Guest Editorial

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Is federal funding the best way?

A recent AARP bulletin has two writers discussing the question, "Should Faith Based Solutions be Given a Chance?"

One said, "Yes;" the other answered "No." They were discussing President Bush's plan to make federal funding available to denominations and their church. They would in return be given the responsibility of serving the low-income families and other needy in areas now provided by governmental agencies.

The ACLU raises a red flag based on its use of the separation of church and state. Its answer is "No." Others warn readers about the danger of proselyting between denominations and a broader base between Christians, Moslems, Buddhists and other faiths.

One defender of the present flawed system of government programming for low-income families suggest that those who need help shouldn't have to go to church and listen to a sermon first in order to get food, health care or Title 19 help. They shouldn't need to leave their lists on the front steps of tabernacles, temples, mosques or churches and go back the next day to see what they got.

Others criticize the President's plan because it forces taxpayers to support religious groups whether or not they believe in what they teach or represent.

As a Christian and a Pastor I believe Christianity can, through its churches, bring valuable pluses to President Bush's plan.

In many instances, churches are located where the social-economic problems are concentrated - in the inner city. Availability is an important advantage.

Over many years major denominations have successfully conducted local and world mission programs. They have trained and experienced staff members in disciplines like heath care, education, hospital administration, nursing, family planning, work skills and money management.

In the President's program those in need when turning the religious groups would come in a different frame of mind. They would no longer insist the government owes them a living as some do. The experience of churches in mission is, "What is given in concern, love and compassion is received in gratefulness and appreciation."

It is obvious governmental agencies alone cannot overcome poverty. Perchance government with its declining budget in social services can team up with religious groups and succeed.

Christianity has an enviable record in its mission which began in the New Testament when elders and deacons were chosen to help widows, their children and others in need.

It's time to do away with the overworked "separation of church and state" and let Government and Religion become partners in the struggle with poverty and its evils.

Victory will require the best each can offer. Successful trial runs have already been made.

God Bless.

Clarence C. Richardson is a retired Storm Lake pastor and a frequent contributor to the Pilot-Tribune.