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May 22, 2008

Back to the Rescue

Tornado Katrina put FEMA down in history books as one of America's bad guys. Here's a short review of its "misdemeanors" from the pen of WORLD Magazine's editor Marvin Olasky in The Politics of Disaster:

The federal government, it seemed, was the bad kind of father, alternately a bully and a pantywaist with little in between. Sometimes, as in Jackson (Miss.), FEMA merely passed out the money to people without demanding any evidence. But those who had truly suffered learned, as the (Washington) Times summarized the message from FEMA spokesman David G. Passey, that they needed to "register for assistance and that checks or funds transfers would usually take between 10 days and two weeks to reach them. Many people said they could not wait that long, or did not have the patience to deal with all the bureaucratic mix-ups."

In refreshing comparison, volunteers from churches across the Gulf coast tied on their aprons and came to the rescue. Faith-based organizations that normally would have been slammed by the ACLU and the liberal press for "proselytizing" while providing a hot meal or making a bed, were left alone. It even caused some atheists to perk up their ears at the overwhelming turnout of Christian groups. One atheist writing in the Guardian Weekly commented:

[Christians] are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others...The correlation is so clear that it is impossible to doubt that faith and charity go hand in hand.

Three years later, the feds finally seem to be waking up to the fact that when disaster strikes, their first call should be to the faith-based community. At a press conference at the White House this past Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said:

We want to do everything we can to harness this energy [of faith-based and community organizations] . . . into our planning and execution so that we can bring the maximum resources to bear most quickly and most effectively in communities that are affected by natural disasters.

Hurricane season starts June 1st. Let's pray he's right. And, even if he's not, I'm confident faith-based groups will come to the rescue anyway. They did in 3rd-century Rome, they did in Katrina, and they'll do it again.

(Image © AP)

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