I don't believe Allen brought the word "holy," or even the concept of holiness, into the discussion at all. I think he was simply trying to say -- is this correct, Allen? -- that private and/or faith-based charities have things they can do that government can't when it comes to giving, and thus often can be more effective (as the Stossel special pointed out, and as we here at PFM have seen as well. A lot of this is a revisiting of the debate, to which we've had a front-row seat over the government's role in faith-based charities, and whether they're a help or a hindrance).

Which is not to say that every Christian is a model of Christlike compassion when it comes to giving, because they aren't always. Nor is it to say that some government providers are totally ineffective, because they aren't always either. Again, we all have to be careful -- myself included -- to avoid drawing general conclusions from specific situations.


Yes, you've got it Gina. Nothing more was intended.

I certainly wouldn't argue the point that Christians always respond appropriately to needs. Goodness no, I'd never claim that. Indeed, I'd actually argue that Big Government has enabled many in the Church to consider that they've fulfilled their biblical duties to give. "Well, the government already takes so much from me and gives it away, why should I give anything more?"

But is the two-fold help that the Christian wants to provide to many problems, and the singularly material help that the government gives, the same? No, it is not. I intended to say nothing more.

As far as "Big Government advocates always..." is concerned, "always" is, of course, a loaded word that can never stand up to true scrutiny. But 'advocate' is, itself, a pretty high standard as well, and most that would fall into that category, in my experience, generally find that few social ills can't be effectively conquered with the right paternalistic solution.

As for the myriad personal comments, I'll let those go without response.


Sorry to be harsh, but when you're going through it and every bit of help matters, and the help from 'big, bad government' goes incredibly far in the grace it can bring, a post like this for me makes my appreciation of said help seem misplaced. Sure, there are many great faith-based groups out there, including PF, which is why I like to highlight them when possible in the magazine (as I will in the upcoming issue), but in my experience for my needs, they didn't care about providing practical needs, only about giving me what they think I should have, regardless of already receiving such help from other believers.

Dennis Babish

I believe that God states what the roles of government are:
1. Punish evil
2. Condone good
Nowhere does it state that government should meet the needs of the needy.
For most of the history of America this was the way it was. Churches met those needs. To see how this works today one only has to look at the Amish people. They receive no assistance from the government. So what has happened elswhere? The government started creating agencies to help the needy and to make them dependent on the government. Johnson's "Great Society" programs did alot of that. Unfortunately the Church caved in and let them do it. The end result is we now, as a people, think the government owes us and should take care of us. They did a great job of destroying the self esteem of alot of people especially black males. So CLH I can't agree with you. I'm sorry that Christians have let you down, but the answer isn't have the government do it instead. We need to heed what Jesus said about whatever we do for the least of these we do for him.

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